Submitted by Galaxy Vets, dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner
Nearly one in five U.S. households has owned a cat or dog since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to an ASPCA survey, and about 23 million households, according to the 2019 U.S. Census.1 This increased pet ownership is weakening veterinary practices and we cannot allow our teams to suffer from burnout or underutilization.
Research from the Cornell Center for Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship shows that burnout costs the veterinary industry $1 to $2 billion in lost revenue each year.2 The veterinary industry is currently undergoing a huge transformation. We need every team member to reduce stress as much as possible and not lose a valuable employee just because they feel underutilized. Staffing is often the highest operating expense for a veterinary hospital, so losing trained veterinary technicians due to boredom or lack of challenge is not acceptable.
Veterinary Technician: A Step-by-Step Guide to Negotiating
On a typical day in a veterinary clinic, veterinary technicians are in charge of a variety of tasks, and when you’re negotiating for more money or responsibility, you have to know the value you’re bringing to the practice. Tips to strengthen your status include:
Analyze your strengths and passions
Reflect on the tasks that bring you the most joy and satisfaction, and consider how you can use those strengths to get a more fulfilling, higher-paying position. Answer the following questions:
- What are you passionate about?
- Do you have a skill or training that you would rather use on the job?
- Can you provide services that your practice is missing?
- Are you interested in continuing education in a specific field to gain more experience?
- Do you enjoy scheduling and have project management skills such as effective communication or time management?
- Do you have the organizational skills that would make you a good candidate for managing your practice inventory?
Think like a business owner
A hospital is a business, and if you want to negotiate more responsibilities or a higher salary, understanding your source of income is critical. Many people on Linkedin, including myself, are happy to help by discussing ways to come up with business ideas. Potential proposals include:
- Behavior Analysis and Modification— One of the fastest growing areas of veterinary medicine is behavioral analysis and modification. Many technicians are passionate about this profession, and many pet owners need and want this service.
- dentistry—Professional veterinary dental cleaning is an important part of a pet health care plan, and providing this service can generate significant income for a veterinary clinic.
- laboratory– Laboratory expertise is very useful, every veterinary practice requires a team member with the knowledge and skills to maintain expensive equipment.
- physical rehabilitation– Physical rehabilitation is increasingly used to help pets regain function, mobility and quality of life.
Research the specialties you are interested in, determine the necessary training, training duration, and the revenue that certification can bring to the hospital, then make professional recommendations to your manager.
Adhere to performance appraisal
Effective communication in a veterinary hospital can be difficult, and performance reviews are often stressful. However, regular assessments help foster open discussion, so you can make sure you align with your veterinarian or practice manager. They also provide an opportunity for you to be recognized for good work and for reviewers to suggest areas that may need more attention. This feedback is essential to help you document your goals and create a roadmap of achievement.
Practice Managers: Increase Revenue by Empowering Technicians
Various studies have shown that veterinary clinics that underutilize their technicians and whose veterinarians perform technician duties make less money. According to the AVMA report on business measures of veterinary practice, adding a certified technician can increase total revenue per veterinarian by $93,311.3 While many hospital teams, administrators, and regulatory boards agree that veterinary technicians should be able to excel on their licenses, barriers to technician use include time shortages, uncertainty about how to make changes, and communication challenges.
Hospital teams strained by staffing shortages and high customer demand can struggle to find time to change workflows or optimize schedules, especially considering that additional training may be required to ensure you get the most out of your technicians and support teams. However, like an emergency patient case, you cannot ignore this critical situation. Tips for solving this problem include:
Conduct a gap analysis
Ask your technician the following questions to identify underutilized areas:
- Do you have any skills or training that you use? You may find that they have received new training since you hired them, but are still being used based on their original job description.
- Are you satisfied with the various tasks you encounter? You want to know if your technicians are bored or not challenged at work to prevent burnout.
- Are there responsibilities that can be delegated? Your technicians may be overqualified for a particular task, and this will be an exciting new challenge for other technicians or assistants.
Create a plan to increase the revenue stream for technicians
Your technicians must want to perform to the highest level of their certified skills so you can benefit from giving them more responsibility. Have regular conversations about their aspirations and come up with ways technologists can increase their revenue streams. For example, dentistry is one of the least untapped growth opportunities for veterinary practices – approximately 87% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of 3 are affected by periodontal disease.
Veterinarians recommend annual dental cleanings for all pets, but on average, dental care services only account for about 3 percent of total practice revenue. This is a huge gap that growing livers and veterinary technicians can fill.
Provide financial management training
Likewise, running a veterinary hospital is a business. Educate your employees about the financial aspects of your practice, such as your profitability, productivity and revenue streams, and involve them in your business planning and problem solving. This will help them understand that they are part of a team and facilitate their role as change agents in your practice. You can use the Objectives and Key Results system to motivate and unite your team around a common goal.4
Assess your culture of practice
Finally, consider your practice environment by answering the following questions:
- Are your employees willing to talk to you about their challenges?
- Do your team members feel psychologically safe when they admit they don’t know something and seek help or clarification?
- Does your practice provide a safe environment for staff to admit their mistakes, regardless of their role?
- Do you collect feedback?
- How often do you provide performance reviews and discuss the career aspirations of your team members?
There are many opportunities to optimize a certified veterinary technician with benefits that go well beyond finances and increased income. Additionally, proper utilization of your technicians will increase your team’s engagement, increase your veterinary productivity, stabilize your retention rates, and maximize your team’s potential.
- Hoffman CL, Thibault M, Hong J. Characterizing pet acquisition and retention during the COVID-19 pandemic. former veterinary science. 2021;8:781403. Published on November 18, 2021. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.781403
- Neill CL, Hansen CR, Salois M. The economic cost of veterinary burnout. former veterinary science. 2022;9:814104. Published on February 25, 2022. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2022.814104
- Fanning J, Shepherd AJ. Contribution of Veterinary Technicians to Veterinary Business Revenue, 2007. J Am Vet Med Assoc2010;236(8):846. doi:10.2460/javma.236.8.846
- Leech R. OKRs are normal. Veterinary business today. July 26, 2021. Accessed 13 October 2022. https://todaysveterinarybusiness.com/okrs-are-a-ok/