Redefine what CE means to you and your practice.
The term continuing education—or CE—gets thrown around a lot. But what does it mean? And, most importantly, what does it mean to you?
Traditionally, CE is defined as post secondary learning opportunities designed to further your knowledge in a particular career—veterinary team member, in your case. But, in today's job market, CE might signify something more substantial: job security. Managers often emphasize, rightly so, how CE increases the quality of services your practice offers. It's true that when you hone your skills, the clinic benefits—and so do you. By improving yourself, you improve your chances of staying gainfully employed and netting raises and promotions.
The veterinary field is ever-changing. Companies are always developing new medicines, industry experts are forever improving techniques, and pet owners' attitudes are eternally shifting. To stay on top of the latest and greatest products and advancements, it's imperative that you keep learning. This allows you to maintain the best possible level of patient and client care. What's more, CE offers you the chance to network with like-minded people and generate relationships with industry representatives, which helps you keep tabs on the market.
Cracking a book or attending a lecture also provides a means of making yourself more valuable to your employer. For example, maybe you'd like to attend a CE event about how to improve client communications. By becoming your practice's resident expert in pet-owner speak, you might be able to expand your position from receptionist to customer care coordinator. If you're a practice manager who studies up on how to make the practice more efficient, you might be able to save your practice money—and make a little more yourself. Technicians and assistants: Gaining knowledge in hematology or dentistry could open avenues for you to take on more responsibility.
Whatever you desire, there's a CE scene that's right for you. Large veterinary conferences, such as the CVC conventions, are available in various locations around the country and offer the most options in a single time and place. They're usually held at about the same time every year, so you can plan ahead.
On a smaller scale, your local veterinary medical association probably organizes CE opportunities throughout the year. Scientific journal articles are another source. Most require you to read an article, complete a quiz, and mail it in for scoring and to receive credit. Every team member can find CE online. Many Web sites provide free courses, both for credit and simply for the sake of learning, and you can access these courses whenever it's convenient for you.
Don't forget in-house training sessions. If there's a topic you'd like to learn more about, ask your manager whether your practice could invite an expert to teach the team. That expert might be a company representative—who will usually speak for free—a community member, or a fellow team member.
Just like all the different forms of education, CE has no limits when it comes to topics. Don't feel pigeonholed into one area or subject. Dabble in what interests you as well as what will supplement your resume. And don't be afraid to try something new. You might discover an untapped skill you never knew you possessed.
While all these options will help you collect career collateral, they aren't all created equally when it comes to certification. If you're a technician or practice manager who must maintain credentials—or who is looking to become certified—you need to stick to CE programs approved by reputable associations. Why? To ensure you're collecting continuing education units (CEUs) that meet the standards of the credentialing agencies.
You can rest assured your credits will be valid if you attend CE that's accredited by the Registry of Approved Continuing Education—often referred to as RACE—offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. This organization determines the number of CEUs you get for a specific program by considering the content and amount of time you spend learning. Keep in mind that you won't receive credit for activities that are open to the public or don't require registration.
You can customize your CE and it's meaning. Do you want it to mean you're Challenged and Engaged? Perhaps Confidently Employed? Probably even both. With the right outlook, there's no limit to where CE can take you and your career.
Amy Butzier, BS, MEd, CVT, is an assistant professor of veterinary technology at Mount Ida College in Newton, Mass., and a member of the executive board for the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. Please send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.