Veterinary Practice Management 101

Updated: Nov 30

Successful veterinary practice managers have a lot in common. While the job can be hectic and challenging at times, it is also rewarding to know that you are helping to care for animals and their owners.


Great managers keep the business moving forward, driving growth, managing the staff, and keeping pets and their parents happy. They love animals and play a vital role in the success of any veterinary business. Managers are responsible for the overall management of the clinic, including finances, marketing, HR, and operations.


To be successful in veterinary practice management, individuals need to have strong leadership skills, be an excellent communicator, and have a deep understanding of the veterinary industry. Let's explore some of the key traits of great veterinary practice managers.


Education, Training & Certification


A college degree is not always required to work in veterinary management, but a bachelor's degree or business management training can help the candidate get the job done more efficiently. Management courses can provide the knowledge and skills necessary for overseeing employees, handling daily operations and customer inquiries, and administering budgets.

Veterinary Practice Management Certification

Certifications in veterinary practice management are also available, however, they are not always required in vet medicine. Credentials are often obtained for those who have at least three years of experience and have completed an accredited course or veterinary practice management program.


Many consider a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager Certification (CVPM) from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) the gold standard in certifications. This widely recognized program is renowned for teaching the knowledge, skills and competencies for individuals to be successful in the career.


There are also certification programs available through professional organizations such as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA.) These programs can also provide the aspiring manager with the necessary skills to succeed and advance in their career and in some cases, also provide the CVPM certification.


Emerging leaders also gain access to training courses and conferences tailored to the industry through vendors, suppliers and professional veterinary associations. Much like human medicine, to maintain CVPM certification, individuals are required to complete several hours of Continuing Education (CE) credits per year. This enables him or her to stay current on knowledge and skills required in the industry.


While education and certification requirements may not be required to embark on a career in veterinary practice management, there are many factors to consider. Those new to the profession may have the ability to complete the necessary tasks, but lack the experience. An experienced veterinary management professional may not have the education or certification, but they likely have a wealth of knowledge and insight that can be extremely valuable to any veterinary business.


Responsibilities of the Veterinary Practice Manager


Managing finances


Veterinary practice management is traditionally responsible for the financial wellbeing of the business. This includes creating and administering budgets, preparing financial reports, overseeing bookkeeping and accounting, and monitoring cash flow.


Veterinary practice management analyzing financial reports

In order to make sound financial decisions, individuals must have a strong understanding of business financials. They should be able to read and interpret financial statements and understand key concepts such as ROI (return on investment) and break-even analysis.




Pricing products and services is another area where the experienced manager's financial expertise is utilized. Veterinary care is a unique industry as it is considered both a necessity and a luxury good. This means that there can be more price sensitivity among customers than there would be for other businesses. Those in veterinary management need to be able to strike the right balance between providing quality patient care and maintaining affordable prices.


In Canada, veterinary practice management must also be aware of the Veterinary Fee Guidelines set out by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA.) These guidelines help ensure that fees charged by practices are fair, reasonable and consistent with the services provided.


Marketing


Veterinary clinics and hospitals rely on new and returning clients to grow and be successful. Practice managers are often responsible for creating and implementing marketing plans to promote the business and attract new clients. This can include developing marketing campaigns, monitoring social media accounts, overseeing website content, and planning promotional events.


To be successful in marketing, one must have a good understanding of the target market and be able to identify key marketing strategies that will appeal to them. They should also be able to track and measure the results of marketing initiatives to ensure that they are effective.


Many practices elect to partner with a professional marketing consultant whose an expert in the industry, in order to focus more time on their teams and other key responsibilities. A good veterinary marketing professional can be instrumental to management by outlining a strategy tailored to the clinic or hospital needs and help with execution of the strategy.


Community Involvement


Veterinarians play an important role in their local communities. Many practices participate in community events, such as health fairs, pet adoption days, and food drives. Others offer educational presentations to school groups or provide low-cost or free services to those in need.


