Hey! Who ordered an on-call specialty tech?

October 13, 2017
Jill Bechtel, BS, RVT, CVPM

Our veterinary specialty and emergency hospital was calling in technicians for work they weren't ready for, work that didn't need to be urgently done, and after proverbial fires were already out. My protocol helped fix it.

If veterinary technicians were a pizza, what flavor would they be? Sorry, I'm off topic. The real lesson below: Think more about how and why you call in on-call veterinary team members, especially technical staff. (Shutterstock.com)I work in a 24-hour hospital, so we require on-call support for nights and weekends. When I started, on-call technicians on the weekends were definitely being misused. Here are examples:

3 reasons we called in technicians when we didn't need them

And the finalists are ...

Jill Bechtel is one of 10 finalists in the 2017 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year contest. Click right here to read a little from all the finalists, enjoy the stories about the finalists as they slowly unfold on this page, and find out the big winner at Fetch dvm360 in San Diego in December.

Mismanaged resources. A technician called in on the weekend and upon arrival, asked to stock inventory and do laundry.

Crossed wires. A doctor telling a client service representative to bring in an on-call technician even though the veterinary technicians on hand didn't feel they needed the help. What happened? The doctor didn't consult them.

Rush judgments. The veterinary technician team felt they needed help and brought in an on-call technician only to find the rush passes and the on-call help wasn't needed.

The problem of bringing in on-call technicians for non-technical work, miscommunication, or because of bad snap judgments was creating animosity among the emergency and specialty technicians. In addition, when I joined NVS, the specialty technicians were the only pool of technicians participating in on call.

4 problems that led to bad calls and frustrated feelings

To tackle this, I sought first to understand. I gathered information from all team members to get a handle on the problem. I learned that the issues were:

No clear rules for when to call in a technician

Lack of communication between all team members prior to making the decision to call in someone

Lack of knowledge base when a specialty technician was called to come work in emergency

Frustration from specialty techs called in for emergency work and expected to cover other normal duties at the same time, like surgery anesthesia.

1 solution that helped

So, I devised the "Call In Protocol," which identified specific call-in parameters and required approval from leadership prior to making the call to bring in someone. (Click here to open a Microsoft Word version of that protocol.)

I also began asking ER technicians take on-call shifts for ER (for pay, of course) and moved specialty technicians to cover anesthesia for our hospital for surgeries (for pay, of course).

These small, agreed-upon changes made the system much more clear, and today technicians are only called in when they're needed. Feedback from the team has been extremely positive.

Jill Bechtel is Hospital Administrator at Nashville Veterinary Specialists in Nashville, Tennessee.