The success of our veterinary practices relies on the performance of the whole veterinary care team. An important—and often underused—role is that of veterinary technicians. Having credentialed veterinary technicians on our teams with the skills we need is a critical part of building an efficient practice; so is leveraging those skills efficiently.
From performing periodontal therapy and monitoring anesthesia patients, to taking X-rays and answering client questions, credentialed veterinary technicians help us keep our practices running smoothly and provide the highest level of patient care.
When we fully leverage veterinary technicians’ skills, we free up veterinarians to spend more time using their advanced veterinary medical and specialty education to treat patients. The result? Veterinary technicians feel more challenged, satisfied, and valued at work. So do veterinarians, who are able to focus on the work that only they can do. And the whole practice operates more efficiently.
Credentialed veterinary technicians are good for business
Each year the AVMA surveys veterinary practice owners across the country to identify patterns in staffing, revenue, animals seen, and other operational matters. Research over the years has shown clear links between increased engagement of credentialed veterinary technicians and increased revenue.
The optimal mix of non-DVM and DVM staff varies by practice size, type, and location, among other factors. But in general, the higher the ratio of non-DVM staff to DVMs, the more efficient the practice. In other words, the more veterinary technicians and other non-DVM staff you have supporting each veterinarian, the more likely it is that your hospital will operate efficiently, which translates into increased prosperity.
The more credentialed veterinary technicians and other non-DVM staff you have supporting each veterinarian, the more likely it is that your hospital will operate efficiently.
According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), job satisfaction among veterinary technicians appears to be tied strongly to the application of skills and knowledge these important team members acquire through their education. As with any other professional, when veterinary technicians’ skills aren’t recognized or employed in practice, these team members can become disengaged and dissatisfied.
Are you making the most of your veterinary technicians' skills?
Fortunately, there are many ways for practices to more fully integrate credentialed veterinary technicians on our teams and better leverage their diverse skillsets.
A valuable exercise is to look at staffing levels in your practice and identify opportunities to engage more of your veterinary technicians’ advanced skills. Well-trained veterinary technicians are capable of a wide range of clinical tasks—not only taking patient histories and collecting specimens, but also performing simple medical procedures, assisting in surgery, and providing specialized nursing care. Many have specialty training in areas ranging from dental care to anesthesia to behavior.
How do you know if you’re tapping into your veterinary technicians’ full potential? The best way may be to ask them directly.
Find out what tasks your veterinary technicians are proficient at. Do they have training and skills that aren’t getting used? Do they think any of their current duties don’t require their veterinary technician training? You also might ask associate veterinarians if they think any of their tasks could be performed by credentialed veterinary technicians.
These conversations should be open and candid, with the goal of pinpointing the strengths and passions of each individual team member. Once you’ve assessed staff capabilities and the division of labor at your practice, look for ways to close any skill gaps through training, mentoring, or hiring.
Know what’s allowed
Regulations defining what veterinary technicians can and can’t do vary widely from state to state. The AVMA supports NAVTA’s efforts to standardize licensure and credentialing requirements for veterinary technicians across all 50 states, but there isn’t a uniform set of standards yet. Contact your state board of veterinary medicine to familiarize yourself with the duties and responsibilities veterinary technicians are legally allowed to perform in your state. Then ask yourself: Are the veterinary technicians in your practice being empowered to do everything they can be doing?
Invest in growth
If you feel confident that your practice’s veterinary technicians are doing everything they’re trained and qualified for, it might be time to expand the conversation. Find out which duties satisfy them most, what work they’d like to be more involved in, and where they want to learn more.
There are many things veterinarians can do in our day-to-day practices to better leverage the skills of credentialed veterinary technicians and make our teams more efficient.
You might encourage veterinary technicians to explore specialty training in an area that will augment the practice’s expertise. NAVTA recognizes a growing number of veterinary technician specialties, including internal medicine, anesthesia and analgesia, emergency and critical care, ophthalmology, and more. Encouraging veterinary technicians to pursue further education shows that we appreciate them and see them as instrumental members of the veterinary team. If the practice isn’t able to pay for the cost of professional training, there are other ways to show support–with paid or unpaid time off, or by covering a portion of the fees, for example.
If specialty training isn’t an option, there are other paths for veterinary technicians to master new skills as well, from in-person continuing education (CE) to online training certificates. AVMA Axon offers CE webinars and certificate programs for all veterinary team members.
Offering recognition in day-to-day interactions is crucial to building strong teams and showing colleagues we value their contributions. Another important signal of respect is to be mindful of the labels we use when talking to and about our teammates. Veterinary technicians are highly trained and educated members of our team, and most have passed either a mandated or voluntary certification exam. If we refer to non-credentialed team members as veterinary technicians, we’re inadvertently minimizing the time, effort, and money our veterinary technicians have invested in their education.
Words and titles matter, and it’s important to use them correctly. You can find AVMA’s definitions for veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants in our policy on veterinary technology. Another way to demonstrate trust and esteem is by making sure clients see veterinary technicians performing the critical tasks they’ve been trained to do.
Independent decision-making and autonomy within the practice also will convey respect and lead to increased fulfillment. Since veterinary technicians have a hand in many different activities—from client communication to patient care and beyond—they’re uniquely qualified to recognize what does and doesn’t work in our practices. They’re often able to identify issues even we don’t know we have. Empower veterinary technicians to identify your practice’s challenges, and arm them with the resources to help design solutions.