Community involvement is a great way to promote the business and attract new clients. It is also a way to give back and show that the practice cares about more than just making money. Veterinary practice management needs to be able to identify opportunities for community involvement and often oversees the planning and execution of these events.


Technology


Veterinary practices are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to provide quality patient care and run efficiently. Veterinary practice managers must be comfortable using various types of technology and be able to troubleshoot problems when they arise.


Some common examples of technology used by veterinarians include:

- Practice Management Software: Used to manage appointments, patient records, invoicing, and other administrative tasks

- Telemedicine Software: Used to provide remote consults with clients and/or referral veterinarians

- Imaging Equipment: Used to take x-rays, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic images

- Laboratory Equipment: Used to perform in-house laboratory testing


Veterinary Practice Management Reviewing X-Rays

To be successful in veterinary practice management, one must be able to train staff on how to use new technology and ensure that it is being used correctly. One should also have a good understanding of how the various pieces of technology work together so that they can troubleshoot problems and make changes as needed.


Pet Medical Records


Veterinary services are required to maintain medical records for all of their patients. These records must be complete, accurate, and up-to-date. Veterinary practice management is responsible for ensuring that medical records are properly maintained and that staff members know how to correctly document patient care.


In addition to being a legal requirement, maintaining accurate medical records is important for providing quality patient care. Management should have a good understanding of the record-keeping requirements and be able to train staff members on how to properly document patient care. They also need to know when to share medical records with other veterinarians or clients, and how to do so in a way that is compliant with the law.


Human Resources


Veterinary practices are people-centric businesses and as such, the management of human resources is a critical responsibility for those in practice management. They may be responsible for recruiting and hiring staff, managing employee performance, overseeing training and development programs, administering benefits and payroll, addressing employee concerns or issues, and handling performance reviews.


In order to effectively manage human resources, veterinary practice managers must be well-versed in employment law and have a good understanding of the needs of the business. They should be able to identify top talent and match them with the right positions.


When it comes to hiring new employees, veterinary practice managers need to be strategic. After all, the team members you choose will have a direct impact on the overall success of your business.


The interview process is one of the most important tools you have for making sure you find the right fit. Successful veterinary management recruiters will:

-Create a list of key attributes you are looking for in a candidate

-Prepare a script of questions that will help you assess each candidate's skills, experience, and fit for the position

-Conduct telephone screenings with all candidates to narrow down the pool

-Invite the top candidates for in-person interviews


Skills of Great Veterinary Practice Managers


Strong leadership skills


Great veterinary practice management will be able to inspire and motivate their team, driving them towards success. They will also have the ability to handle difficult situations and make tough decisions when necessary.


Management must be able to lead by example and set the tone for the business. They should be able to create a positive and productive work environment where employees feel valued and supported.


Incentives and recognition programs can be helpful for motivating employees and keeping them engaged. Veterinary practice management should also regularly solicit feedback from employees so that they can identify any areas of improvement.

Attending veterinary practice management training

Some of the most successful veterinary practices have taken the time to develop their leadership skills through formal training or coaching. However, there are many leadership skills that can be learned through on-the-job experience and by networking with other veterinary professionals.


In order to be a great leader, one must:

- Have a clear vision for the business and be able to articulate it to your team

- Be able to make tough decisions and stand by them

- Be open to feedback and willing to make changes when necessary

- Be decisive and have the ability to think on your feet

- Be able to inspiring and motivating employees


Those new to veterinary practice management may not have all of these skills from the start, but they can be developed over time with practice. Joining a book club, a veterinary hospital managers association, taking on additional responsibilities, and/or attending leadership seminars are all great ways to continue developing management skills.


Excellent communication skills


A veterinary practice manager needs to be able to communicate effectively with both clients and staff. They should be able to handle difficult conversations calmly and professionally.


