The veterinary technician's role in equine deworming (sponsored by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health)

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Empower your veterinary technicians to take over this valuable profit center and help your practice grow.

In tough economic times, getting back to the basics can be the key to keep your practice on level ground. And one not-to-be-overlooked profit center is equine deworming. The best part: This is a great place for your technicians to take the lead and show their skills.

Deborah Reeder, RVT, executive director of the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians (AAEVT), says technicians are a key factor in the equine deworming process for two reasons. First, they receive extensive training about parasitology and deworming protocols in school and during continuing education, which keeps them up to date on the latest ideas, technology, science, and products. And second, it's a role many technicians are eager to assume because it lets them contribute to the practice and grow in their jobs.

Another benefit: It allows you to bring this important service back into the veterinary practice. Clients can purchase and administer dewormers. But without a fecal exam, horse owners don't know their horses' health status when they use the medication.

"In some cases owners are giving their horses dewormers and don't even know if the horses need it," Reeder says. "They also don't know if the deworming product they're giving is the product they need to be giving. Without a fecal exam, clients don't know whether their horses have worms, they don't know the type of worms, and they don't know the load."

Back to the basics

In the past, Reeder says, some clinics stopped doing fecal exams because technicians got involved in performing other tasks. But in a time when clinics are trying to look for more ways to increase income, Reeder says fecal exams are a great example of an ignored area team members can focus on again.

"We need to look at the fecal exam as a diagnostic tool that's integral to the wellness of the horse," Reeder says. "You can charge $25 for it, and make it an educational process. Start by creating a program for the horse, and recheck the animal so the client sees the value in the fecal exam. Then it becomes part of a whole program and not just one procedure."

Talking to clients

Your team members spend a lot of time talking to your clients. Each of these conversations is a powerful chance for technicians, assistants, and receptionists to educate horse owners. Take advantage of this.

"A lot of times clients feel more comfortable asking the technician or the receptionist an offhand question about a fecal or how often should they deworm, where they don't always feel comfortable asking the veterinarian," Reeder says. "Technicians can build on their relationship with clients and educate them about the benefits of fecal exams to identify the appropriate products and approach to deworm their horses."

Once technicians have opened the door with a conversation about deworming, they can offer a fecal exam to identify the horse's current status. "They can take the result to the client and say, 'Look, your horse really does have a lot of worms,'" Reeder says. "Then technicians can explain how these results help the veterinarian create a deworming program individualized for their horse's needs."

The end result: Involving your technicians in your deworming program is good business and good team-building. It allows your technicians to take an active role in a valuable profit center that can substantially improve the health of your patients and practice. And technicians aren't the only team members who can help.

"I'd encourage veterinarians to look at ways that their technicians and support staff can assist in client education and client compliance," Reeder says. "This is a great way to empower your team to improve the bottom line and create an income center that's been ignored."

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