Raising the Ante
Kent Thornberry, DVM, the founder and president of the 65-hospital CareVet network, isn’t waiting for Washington politicians to legislate a $15-an-hour minimum wage. He’s taken the initiative by giving raises to not only 600-plus employees who earned less than $15 but also to all other CareVet hospital team members.
His St. Louis company, which owns veterinary practices in 27 states, is the first of its kind in the industry to enact a living wage, he said. Moving to a $15 minimum are mostly receptionists, veterinary assistants and early-career veterinary technicians.
“It’s simple: Invest in people and you’re going to get the best out of people,” Dr. Thornberry said. “If you get the best out of people, you’re going to have the best client and patient experience. If you have the best client and patient experience, your practice is going to grow. And if your practice is going to grow, it’s going to pay for itself.”
He is challenging all practice owners to implement a $15 minimum wage.
“As an industry, we’ve always said that our teams don’t make enough and that our teams don’t do this for money, they do what they love,” Dr. Thornberry said. “We looked at it and said, ‘Why does it have to be that way?’ We should be able to do better and pay people a living wage so that they can do what they love and live comfortably and not have to sacrifice one for the other.”
Of course, employees value more than just a paycheck. CareVet, in an effort to support what Dr. Thornberry called a “whole-health person,” offers continuing education opportunities, medical benefits, revenue-sharing, a 401(k) plan with matching contributions and an employee assistance program. EAP services are free to team members and their families.
Dr. Thornberry recognized that hourly pay of $15 or more goes a long way in attracting and retaining employees.
“We find very talented people who can’t afford to work in our industry,” he said. “Really great people leave because they get better opportunities somewhere else. They don’t really want to leave but they have to.”
Ken Niedziela, editor