Some of the most important communication skills for veterinary practice management include:

-The ability to listen

-The ability to give clear instructions

-The ability to handle difficult conversations

-The ability to build relationships

-The ability to resolve conflict


Management must be able to effectively communicate the vision and values of the business to their team. They should also be able to give clear instructions and provide feedback that is constructive and helpful.


Building positive relationships with clients is also essential for veterinary management. They should be able to handle difficult conversations calmly and professionally. When clients are unhappy, it is important to listen to their concerns and work towards a resolution.


One must also be able to build positive relationships with staff members. A good manager will take the time to get to know their team and understand their individual strengths and weaknesses. They should be able to resolve conflict quickly and effectively.


If your practice manager is struggling with some of these communication skills, there are many resources available to help them improve. There are books, articles, and online courses that can teach you how to be a better communicator. One can also seek out a mentor or coach who can help develop these skills.


Practice managers must be able to provide support to clients who are grieving the loss of a pet. This can be a difficult and emotional time for clients, so it is important for veterinary practice management to be compassionate and understanding. Both the supervisor and the team should be able to offer resources and support to help clients during this difficult time.


Great organizational skills


Veterinary practice managers are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the clinic, including scheduling appointments, regulate inventory, supervising staff, and ensuring that the clinic runs smoothly.


To be successful in operations, managers must have strong organizational and time-management skills. They should be able to multitask and handle multiple deadlines. They must also be able to effectively communicate with staff and clients.


Time management


Veterinary practice management needs to be able to keep track of many different moving parts. They should have strong time management skills and be able to prioritize tasks effectively. This can be a lot to handle in a fast-paced and constantly changing environment, especially for a new veterinary practice manager or someone new to the industry. Some tips for staying organized include:

Veterinary Practice Management To-Do List

-Creating a daily/weekly/monthly schedule

-Breaking big projects down into smaller tasks

-Making to-do lists

-Using a planner


It is also important for leaders to be able to delegate tasks and responsibilities. They should have a good understanding of each staff member's strengths and weaknesses and be able to assign tasks accordingly.


Leadership Style


The best veterinary practice managers are those who can lead by example and inspire their team to be the best that they can be. Leaders need to be able to make tough decisions, delegate tasks, and handle conflict. They must also possess excellent communication skills to keep everyone on the same page and working toward common business goals.


There is no one leadership style that is perfect for every hospital or clinic. The best leaders are those who are able to adapt their style to the situation and the people they are managing.


A Passion for Animals


It goes without saying, a veterinary practice manager will spend much of their day in the presence of pets. Some would consider that one of the best perks of the job! An individual should be passionate about animal welfare and ensuring that all animals in their care receive the best possible treatment.


They should be committed to providing excellent customer service and creating a positive experience for both clients and staff.


Selecting the Right Manager for your Veterinary Practice


If your hospital or clinic is looking for a veterinary practice manager with all of these qualities, then the practice owner will first need to conduct a thorough interview process.


The hiring process starts by crafting the right ad to attract the perfect candidate for your team. When preparing the job ad, be sure to include:


- The required qualifications for the position (e.g. education, CVPM certification)

- A brief overview of the duties and responsibilities

- An indication of the type of person you are looking for

- The salary and benefits package

- A brief promotion of what makes your hospital or clinic unique


The next step is to conduct initial interviews with candidates who seem like a good fit for the role. This interview is often conducted over the phone or online video call. During the interview, be sure to ask about their education, job responsibilities and skills. Also include questions about:

- Their experience

- Their leadership style

- How they handle difficult conversations

- What they think are the key responsibilities of the role

Veterinary practice manager petting a dog

After the initial interviews, you should invite the top candidates to come in for in-person interviews. This is the practice owner's chance to really get to know the candidates and see if they would be a good fit for your team. It's also an opportunity to see how they interact with clients, pets and staff and how they react to the day-to-day challenges.


