October 16-22 is Veterinary Technician Appreciation week.

In the wake of the recent AVMA article discussing the high turnover of vet techs, it seems clear that they are not feeling very appreciated.

Veterinary technicians are the heart of an animal hospital.  They do the hard jobs like restraining 90 pound raucous labs, dealing with angry clients, monitoring anesthesia, and triaging patients.  They do the important jobs like consoling grieving clients, comforting frightened animals, and making sure every inpatient has a dry, comfortable blanket to snuggle in.  They have their veterinarian’s backs–double checking our medication doses and reminding us which patients are nervous or protective of their families so we know how to approach when we get in the exam room.  Without them, our hospitals could not run.

rachelledaniellewendy

Vet techs are over worked, under-paid, and frequently under appreciated by many veterinarians and clients.

It’s no wonder they don’t stay in the field very long.

You may be a veterinarian reading this right now, asking what you can do.  You’re only an associate, you have no say over their salaries.  You know you’re over-working your support team, but you’re understaffed and you can’t do anything about it.  Or maybe you are in charge of salaries and staffing and scheduling, but your business is struggling and you just can’t afford to do more.

patty

You can start by fighting for them.

Remind your office manager, medical director, or practice owner how valuable these members of the team are and advocate for better wages.  If better wages aren’t in the cards right now, find ways to add other benefits to the package and let them know that you want to build up the practice together so that you can soon give them the raises that they deserve.

Also, be sure you’re leveraging these trained professionals to their highest capacity. By delegating tasks you free yourself up to see more clients. You also create job satisfaction and purpose that results in happier techs, and happy techs create happy clients. These things help to generate revenue which can eventually be used to supplement their salaries.

Salaries are important.  Our technicians work just as hard, if not harder than we do and they deserve to be compensated for that work.  But no technician is in this field for the money.  There are so many other parts of the job that make our vet techs happy.  Even if there really were nothing you as a veterinarian could do to help them receive better wages, there is plenty you could do to make them feel valued and important.

daniellejackie

Technicians want the same things everyone wants out of a career

They want more than just a pay check.  They want a purpose.  They got into this field to help animals and make a difference.  Empower your technicians to speak up. I’ve had technicians find a fracture on an x-ray that I’d missed, suggest differential diagnoses I’d forgotten to consider and come up with great hacks to make soaking paws and bandaging wounds easier.  Your technician wants to start instituting fear free practices?—empower them to do it.  They want to initiate a new anesthesia check list?—let them go for it.  Great employees want to stay when they know they’re making a difference.

They also want to learn and grow.

Continue to train them.  When they have a question about how to do something, don’t just show them how, tell them why. If you’re introducing a new medication into your pharmacy, teach them about it. Give them opportunities to go to CE conferences.  Help them pursue a specialty such as dentistry, anesthesia or emergency and critical care.  The opportunity for career growth motivates and increases job satisfaction.

kelly

And technicians want appreciation

Not just of the monetary variety.  When they go above and beyond, recognize it.  At our hospital we have “You Rock” cards we can give out to let an employee know they rocked!  Or you can write a quick thank you note.  Buy lunch for the staff every once in a while.  Have an employee of the month.  Even just remembering to take 2 seconds to say ‘thank you’ when everyone is running around in the chaos of the day can go a long way to make someone feel special.

I hope my technicians know just how much I value them, but they probably don’t.  As veterinarians we’re usually too busy trying to make everyone happy, and as a result, we all—myself include—often drop the ball.  It’s a sad part of human nature that we take for granted those whom we need the most.  So I want to say it now to all my support staff, but especially my technicians—I appreciate you.  Thank you for all that you do every day.  And for all you vet techs I haven’t had the pleasure of working with, thank you for all you do for the profession and for your patients.

7 thoughts on “The Vet Tech Problem and What You Can Do About It.

  1. as a past med.tech i agree wholehardly that the vet techs work hard-sometimes they spend more time with the patient than then vet themselves-they are smart,they go above and beyond what their job duties are listed as-so happy to see that as a Vet.you see how important they are to your practice and more importantly let them know how important their work is to you!!! I have had the honor of meeting your staff only a few times but the care and compassion they showed were beyond what i expected.Keep your techs happy-they will stay with you!!

  2. More vet tech programs should be built into community colleges like, College of Lake County in Grayslake, IL. There is a huge vacuum. I took the vet assistant program in its first year there, not accredited, yet. Vet assisting is a minimum wage job, not a career. Need vet tech. There are dozens of shelters and rescue groups to work with and access to large animal is nearby as well. They have a nursing program that works with nursing homes, why not animals?

    A more structured mentorship program built into vet clinics, so assistants and techs can continue to improve. I was not “in the clique” so I did not get much help. I had to leave the field. Intimidation and bullying in the workplace makes a hostile environment.

    I love the vet techs that helped with my disabled Foster dogs. I want them to make a living wage. I want them to be treated fairly by doctors.

  3. Sometimes it seems as if veterinarians forget that they could not have a practice without a technician. (Or at least not a very efficient one). I encourage veterinarians to ask themselves what they would be willing to accept as pay if they were a veterinary technician. Take a close look at the cost of living in your area. What would it cost for a single person to live comfortably in your area?

    Technicians, as a whole, need to stop believing that we are “only” worth 12.00 – 20.00 dollars/hour. Because we are worth far more than that. And given the rate at which people leave the career, this is pretty obvious…

    1. they absoultely do, but veterinarians are struggling financially too, especially with ourexorbanant student loans. Most of us also don’t ahve a lot of business accumen to help us be able to run efficient profitable busineses that allow us to bring in the revenue to pass that along. Please don’t make this into an us against you thing. We all need to work together to figure out this problem.

      1. Not trying to make it a divisive issue. Just saying what I believe to be true and also the reason that technicians are leaving their career. I worked for a single practitioner practice who offered profit sharing. This really helped the staff feel that they were a part of the practice. I’m sure that, eventually, some sort of resolution will happen in regards to technician value.

  4. I am a veterinarian. My RVT and VA are paid by the hour. They are paid for their lunches–whether they actually get one or not. On quiet days, they have longer lunches and they are paid for them, because on busy days they might not get a lunch at all.
    I pay my staff above the average in Ontario. I would like to pay more, but the payroll taxes and CPP I am required to pay the government doesn’t allow me that freedom at this time.
    I thank my staff individually every day and at the end of every week for their help. I do buy lunch often.
    I take them out for a Christmas event and a summer event.
    They are encouraged to take CE and it is paid for.
    They have a clothing allowance every year for new scrubs, etc.
    They get 6 sick days per year and 3 weeks holidays each. I had 1 week holidays this year, often don’t get lunch and have no clothing allowance through the business.
    I very much appreciate my staff and try to tell them as often as I can.
    PLEASE don’t paint all veterinarians as bosses that don’t care, make tons of money and never appreciate their staff. We are NOT all like that. We work hard in the clinic too–and research at night, and lie awake at night trying to solve cases, and take TONS of extra CE…and are always thinking about cases. My choice, for sure, but please don’t think that I am not working very hard too. It may be a different kind of work, but it is work 🙂

    1. It sounds like you’re a great boss who understands the value of your techs. I am a veterinarian too, although not a practice owner. I in no way painting all vets the same way. I know we all want to do the best for our businesses and employees. I think the lack of business acumen that plagues many vets plays a much bigger roll than any lack of caring. But if we don’t stop am reflect on how we can do better, them we will never improve.

Leave a Reply to Kristin Wolter Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *