In the world of veterinary medicine, the critical role of veterinary technicians cannot be overstated.
Veterinary technicians are the backbone of any successful veterinary practice, providing essential support to veterinarians and ensuring the well-being of pets. Heart + Paw understands the valuable contribution of veterinary technicians to pet care and is taking steps to recognize and reward them through an innovative compensation program.
It was not long ago that I accepted my first full-time position as a CrVT for $11.00/hour. Seeking a better living wage and an environment that encouraged me to grow, I started working at another veterinary practice, increasing my pay to $12.00/hour. Shortly after, my employer generously increased my wage to $14.00/hour to be more in line with how the clinic's other CrVTs were compensated.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent data from 2022, the average annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians, both certified and non-certified, in the United States was $40,770.1 The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) comprehensive demographics survey released earlier this year revealed a noteworthy 25% increase in the computed average annual salary of CrVTs since their 2016 survey ($52,000 in 2022 compared to $41,600 in 2016).2
While this increase in compensation is certainly a step in the right direction, it's essential to recognize that challenges persist. The survey also reported that an alarming 39% of respondents identified low salary as their most significant challenge, with 1 in 3 CrVTs holding a second job, often full-time, to supplement their income.2 This indicates the financial strain many veterinary technicians face in their pursuit of a rewarding and sustainable career. To retain and support these dedicated professionals, the industry must explore innovative approaches to increase both the utilization and compensation of veterinary technicians.
Skilled veterinary technicians can handle certain types of visits on their own or with minimal supervision. State Practice Acts dictate what skills CrVTs can and cannot perform, but it varies. There are a variety of services that can be provided by a CrVT benefiting a pet’s health and quality of life, including client education as a way of elevating the care the pet is receiving. This way, clients can foster a deeper understanding of what is being prescribed and their role in administering care as well as a safe place to communicate it.
Nail trims, booster vaccinations, anal gland expressions, heartworm testing, subcutaneous fluid administration, and pre-anesthetic blood work are just a few examples of services veterinary technicians are capable and trained to provide. While the veterinarian proceeds to handle more complex or urgent cases, they rely on CrVTs to assist patients and clients who are visiting for routine services. In addition to providing more convenience for clients, tech appointments can also help reduce the risk of potential illness due to delayed appointments.
A new program could mean big changes for CrVTs facing compensation challenges. Heart + Paw is now providing the opportunity for CrVTs to earn additional income when they administer qualifying veterinary technician appointment services, excluding prescriptions, rabies vaccines, and other services that require veterinarian interpretation or involvement. Giving CrVTs the freedom to practice within the framework of their professional licenses and ensuring they have access to training and support so they can feel confident in their role has always been a priority at Heart + Paw.
“I instantly fell in love with tech appointments,” said Katie Asman, CrVT at Heart + Paw Cherry Hill, “I love having my own schedule and educating clients helping them give their pets the best life possible. I love the connections I make with my patients and their parents.” The new program encourages CrVTs to actively participate in providing veterinary technician appointment services, aligning their clinical interests with successful outcomes for pets.
While progress has been made in increasing salaries, issues surrounding low pay and the need for additional income sources continue. As I reflect on my career as a CrVT, I am hopeful for a future that includes a lifelong career for CrVTs in practice and encouraged by Heart + Paw’s vision to provide a reason for non-credentialed veterinary technicians and assistants to pursue a path to becoming credentialed.
The demand for veterinary services continues to grow and it is crucial to recognize and reward the tireless efforts of veterinary technicians ensuring a happy, healthy, and sustainable future for our teams.
Mary Schwartz, CVT, has worked in the veterinary industry for over a decade. Earning her CVT credentials after graduating from the Harcum College Veterinary Technician Program in 2010 and her bachelor’s degree in business from Penn State World Campus in 2022, she has dedicated herself to providing exceptional care to animals in a variety of settings, including general practice, specialty, and emergency hospitals. Mary is passionate about helping members of the veterinary team succeed in their careers every day. In 2021, she joined the team at Heart + Paw to reimagine pet care for not only pets and their parents, but the veterinary professional too. In her free time, you can catch her at Beau’s Dog Park with her Goldendoodle, Hazel, exploring downtown Lancaster, PA or relaxing at the Jersey Shore.