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5 ways credentialed veterinary technicians can boost practice success
Optimal engagement of technicians can also mitigate the high turnover, low satisfaction, and burnout plaguing the industry
Credentialed veterinary technicians scale teeth, monitor anesthetized patients, take radiographs, educate clients, and more. They provide high-quality care and thus are key to the smooth and efficient operation of a practice. But surprisingly, they are not part of the team at every hospital. According to data from the 2021 AVMA Census of Veterinarians and Veterinary Practice Owner Survey, only 61% of practices have credentialed veterinary technicians on staff. Veterinary assistants, including noncredentialed individuals, are far more common (88%). Technicians also work the lowest percentage of hours compared with other team members.
What’s more, those practices that employ credentialed technicians don’t leverage their skills fully. A 2016 survey by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America found that skill underutilization was among the “most significant problems” faced by CVTs, LVTs, and RVTs.1 As we celebrate their important contributions during National Veterinary Technician Week (October 16-22), we want to highlight the many ways they can reach their fullest potential and boost practice success.
Perhaps the most direct evidence of their beneficial effect is the association between credentialed technicians and practice revenue. Whether shown in staff numbers2 or total labor hours,3 AVMA data have consistently demonstrated that gross revenue often increases substantially when practices employ more technicians, be it in the US or abroad. In Ontario, Canada, for example, solo and non-solo practices that rely on technicians performing the duties they’re qualified to do are far more profitable than those that don’t. In addition, the increase in revenue associated with employing them, or their equivalent, is much greater than the cost of their salaries or wages, no matter where the practice is located.4
It’s also important to maximize profitability, minimize staff burnout and attrition, and increase affordability and access to services. When veterinarians perform tasks a credentialed technician can do, they see fewer patients, their productivity is limited, and efficiency suffers. AVMA survey data have repeatedly shown that the most efficient practices tend to employ more technicians than veterinarians. The more technicians and other non-DVM staff there are supporting each veterinarian, the more likely it is that the practice will operate efficiently.
Increased well-being and job satisfaction
Optimal engagement of technicians can also mitigate the high turnover, low satisfaction, and burnout plaguing the industry. The 2021 AVMA census found that veterinarians are working more hours on average than they did just a few years ago and that 44% have thought about leaving the profession for reasons other than retirement. As for technicians, studies show that many also feel burned out as well as underused.5-7
Research findings offer insights into potential ways to address this problem:
- Job satisfaction among technicians appears to be strongly tied to the application of their knowledge and skills.
- Technicians who feel they’re adding value to the practice have lower cynicism and higher professional efficacy scores.
- Technicians who self-report being underused are more likely than others to indicate they don’t plan to remain in their role.
Optimal use of technicians can free veterinarians to spend more time delivering the care only they can provide, while giving technicians they opportunity to do what they do best and supporting self-competence.
The value of fully engaging veterinary technicians cannot be overstated. Besides affecting well-being at the individual, team, and industry level, burnout has a significant economic toll on the profession.8 In human medicine, dissatisfaction and burnout have been found to be contagious, directly affecting the ability of clinicians to effec- tively care for patients.9
Enhanced patient care
The quality of care is influenced by many factors, including the knowledge, skills, and well-being of caregivers. When it comes to the first two, veterinary technicians have what it takes to educate clients and provide the best possible care in many areas. They can also specialize in animal behavior, dermatology, emergency/critical care, and other areas. A simple way to enhance patient care is to match talent to tasks, enabling technicians to exercise their strengths and grow their skills and veterinarians to maximize the care they provide.
Another important component of quality care is client follow-through on recommendations, and veterinary technicians are skilled here as well. In addition to providing emotional support, technicians are particularly good at answering client questions about disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment plans. Clients who feel they are involved in decisions about their pets are more likely to trust and adhere to veterinary recommendations.
Increased client satisfaction and loyalty
Enhanced staff well-being, patient care, and communication can go a long way toward fostering client satisfaction and loyalty. The greater efficiencies that come with having technicians working to their fullest potential can also mean more time and opportunities to build trustful relationships with clients and their companion animals.
