Career advancement for the veterinary team

February 24, 2021
Zay Satchu, DVM

Firstline, Firstline March/April 2021, Volume 18, Issue 2

Hey team members, are you looking for professional advancement and personal satisfaction? Here’s what you need to know.

Every veterinary team member is essential to building a thriving veterinary practice. Although you may love your job, it’s normal to yearn for more. Continued growth and development are crucial to personal and career satisfaction. If you’re a dedicated animal care professional looking to advance your career, here are a few ways to do it.

Continuing education (CE)

Many CE opportunities exist to advance your current know-how. Lectures and courses on ultrasonography, dentistry, low-stress handling, emergency medicine, and many other topics are available. Low-cost or free online CE webinars have increased since the start of the pandemic. Be sure to showcase your career development during your annual review by highlighting any CE courses you have completed.

Licensing and certification

Licensing and formal certification carry many benefits, including standardized education criteria and credentials that potential employers can easily peruse. Additional certifications might also open the door to new positions and increased compensation. Here are 3 examples of certifications you can pursue depending on your current position and career goals:

  1. Licensed/certified/registered veterinary technician (LVT/CVT/RVT): This certification may go by different names depending on where you live, but in most states it involves attending a school of veterinary technology and passing a licensure exam.
  2. Approved veterinary assistant (AVA): Upon graduation from a National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)-approved veterinary assistant program and successful completion of an exam, an individual is entitled to use the designation AVA and receives a documenting certificate.
  3. Certified veterinary practice manager (CVPM): Current practice managers can seek certification in their role through the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association program.

To pursue certification, research the requirements in your state and find a program near you (keep in mind that many programs are now online). Your certification may also include hands-on hands-on training in a veterinary practice.

Specialization

For licensed technicians, specialization offers an avenue to expand your knowledge, skills, responsibilities, and opportunities. Some of the specialties described on the NAVTA website include the following:

  • Emergency and critical care
  • Dentistry
  • Internal medicine (with subspecialties such as cardiology, neurology, oncology, equine internal medicine, and more)
  • Anesthesia and analgesia
  • Zoological medicine
  • Laboratory animal medicine
  • Animal behavior
  • Clinical pathology
  • Nutrition
  • Surgery

Most specialties are practiced in specialty and emergency hospitals, but some specialty areas, such as dentistry and nutrition, are practiced commonly in general practices as well. Either way, your specialized knowledge will help you become more valuable to your practice while improving the quality of care you provide your patients.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to be certified to start exploring your options. Consider shadowing a technician at a specialty practice. Most practices are open to this option, which allows you to get an inside look at what it’s like working in that specialty and learn more about how to reach your goal.

Additionally, consider applying for a positions in a specialty practice even if you haven’t specialized yet. Some are happy to take on a good veterinary technician who’s not a specialist. That goes for assistants, client service representatives, and other team members, too. Specialty practices may provide an exciting new career move for you.

Invest in your current workplace

If you love where you work but feel like you’re at a standstill, think of ways you can expand your current role. Depending on your interests and the nature of your workplace, consider the following.

Explore supervisory or management roles

Typically, these are operation-type positions that can give you the bump you need to try something new and gain additional skills in a veterinary clinic environment.

Ask about leadership positions

If management isn’t your thing, there are other leadership roles that still allow you to play a key role in decision-making. Think lead technician, head receptionist, or care coordinator positions. You may find that you enjoy training other team members. In addition to professional development, you can help improve communication and cohesiveness among the whole team.

Make sure your skills are fully utilized

Underutilization of qualified veterinary personnel remains common and can lead to boredom and frustration at work. If you feel your skills are not being used, speak up. In addition to fueling your own career satisfaction, you might improve workflow and productivity by promoting appropriate delegation of tasks.

Ask for a raise or promotion

If you’ve been with your employer for 8 to 12 months, write down examples of the value you bring to the practice and ask practice leaders to discuss your compensation. If appropriate, suggest additional responsibilities you could take on, such as inventory management, to warrant a pay increase.

Ask about additional benefits

Inquire about your practice’s extra paid time off policy, CE allowances, or support as you seek specialty training.

Although asking for what you want may seem daunting, taking the initiative is usually better than feeling “stuck” or like you’re missing out. Improve your confidence and approach to these conversations by researching and practicing communication strategies, by writing down concrete ideas and examples to support your request, and by maintaining a kind, professional, nonconfrontational tone.

Set your goals and priorities

To get to where you want to be, think about your current priorities and ask yourself these questions: Which aspects of your career do you love? Do any of these inspire you to want to learn more? What aspects of your current employment would you like to change? By writing these things down, you’ll develop some clarity that will help guide you through the next chapter of your career.

As a skilled veterinary professional, the opportunities are endless. Don’t settle; explore, learn, and find the perfect role for you.

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