A guide to unlocking full veterinary technician potential
Important steps toward getting the most out of a veterinary technician career
Content submitted by Galaxy Vets, a dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner
An ASPCA survey revealed that nearly 1 in 5 US households has acquired a cat or dog since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which according to the 2019 US Census, accounts for approximately 23 million households.1 This increased pet ownership is stretching veterinary practices thin, and we can’t afford for our teams to suffer from burnout or to be underutilized.
Research by the Cornell Center for Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship has demonstrated that burnout is costing the veterinary industry between $1 and $2 billion annually in lost revenue.2 The veterinary profession is currently experiencing a massive shift. We need every team member possible to mitigate the stress and cannot justify losing a valuable employee because they feel underutilized. Staffing is usually a veterinary hospital’s highest operational expense, so losing a trained veterinary technician because of boredom or a lack of challenges in their role is unacceptable.
Veterinary technicians: a step-by-step guide for negotiating more
On a typical day in a veterinary clinic, veterinary technicians are responsible for a wide array of tasks, and you must know the value you bring to the practice when you negotiate for more money or responsibility. Tips to strengthen your position include:
Analyze your strengths and passions
Reflect on the tasks that bring you the most joy and satisfaction, and consider how you can leverage those strengths into a more fulfilling, higher-paying position. Answer the following questions:
- What are you passionate about?
- Do you have skills or training that you would like to use more at work?
- Can you provide a service that your practice is missing?
- Are you interested in continuing education in a particular field to gain more experience?
- Do you enjoy scheduling and have project management skills such as effective communication or time management?
- Do you have organizational skills that would make you a good candidate for managing the practice’s inventory?
Think like a business owner
A hospital is a business, and it is essential to understand revenue streams if you want to negotiate for more responsibilities or a better salary. Many people on Linkedin, myself included, would be happy to help by discussing ways you can bring forward business ideas. Potential proposals include:
- Behavior analysis and modification—One of the fastest-growing veterinary fields is behavior analysis and modification. Numerous technicians are passionate about this specialty and many pet owners need and want the service.
- Dentistry—Professional veterinary dental cleanings are an important component of a pet’s healthcare plan and offering this service can bring significant revenue to a veterinary practice.
- Laboratory—Laboratory expertise is extremely useful, and every veterinary practice needs a team member who has the knowledge and skill to maintain the expensive equipment.
- Physical rehabilitation—Physical rehabilitation is increasingly being used to help restore pets’ function, mobility, and quality of life.
Research the specialty that piques your interest and determine the necessary training, duration of training, and revenue the certification can generate for the hospital, and then present a professional proposal to your manager.
Insist on performance reviews
Communicating effectively in a veterinary hospital can be difficult, and performance reviews are often stressful. However, regular assessments help promote open discussions, so you can ensure you are aligned with your veterinarian or practice manager. They also provide an opportunity for you to be recognized for a job well done and for the reviewer to suggest areas that may need more attention. This feedback is vital to help you document your goals and create a roadmap for achievement.
Practice managers: increase revenue by empowering technicians
Various studies demonstrate that veterinary clinics that underutilize their technicians and whose veterinarians perform technician duties, make less money. According to an AVMA Report on Veterinary Practice Business Measures, adding a credentialed technician increases gross revenue per veterinarian by $93,311.3 While many hospital teams, managers, and regulatory boards agree that veterinary technicians should be able to perform at the top of their license, obstacles to technician use include time shortages, uncertainty on how to institute the change, and communication challenges.
Hospital teams are strained from staffing shortages and high client demand, and finding time to change workflow or optimize a schedule is difficult, especially considering that additional training may be necessary to ensure you use your technicians and the support team to the best of their ability. However, like an urgent patient case, you can’t afford to ignore this critical situation. Tips to address the issue include:
Conduct a gap analysis
Ask your technicians the following questions to identify underutilized areas:
- Do you have skills or training you are not using? You may discover that they have acquired new training since you hired them, but are still being utilized according to their initial job description.
- Are you happy with the task variety you encounter? You want to know if your technicians are bored or not feeling challenged in their work to prevent burnout.
- Are there duties you can delegate? Your technician may be overqualified for a particular task that would be an exciting new challenge for another technician or an assistant.
Create a plan to increase technician revenue streams
Your technicians must want to operate at the top of their certification skills for you to benefit from giving them more responsibility. Have regular conversations about their aspirations and suggest ways that technicians could increase revenue streams. For example, dentistry is one of the most untapped veterinary practice growth opportunities—approximately 87% of dogs and 70% of cats older than 3 years of age are affected by periodontal disease.
Veterinarians recommend annual dental cleanings for all pets, yet, on average, dental care services account for only about 3% of total practice revenue. This is a massive growth lever and a void that veterinary technicians can fill.
Provide financial management training
Again, running a veterinary hospital is a business. Educate your employees on your practice’s financial aspects, such as your profitability, productivity, and revenue streams, and involve them in your business planning and problem-solving. This will help them understand that they are part of a team and facilitate their role as change drivers in your clinic. You can use the Objectives and Key Results system to motivate and unite your team around a common goal.4
Assess your practice culture
Finally, consider your practice environment by answering the following questions:
- Is your staff comfortable talking to you about their challenges?
- Do your team members feel psychologically safe to admit that they don’t know something and ask for help or clarification?
- Is your practice a safe environment for a staff member, no matter their role, to admit their mistake?
- Do you collect feedback?
- How often do you provide performance reviews and discuss your team members’ career aspirations?
Numerous opportunities are available to optimize credentialed veterinary technicians, and the benefits reach far beyond finances and increased revenue. In addition, properly utilizing your technicians will improve your team’s engagement, increase your veterinary productivity, stabilize your retention rate, and maximize your team’s potential.
- Hoffman CL, Thibault M, Hong J. Characterizing Pet Acquisition and Retention During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Front Vet Sci. 2021;8:781403. Published 2021 Nov 18. doi:10.3389/fvets.2021.781403
- Neill CL, Hansen CR, Salois M. The Economic Cost of Burnout in Veterinary Medicine. Front Vet Sci. 2022;9:814104. Published 2022 Feb 25. doi:10.3389/fvets.2022.814104
- 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
- Leech R. OKRs Are A-OK. Today’s Veterinary Business. July 26, 2021. Accessed October 13, 2022. https://todaysveterinarybusiness.com/okrs-are-a-ok/