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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
Ask your technicians the following questions to identify underutilized areas:
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.
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
Finally, consider your practice environment by answering the following questions:
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.