Recruiting Top Veterinary Talent Amidst a Pandemic Requires Flexibility and Creativity

December 16, 2020

As you can imagine, supporting 45 dynamic specialty and emergency hospitals takes collaboration and innovation- as one may say, “it takes a village!” Each, and every, day the dedicated and passionate Compassion-First shared services support teams dive into their work to support our hospitals and the incredible caregivers who heal pets with their heads, hands and hearts. Providing exceptional specialty and emergency care means recruiting for the best in specialty and emergency doctor talent and the C-F Talent Development (TD) team is charged with just that. While an important and uniquely challenging role, we know that we are only as good as the doctors and caregivers on our team!

In light of COVID-19, the TD team has had to find new ways to connect with potential candidates, because keeping our hospitals staffed with the outstanding veterinary talent is ongoing. Recruiting in the face of a pandemic has been challenging, but our versatile TD team, and hospital and medical directors, have done a phenomenal job of finding new doctors for our hospitals.

The C-F TD team is led by Keri Patton, who has been in the role for more than a year. She oversees a team of five who scout top talent for the entire Compassion-First family of hospitals.

The team includes:

Keri Patton — Director

Allison Cawley — Veterinary Recruiter & Sourcing

Patrick O’Keefe, LVT — Veterinary Recruiter

Susanne Miller — TD Coordinator

Stephanie Serraino – Project Manager

Recruiting obviously looked a little different for the team this year, but they came up with creatively brilliant ways to “meet” new candidates and make connections with future Compassion-First team members.

Adjusting the interview process

Candidate interviews during the past year have gone from in-person, to virtual, back to in-person, and potentially back to virtual again depending on the hospital. As the pandemic has shifted, so have our recruiting strategies, and the TD team and hospital managers have nimbly adapted with each new wave based on the needs of the candidate.

Typically, the TD team conducts a candidate’s first interview, and then the hospital manager takes over with a phone interview.  If all goes well, we proceed with an in-hospital interview, which is coordinated by the TD team, where the candidate can tour the facility and meet the hospital. In March, all interviews went virtual and included creative meeting strategies, such as virtual happy hours, for candidates to get to know the hospital’s doctors and team members. As COVID numbers decreased this summer, the TD team continued virtual screening interviews, but individual hospitals were able to safely conduct in-person interviews. During in-person interviews, all parties followed safety protocols and large group dinners and meetings were cancelled, or limited to a small number of doctors.

Now, as COVID numbers surge again and travel restrictions change, some hospital managers are shifting back to virtual interviews once more. Patton said they make the decision on a case-by-case basis. “It depends on where candidates are coming from or going to,” she said. “For instance, many doctors can’t travel to a state if there’s a 14-day quarantine in place. Or, if their state has a quarantine rule, they might not be able to return to work.” Flexibility has been key to keeping up with the changing pandemic and keeping Compassion-First hospital teams filled with top talent.

Connecting through virtual conferences

The TD team relies heavily on veterinary conferences to connect with potential candidates and let them know about opportunities in the Compassion-First network of hospitals. With all the veterinary specialty conferences, including the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), and Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (VECCS) going virtual this year, the TD team was tasked with replicating the conference meeting experience on a virtual platform. Team members manned virtual booths during the conferences where they met candidates and answered questions about Compassion-First. The virtual booths included enter-to-win prize opportunities throughout both “live” and extended virtual dates.

“We tried to replicate everything we would normally do,” Patton said. “At the larger conferences, we had planned to have a resident lounge in addition to our booth presence. This provides an opportunity for prospective candidates to interact with the brand, meet our team, and chat with many of our doctors in attendance. Fingers crossed—we’re hoping we can replicate this idea next year.”

Virtual resident events

The TD team also typically holds resident dinners to connect with future Compassion-First specialists. Since large dinners are off the table for now, Patton needed a creative way for the TD team to get to know prospects in a fun, laid-back atmosphere. So, Compassion-First Virtual Bingo was born.

“We created a bingo card with our hospital logos, and a presentation with fun facts about our hospitals,” Patton said. “If they knew the answer, they would yell out the name of the hospital, and players would mark the corresponding logo on their bingo card. We gave out prizes to everyone who attended, and everyone who won bingo,” she said. The game was a huge success and was conducted 33 times with more than 447 residents and interns at different U.S. veterinary schools. Participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and they are planning more Virtual Bingo games for residents who were unable to attend.

Where the pandemic will take us in the coming year is uncertain, but one thing is certain—our clients, patients, and teams deserve the most talented emergency veterinarians and specialists in the industry, and the TD team will work tirelessly to find them.