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Stop Throwing the New Employee Onto the Floor!

Just stop it! Don’t do it! Too many veterinary hospitals start the brand new employee on the floor on their first day. They are expected to treat patients, check out clients and perform surgery. Meanwhile, they don’t even know where the bathroom is located or their locker code.

The rationale for this tragedy is that the hospital is short staffed and needs helps now. Throwing them on the floor results in them quitting, often in the first 6 months, resulting in the hospital being short staffed once again. The other cost is monetary in the form of advertising, hiring and lost revenue from a decrease in cases that can be seen.

It does not matter how short staffed you are, when you fail to provide an orientation period to a new hire you fail both the new hire and the hospital. So how do we create a solid orientation period?

Most studies show that it takes about three months for a new employee to become comfortable at their new place of employment. The first three months is about orienting them and building best practices. If you are calling it a "90-day probation period" please stop. Why is the new employee on probation? Do we really want them to walk around on eggshells worrying they may be fired because, after all, they are technically on probation? Term it an orientation or training program if you feel the need to title it at all. Taking the time to orient and train the new employee will allow for faster integration into the hospital, fewer mistakes, and better engagement.

First Two Weeks

The first two weeks are crucial to any new employee. The very first day should be orientation only. They should learn where things are and be introduced to the team. On the second day, you should consider pairing them up with someone in the department to learn the computer system, the front desk, or even the layout of the hospital. On the third day, they may don scrubs or office attire with the understanding that they will be paired up with someone and are an extra person on the floor. In the first two weeks, they should never be expected to work a shift by themselves.

Day One Example: Make it Fun! Don’t Overwhelm!

· Orientation with manager/supervisor​

· Computer orientation

· Time clock codes, safety briefing, etc.

· Consider lunch as a meet-and-greet​

· Do not let them wear scrubs! ​

· Where is everything? Locker, parking, etc.

Rest of the First Week Example

· Consider spending a day with the front office (or in the treatment area)

· Consider spending a day in each department​

· Spend the rest of the week entering treatments/filling prescriptions/cleaning cages/ answering phones/shadowing a fellow team member (veterinarian, technician, front office)

· Learn the flow of the department/hospital

Second Week Example

· Pair up with a technician/assistant/doctor/front office mentor to start seeing patients and clients

· A colleague verifies all work

· Consider quizzes and learning tools for a day for client service representatives and veterinary technician/assistant staff​

o Math Quiz​

o Client Communication

o Anesthesia Basics Online Class/Video

After the First Two Weeks

· Consider scheduling the new employee on the floor by themselves.

· Have a mentor on the floor to help them

· Consider quizzes and learning CE throughout​

I pulled out the first two weeks because I often find the foundation for a successful 90-day orientation is dependent on the success of those weeks. Too often those first two weeks get rushed, leaving the new hire always playing catch up in trying to figure out how to function in their new role. The second half of the first 30 days can be a little more flexible with how you decide to orient your new hire. I would recommend keeping the first two weeks similar to what was suggested above.

When you design your new hire orientation program you should set your goals for what you want to accomplish in the first 30 days, then 60 days and then 90 days. Setting such goals is a technique used in most companies around the world. Each of the 30 days represents specific, manageable goals that are tied to the new hire’s duties and expectations. The goal by the end of 90 days is that your new hire will feel like part of the team and be comfortable in their new role.

30-Day Goals

The goal of the first 30 days is to get new employees comfortable. They should be paired up with a mentor that checks in with them routinely. The mentor is there to be a friend, not a boss. Mentors are supportive and helpful. At the end of the 30 days the new employee should:

· Be comfortable with the hospital’s culture

· Learn the location/tools needed to perform the job

· Learn about hospital policies

· Perform what they know to the best of their ability

· Don’t expect them to perform at the highest level!

· They don’t need to prove themselves!

60-Day Goals

Heading into the 60 days, new employees should begin to feel like they are part of the team. They should get used to the policies and daily routine, become comfortable with the hospital culture, and may be provided more responsibility, based on their prior performance. It is possible during the second month to train a few new skills. During this time, they may still have a mentor that checks in with them. It is important to assign them a decreased patient load until they are comfortable with more. They should have periodic conversations with their manager. Addressing any concerns upfront in a timely manner is imperative. The goals during the second month include the new employee being:

· Comfortable with the policies and daily routines

· Comfortable with hospital culture

· Given a little more responsibility

· A few new skills are trained and practiced

· They should be comfortable, but not functioning at 100% capacity

90-Day Goals

By 90 days, new employees are now actively contributing to the hospital. It is at this point that they should be able to complete all treatments and tasks independently. They should be comfortable with the position. It is possible that a few more new skills can be taught. At the end of 90 days, a meeting should be scheduled with the manager. No surprises should be discussed at the end of 90 days. If there is a performance issue it should be discussed before the 90 days is up. The 90-day meeting serves as the final check-in with the employee. How did the training go? Perhaps there was something that could be improved upon for future hires. How do they like the position? What career goals do they want to set for themselves? The goals during the last month include:

· Complete all skills/tasks independently required in the position

· Comfortable with position

· Learn a few new skills

· Schedule a meeting with the manager to discuss career goals at the end of 90 days


You must check in with your new hire throughout the first 90 days, ideally every week. At the end of 90 days you should meet to discuss how they like the new position. No issues or problems should be discussed because they should be addressed immediately when they happen. Saving issues for the final meeting at 90 days isn’t fair to the new team member. Instead, have a career conversation with them and learn about their goals and aspirations.

If you are able to build out a successful new hire orientation program your new hires will be more likely to stay with your hospital long time. This will make you less short staffed in the long-run and your new team members happier.

Check out my podcast on this topic at:

Check out my rant about it at:

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