Your job is that of a veterinary technician, nurse, veterinary receptionist, veterinarian, practice manager or maybe a kennel assistant. Go and do that. Simple, right? No. A job title is one thing, but what the job entails may be complex and confusing unless a written job description exists. Too often veterinary professionals are hired on and never provided a job description. This results in frustration from both the veterinary hospital and employee.
“I didn’t know I’d have to be on-call.”
“I was unaware that I would be responsible for training others.”
“I didn’t know I was going to have to work floor shifts.”
“I had no idea I was going to have to work the front office on some days.”
Time and time again veterinary employees are often surprised by what their job actually entails. The other concern is when the job description changes over time, which it inevitably does over time, the job description doesn’t change with it. Responsibilities are added into the employee’s job description. Without a baseline job description it’s hard for the employee to say, “I need to be compensated more because my original job description has changed and here’s how.” With a baseline job description it becomes easier for an employee to ask for additional compensation.
I have seen too many veterinary professionals add more and more responsibility into their job description without any extra compensation. Many have added in so much extra responsibility that they have, “Oops, Became a Manager” just like myself. The next thing they know they are doing inventory, interviewing, training, scheduling and leading meetings without any change in title, job description or salary.
Why Do We Need Job Descriptions?
Having a job description keeps both the employer and employee honest and safe. Employers can refer back to the job description when they have an employee who states, “I’m not training new hires.” The employer can say, “It’s in your job description to help train new hires.”
For employees it helps keep them safe when their employer says, “I need you to start ordering inventory weekly for the hospital.” The employee can say, “It’s not in my job description, but I’m happy to have a conversation about adding that responsibility in along with whether extra compensation should be considered.”
How you write a job description is up to you, but usually has four key ingredients. Some individuals get create and put in a lot of detail, while others are more vague. Regardless make sure it’s a job description that clearly outlines all responsibilities and duties for that individual in the hospital.
Do not get fancy. Describe the role and include any ranking order with the other jobs in the hospital (veterinary technician level one). It should be a title the employee can take with them to another job so other employers will understand the role based on the title.
Duties and Responsibilities
Write up the significant points of the role in the job description. Do not list everything (takes out the trash at the end of shift). Stick to what most of the job will be focused on, but make sure the essential duties are included (cleaning and stocking). Remember how you are going to have meetings be a mandatory part of the job? This is where you would list that as a responsibility¾attends mandatory staff meetings.
Skills and Competencies
Skills would be the activities one has learned through an experience such as diagnosing, restraining, etc. You do not need to list every veterinary skill, but you do need to ensure that you list them in groups (laboratory, radiology, etc.). For example, if someone had a back problem and “lifting at least 50 pounds” is not listed, then that would pose an issue. New employees need to understand what they will be expected to do.
Competencies are the traits that are expected; that this person will exhibit. (Willingness to train others, being respectful, etc.) List the core competencies that are important to your hospital, the culture and vision of the team.
Yes, it needs to be in writing. For those of you who took a job where it was not in writing, I’m sorry. Unless it is in writing, then anything can happen. Having it in writing is the jumping-off point for future discussions when the job changes, and it will. Being able to show you were making X amount doing XYZ is key to conversations about what additional responsibility is worth.
Step one of managing any hospital team is to ensure that each individual team member understands what is expected of them. You also cannot hold them accountable if it is not in writing. Having a job description protects both the employee and the employer. As Michelle Obama wrote in her best seller titled Becoming, “if you don’t have a job description then you don’t have any job responsibility.” As an employee, demand a job description and use it to request salary changes or promotions. As an employer you owe it to the hospital and the employee to provide one, keep it updated and make it fair.