Informing clients about technician qualifications is another way to bolster their satisfaction and loyalty. That’s because expertise is 1 of the 3 main things clients value when it comes to veterinary professionals, the other 2 being a strong relationship and personal recommendations.10
A 2021 survey of pet owners conducted by the North American Veterinary Community found that they trust and have positive feelings toward credentialed veterinary technicians.11 However, most are unaware of the training and skills these technicians have, believing instead that their responsibilities are limited to cage cleaning and pet grooming, tasks typically performed by noncredentialed staff. We can change this perception and thereby help technicians feel more appreciated.
Optimizing the use of veterinary technicians
As the data show, employing credentialed technicians and keeping them happy are important to the success of a practice. This investment promises dividends for teams, clients, patients, and the entire veterinary profession. But despite our best efforts, recruitment and retention can be a challenge. These strategies can attract and engage technicians:
- Foster a sense of autonomy, competency, and impact.
- Pay a competitive wage so that it is a reason to stay rather than to leave.
- Consider nonmonetary rewards, such as recognition on social media or extra time off.
- Maximize their opportunities to apply their diverse skill sets.
- Empower them to recognize and solve problems.
- Thank them for a job well done.
- Use language that conveys respect and fosters a sense that they’re making a difference.
- Support those interested in specialty training.
- Provide them with career advancement opportunities, like a senior technician role or practice management duties.
- Help clients understand the special training and skills required to be credentialed.
- Encourage noncredentialed assistants to become credentialed technicians.12
- National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. NAVTA 2016 demographic survey results. Accessed August 12, 2022. https://cdn.ymaws.com/navta.site-ym.com/ resource/resmgr/docs/2016_demographic_results.pdf
- Fanning J, Shepherd AJ. Contribution of veterinary technicians to veterinary business revenue, 2007. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2010;236(8):846. doi:10.2460/javma.236.8.846
- Ouedraogo FB, Lefebvre SL, Salois M. Nonveterinarian staff increase revenue and improve veterinarian productivity in mixed and companion animal veterinary practices in the United States. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2022;260(8):916-922. doi:10.2460/ javma.21.11.0482
- Shock DA, Roche SM, Genore R, Renaud DL. The economic impact that registered veteri- nary technicians have on Ontario veterinary practices. Can Vet J. 2020;61(5):505-511.
- Kogan LR, Wallace JE, Schoenfeld-Tacher R, Hellyer PW, Richards M. Veterinary techni- cians and occupational burnout. Front Vet Sci. 2020;7:328. doi:10.3389/fvets.2020.00328
- Hayes GM, LaLonde-Paul DF, Perret JL, et al. Investigation of burnout syndrome and job-related risk factors in veterinary technicians in specialty teaching hospitals: a multicenter cross-sectional study. J Vet Emerg Crit Care (San Antonio). 2020;30(1):18-27. doi:10.1111/vec.12916
- Larkin M. Survey finds underuse related to retention for veterinary technicians. December 8, 2021. Accessed August 16, 2022. https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2021-12-15/ survey-finds-underuse-related-retention-veterinary-technicians
- Neill CL, Hansen CR, Salois M. The economic cost of burnout in veterinary medicine. Front Vet Sci. 2022;9:814104. doi:10.3389/fvets.2022.814104
- The importance of well-being in the health care workforce. In: Forstag EH, Cuff PA, eds. A Design Thinking, Systems Approach to Well-Being Within Education and Practice: Proceedings of a Workshop. National Academies Press; 2018: Appendix B.
- The American Veterinary Medical Association Economics Division. The secret to happy clients. dvm360®. May 2022:62.
- Who’s involved in the care of your pet when they go to the vet? The answer may surprise you. NAVC blog. March 29, 2022. Accessed August 15, 2022. https://navc.com/ whos-involved-in-the-care-of-your-pet
- Driscoll DC. Credentialed veterinary technician intrinsic and extrinsic rewards: a narrative review. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2022;260(9):1069-1075. doi:10.2460/javma.22.01.0023