How to Become a Veterinary Hospital Manager

What is a Veterinary Hospital Manager?

A veterinary hospital manager oversees the business operations of the hospital, including staff relations, client satisfaction, profitability and the hiring and firing of personnel. The manager is responsible for the over-all organization of the hospital, but not for the medical decisions, which are left to the veterinarians.

The manager sees to it that the hospital runs smoothly and efficiently and that the employee morale stays as high as possible. The manager must also ensure that the staff and hospital aren’t breaking any laws, including safety regulations and potential veterinary malpractice issues.

In most cases, the hospital manager only answers to the owner and/or Board of Directors. The manager must make regular accounts to these superiors, keeping them abreast of all aspects of the hospital, including the finances.

Related: How to Become a Veterinary Office Manager

What are the Job Duties of a Veterinary Hospital Manager?

At smaller hospitals in particular, hospital managers might be asked to perform some veterinary technician abilities, possibly even helping with surgery at times. In larger hospitals, managers have little or nothing to do with vet tech duties, except while training vet techs.

Here are some common duties of hospital managers:

  • Scheduling employee work hours
  • Calling and over-seeing meetings
  • Hiring, firing, and training staff
  • Controlling and improvement staff morale
  • Developing employee manuals
  • Advertising and marketing the hospital
  • Maintaining patients’ records
  • Maintaining and regulating hospital safety protocols
  • Administering regular performance reviews
  • Mediating personnel problems
  • Managing hospital costs and budgets
  • Maintaining high customer services
  • Implementing effective communication avenues throughout hospital
  • Overseeing book-keeping
  • Coordinating educational programs for staff and public
  • Preparing financial statements
  • Overseeing client follow-up procedures
  • Performing invoice audit reviews
  • Overseeing employee benefit plans and hospital insurance plans
  • Educating employees on benefit plans and medical protocols
  • Managing inventory and supplies
  • Providing restraint of pets during examination and treatment
  • Monitoring vital signs of patients

What is the Work Environment for a Veterinary Hospital Manager?

Though the hospital manager doesn’t normally spend a lot of time around the sick and injured animals, the manager’s environment can be stressful. The manager spends a lot of time in an office, dealing with angry clients, hassling with insurance companies on the phone, listening to staff complaints, resolving employee disputes and dealing with government bureaucracies.

What are the Requirements to Become a Veterinary Hospital Manager?

Education

Some jobs in veterinary hospital management only require an associate degree, though most employers strongly prefer a bachelor’s degree. Some candidates get an associate’s degree and then take an intensive course in hospital management, though some of these management programs require a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite.

Presently, no schools offer bachelor’s degrees in veterinary hospital management, so many candidates get a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. A bachelor’s degree in business is also an acceptable degree.

Many employers require their managerial candidates to have up to five years of experience in a veterinary hospital. Because of this, some managerial candidates opt to initially only get an associate degree and then start working as a veterinary technician while taking classes online or at night. This way, the candidate receives a paycheck and gains experience in a veterinary hospital while also pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

The aim of veterinary technology programs is to prepare students to become an immediate contributor to a veterinarian team by giving them the necessary skills and veterinary knowledge. A bachelor’s degree program for veterinary technology may include courses like the following:

  • Critical and Emergency Care
  • Veterinary Dentistry
  • Neurology
  • Cardiology
  • Dermatology
  • Animal Sanitation and Disease Prevention
  • Specialty Careers of Veterinary Technicians
  • Comparative Pharmacology and Hematology
  • Veterinary Medical Terminology
  • Canine Physical Therapy
  • Veterinary Clinical Chemistry
  • Fundamentals of Emergency Animal Care
  • Clinical Veterinary Neurology
  • Principles of Toxicology
  • Ethics in Veterinary Business
  • Veterinary Cytology
  • Small Animal Physical Rehabilitation

There are a handful of master’s degree programs available for veterinary hospital managers. There are two types: one geared toward those who just want to be a hospital manager, and one geared toward veterinarians who want to manage their own business.

