DVMs can better use technicians' expertise to improve client service


Cleveland-Veterinarians say letting technicians take on some routine duties of farm calls can build a practice and improve healthcare delivery efficiency.

Cleveland-Veterinarians say letting technicians take on some routine duties of farm calls can build a practice and improve healthcare delivery efficiency.

It's a new way of doing business for the traditional food animal practice,says Debbie Stevenson, a food animal veterinary technician at Purdue University,but it can work to improve herd health in a variety of ways.

Dr. John Day of Dairy Health Services in Jerome, Idaho, agrees. He isproponent of better use of veterinary technicians and their skills to provideservice to clients.

Stevenson, who works with beef veterinarian Dr. Mark Hilton, presentedthe topic at the American Association of Bovine Practitioners meeting inMadison.

Stevenson says that her role on the farm has been greatly enhanced. Shehas her own separate hourly rate, typically one-third of what the veterinariancharges, and she performs a variety of services for producers all withinthe parameters of the veterinary practice act.

"We are providing a good service to clients. If I go out and hecharges $100 an hour, and I charge $30 an hour working under the protocolshe established and trained me to perform, it benefits producers as well."

Clients see the benefit too and are calling to request her services forapproved routine care, Hilton says.

He adds that if practitioners broke down their average workday betweentime spent with routine technical service and consulting work, it couldhelp justify using technicians to concentrate more on herd health issues.

Stevenson explains that the trend in human healthcare is to expand therole of the technician? "Look at the dental profession. When was thelast time a dentist cleaned your teeth? It just doesn't happen anymore,"she says.

"I think the veterinary profession needs to follow this trend andit will make practice more efficient."

Stevenson adds that she would like to dispel myths about the use of veterinarytechnicians for veterinarians. "We are not competing against each other.We are on the same team. Sometimes I think food animal practitioners area little bit afraid of giving up some routine duties."

She adds, that a technician's role in the practice should be more cleaningand stocking. "I have a degree in animal science, so after six yearsof education I just don't want to clean out a truck."

Stevenson says that since she has become more a part of the healthcaredelivery team, her sense of doing important work for clients has improvedimmeasurably.

With a shortage of food animal veterinarians, the technician could proveto be an important component of the food animal veterinary team. But mostpractitioners have to justify a number of economic realities before theyare often willing to add a technician to their payrolls. The issues typicallyinclude client acceptance, whether or not the area can justify the additionalsalary, and even relinquishing some control to technicians.

For Day and Hilton, they are both sold. Both veterinarians cite benefitsincluding new profit centers, improved service to clients, increased efficiencyof farm calls and quality of life improvements by allowing more time athome.

While Stevenson says that every state is different in the way it regulatesveterinarians and technicians, Indiana allows routine procedures like deworming,vaccination and foot work. And of course, it is under the supervision ofa licensed veterinarian. So, with two-way radios, Stevenson and Hilton arein constant communication.

"We have become more efficient as a team," she adds.

It has become so successful, that Hilton and Stevenson are working towarddrafting an exemption in the Indiana practice act for performing routineherd health tasks for technicians like castration and dehorning. Any changesto the state's practice act would need legislative approval, she explains.

Day adds that practitioners should really look closely at their practiceact to see what duties a technician can legally perform since all statesare different. He adds that most practice acts outlining technician dutiesseem to be written for small animal practices. He adds, when in doubt, callthe veterinary board to help clarify the rules.

In Idaho, Day's technician, Jannell Kral, gets involved with the typicalveterinary herd check, including vaccinations, marking heads, running theveterinary checklist, taking blood samples, feed samples, and monitors freshcow, breeding and calving programs. She hygiene scores the cows, body conditionscores groups, monitors refrigerator temperatures on dairy operations, collectsbulk tank samples, whole herd cultures.

Day adds that in Idaho technicians cannot perform surgery, diagnose acondition or prescribe therapy, but other procedures are fair game underhis supervision.

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