You celebrate your veterinary technicians for a week in October. What about the other 51 weeks of the year?
Every year, there are two groups of people who are very outspoken with their opinions of Valentine's Day. The first group thinks that Valentine's Day is vital in order to focus on our significant others. The second thinks that we don't need one day a year to give gifts, chocolate and love to the special people in our lives. I agree with the latter: Why do you need one specific time of the year to show people that you appreciate their hard work, time effort and loyalty?
Now that Technician Appreciation Week is over, this can be said: The veterinary profession does not need one week out of the year to celebrate, focus on, or appreciate our hard-working veterinary technicians.
This is not to say that Technician Appreciation Week is a waste of time and energy. It can be fun for your technicians and your clients. You can throw a party, you can decorate the clinic-you can even get your clients involved.
But as for the clinic-wide appreciation for technicians, don't wait for a week. Do it all year round. Give them random gifts, just because it's Tuesday. Walk around the clinic to see what progress they have made and tell everyone what a fantastic job they're doing. If they occasionally make mistakes, tell them how they can make it better, then praise them for improving.
As for your clients, they should be aware all week long that it is Technician Appreciation Week. This can be done through emailed newsletters, blogs or social media outlets like Facebook.
But still, using only one week of the year to tell all of your clients about your technicians and their wonderful skills is not enough. Announcements about your technicians' achievements need to be so commonplace that clients know each of them by name and, perhaps, prefer to see a technician for an out-patient service because of a skill he/she possesses.
Technicians, as everyone knows (or should know!), are the backbone of any clinic. The doctor does the examinations and creates the treatment plans. Technicians, however, present and execute the treatment plan, wrestle with dogs and cats, hope they can give injections to a fearful cat from a blow dart and then give the pets back to owners, telling them that they were very good, all with a smile on their face. Technicians are paid very little and do very much. This is common knowledge, but not commonly praised until one week in October.
If you are one of those management types that need a week to remind yourself to spoil your technicians with gifts, then you may be managing wrong. Don't get me wrong, I know management tasks are quite time-consuming. However, as you are passing by a technician in the hallway on your way to the filing cabinet, praise them if deserved. During your monthly staff meeting, take $5 out of the clinic budget to give a gift card or two.
Your technicians aren't robots, and they can feel neglect during the other 51 weeks of the year. That one week will not change their minds about how they feel, especially when their hard work goes unnoticed the rest of the time. Small changes such as this will demonstrate improved employee morale. Plus, c'mon, you know your technicians deserve it.
Veronica “Ronnie” Hanley is practice manager for Vetana Animal Hospital in Tucson, Arizona.