Related: How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

A typical master’s degree program for hospital management might include the following classes:

Hiring and Firing

  • Checking References
  • Advertising for Employee Positions
  • Conducting Interviews
  • Deciding which Applicant to Hire
  • Firing

Employee Relations

  • Disciplining Employees
  • Leadership in the Hospital
  • The Importance of Appearance
  • Communicating and Delegating
  • Training the Hospital Staff

Client Relations

  • Educating Clients
  • Measuring Client Satisfaction
  • Grief Protocol
  • Using Websites, Signs and Yellow Pages to Attract New Clients

Management

  • Inventory: Pricing Products
  • Inventory: Inventory Systems
  • Inventory: Re-ordering and Filing Invoices
  • Developing Leadership Abilities
  • Making Employee Manuals
  • Reviewing Employee Performance
  • Developing Employee Schedules
  • Law and Ethics in Management
  • Safety and Regulatory Compliance in Veterinary Technology
  • Supervision in the Veterinary Hospital
  • Avoiding Common Human Resource Issues
  • Motivating Employees

Financial Planning

  • Human Resources
  • Money and Inventory
  • Strategic Financial Planning
  • Tactical Financial Planning
  • Understanding Balance Sheets
  • Understanding Income Statements
  • Understanding Expenses
  • Understanding Financials

Training

Hospital management jobs almost always require experience in working in a hospital office, and they usually also require some type of supervisory experience. Good computer skills are a necessity, particularly in Excel, Word and any type of management software.

Many job posts also require some type of previous customer service experience, and some require book-keeping experience. Experience as a vet tech is preferred by many employers.

Licensing Requirements

Certification by the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) is a voluntary but highly recommended process; most employers require or prefer it.

For certification, the VMHA requires 18 semester hours in at least two of the following areas:

  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Management
  • Economics/finance
  • Computer science
  • Labor relations/human resources

The VMHA requires at least three years of active employment as a hospital manager within the past seven years. The VMHA specifies thirty particular job functions for managers, and candidates must have performed at least twenty-six of them or have supervised others who performed those jobs. Some of these jobs include:

  • Education of clients
  • Training of staff
  • Payroll
  • Employee records
  • Inventory records
  • Safety protocols
  • Medical records
  • Accounts receivable
  • Accounts payable
  • Income reconciliation
  • Credit policies
  • Budgeting
  • Community involvement

Candidates must also pass an exam, provide college transcripts and supply four letters of recommendation. They are also required to have taken 48 college semester hours of continuing education in management classes within the previous seven years.

What Skills and Qualities are Required for a Veterinary Hospital Manager?

Recommended or required personal skills and personality traits include:

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills suitable for a wide range of settings and audiences
  • Decisive decision-making
  • Ability to delegate responsibility
  • Professional demeanor and friendly disposition
  • Respect toward clients and their pets
  • Multi-tasking ability
  • Contagious enthusiasm for the job
  • Passion for leadership
  • Organizational ability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to coach employees

What is the Salary for a Veterinary Hospital Manager?

According to Indeed.com, the average salary for veterinary hospital managers in 2014 was $30,000.

What is the Job Outlook for Veterinary Hospital Managers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide job outlook data specific to this field of work. However, a closely related occupation, administrative services manager, is projected to grow at a rate of 12 percent through the first half of the next decade. This rate represents only average growth.

One of the primary factors in determining the job outlook for veterinary hospital managers is the state of the overall economy. In lean times, families are less likely to purchase pets, and, therefore, have no reason to patronize a veterinary hospital, causing staff cuts. These cuts usually begin with the administrative staff.

Conversely, now that the economy is back on its feet, more individuals and families are acquiring pets that will need veterinary services. As businesses grow, so too does the demand for qualified veterinary hospital managers. However, with increased demand comes increased competition for jobs, so while the outlook for jobs in this sector appears to be strong, there may be more people applying for these jobs than there are jobs available.

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