Additional Considerations


While we covered education and certification previously, it's important to note that some individuals may pursue other avenues which demonstrate a commitment to professional development and excellence in veterinary practice management. Membership in professional organizations, such as the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, with or without a degree or certification, can also indicate dedication to the profession.


A student interested in a career in Veterinary Practice Management should consider completing an externship or internship program, or job shadow at a veterinary hospital or clinic to gain real-world experience. Some managers begin their career in entry-level positions, such as receptionist, a veterinary assistant or working with pets in the kennel.


The most important thing to remember when hiring a new veterinary practice manager is to find someone who shares your vision for the hospital or clinic and who has the qualities that will allow them to be successful in the role. They report directly to the practice owner or veterinarian and are responsible for ensuring that all hospital policies and procedures are followed.


With the right veterinary practice manager on your team, you can be confident that your hospital or clinic will run smoothly and efficiently and that your patients will receive high quality care.


If you have an employee on your team interested in advancing to a leadership role, consider enrolling them in an education or certification program to help develop their skills. Sometimes investing in developing a new manager with the right aptitude and personality can be better for the business than hiring an experienced veterinary practice manager.


Veterinary versus Human Medicine


The scope of veterinary medicine is wide, covering all animal species, both domesticated and wild, with a wide range of conditions.


Veterinary medicine is often divided into five main categories: small animal medicine, large animal medicine, equine medicine, food animal medicine and laboratory animal medicine.


Veterinary medicine is a dynamic and ever-changing field. One of the biggest differences between veterinary and human medicine is that veterinarians treat patients who cannot tell us what is wrong. Veterinarians have to rely on skills and knowledge to determine the cause of the problem and then come up with a treatment plan.


Another difference is that, in veterinary medicine, we often have to deal with the owner's emotional attachment to their pet. This can be a challenge, but it is also one of the most rewarding aspects of our job. We get to help people through some of the hardest times in their lives and also get to be a part of the joy that comes with owning a healthy, happy pet.


Frequently Asked Questions


What does CVPM stand for in veterinary medicine?


Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) is the credential awarded by the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) to those who meet specific eligibility requirements and pass a rigorous, four-part examination.


How do I become a certified veterinary practice manager?


To earn the credential, CVPM, candidates must:

  • Be a current member of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association

  • Have worked full-time in veterinary practice management for at least two years

  • Submit three letters of reference from veterinarians or other CVPMs

  • Complete and submit a professional portfolio

  • Pass a four-part examination

What are the four parts of the CVPM exam?


The examination for the Certified Veterinary Practice Manager credential consists of four parts: Veterinary Medical Terminology, Business Communications, Veterinary Management Principles

and Veterinary Practice Operations.


Where's the best place to look for a job as a practice manager?


The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) offers a job board on their website that is updated daily with new positions from around the country. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) also offers a career center with job postings for Veterinary Practice Managers. Indeed.com is another great resource for finding open positions.


How much does a Veterinary Practice Manager make?


Salaries can vary depending on experience, location, and the size and type of practice. There are several online resources to research estimated pay in your local market.


Closing Thoughts


The future is strong as it's estimated that jobs for animal veterinary medical professionals will reach a peak in 2026 — nearly three times higher than in other occupations in the United States at seven per cent. The industry's annual revenue is already pegged at over $60 billion.


To be successful in veterinary practice management, you need more than just a college degree or CVPM certification. You need to have a passion for animals, excellent communication skills, great organizational skills, and the ability to effectively manage a veterinary team. You also need to be able to handle difficult conversations and build strong relationships with clients.


If you are interested in becoming a veterinary practice manager, it is important to research the job market in your area. Veterinary practices are often looking for experienced candidates with a strong background in business administration or management.


To attract the perfect manager for your veterinary clinic or hospital, why not partner with a pro! From ad writing and ad placement, to candidate screening and a practice manager training program, we can help your practice find and retain top talent. The first step is to reach out for a no-obligation consultation.