Just because veterinary technicians get credentialed doesn't mean they get extra respect. Here's how to make technician credentials really worth something.
Conjure up a mental image of a credentialed veterinary technician. Who do you envision? Perhaps you picture a skilled medical team member who leads the practice in patient care. Or maybe you see a team member with overrated skills who fancies herself too good to get her hands dirty.
These types of disparate views are floating around the veterinary industry; at least, that's what results of a recent survey about the value of veterinary technicians imply. Take one veterinarian's response to the survey, which was conducted on dvm360.com in partnership between Banfield and your own Firstline magazine:
"I'd much rather have my personally trained assistant do these things than any of the [credentialed] technicians I have ever had work for us. The technicians seem to be less competent yet 'above' doing certain procedures. My overall opinion of certified technicians is that they're lazy."
Unfortunately, this veterinarian isn't the only person who responded to the survey with such a statement. Even veterinary assistants—or noncredentialed technicians—made similar comments. Of course, there were survey respondents who said they work with effective veterinary technicians and appreciate what they do. And there were veterinary technicians who said they work at practices where they know they're respected, integral members of the practice team.
But, as a profession, credentialed veterinary technicians are undervalued and their skills are underused. (To see the survey results that support this, visit dvm360.com/techsurvey.) So what's the profession to do? That's the question Banfield attempted to answer by hosting the Credentialed Veterinary Technician Future Forum. Early this spring, 17 industry thought leaders gathered at Banfield's headquarters in Portland, Ore. The discussion centered on how to raise the status of veterinary technicians and, through that, the status of assistants and all team members.
The consensus was that these four actions need to take place:
1. Elevate the profession of credentialed veterinary technician,
2. Expand technicians' roles,
3. Establish healthcare teams where all staff members—from veterinarian to technician to receptionist—work together with the client to care for pets,
4. Improve the related education systems.
These are easy goals to lay out. Achieving them will take months, even years. The veterinary profession has a lot of work to do. On a more individual level, all members of the veterinary healthcare team—yes, everyone regardless of title or position—must participate in changing their practice's culture to one that values technicians. To find out what you can do personally to make this happen, read the table on the next page.