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Some years ago, I was invited to be part of an industry think tank trying to answer the question,

Why are credentialed veterinary technicians leaving our industry at a meteoric pace?

After two long days together, with lots of hotel coffee, large white sticky notes on every wall, and a lot of debate, the obvious conclusion was that veterinarians too often underutilize and/or undervalue their technician’s abilities. There’s a whole different discussion we need to have on credentialed technicians vs. on the job trained doctor assistants, but we will save that for a later date.


I left that meeting with more questions than answers. Why do we veterinarians, who are so often overworked and burned out, not do everything possible to maximize our technicians and assistants, and train them constantly so that they can do everything that is legal for them to do? It doesn’t make sense.


Are we really that big of control freaks and micromanagers that we cause more work for ourselves while saying, “it’s just easier if I do it myself”, or , “I don’t have time to train my techs” – but we do have time to position and hold dogs for radiographs?


It got me wondering, if credentialed technicians and veterinary assistants had personal published skills lists, similar to veterinary interns, would veterinarians let them perform those skills and step back?


cross match


There has to be some correlation between the high turnover rate of technicians and assistants and not being able to perform the patient care skills they have been trained to do. I know that pay is also a big reason for the turnover, but are the two attached?


study guide and assessment layout-1


If you had a technician who you knew could confidently take diagnostic radiographs for every view, was able to perform excellent nerve blocks for your dental extractions, along with many other critical patient care techniques, would you pay them more? Are we determining the pay for our technicians and assistants on our need for able bodied people to fill shifts vs the skills of each candidate?


I want to paint a picture of what our relationship with our technicians and assistants could look like:

  1. Job candidates present their validated skills lists at the time of interview
  2. If working interviews are performed, technician or assistant demonstrates the requested skills from the list
  3. Veterinarians and Practice Managers are confident of the abilities of the new hire and plan their shifts and pay accordingly
  4. The practice continues to invest in the training of the new hire and other medical staff to fit the service mix of the particular hospital. Doctors allow their medical team to maximize their education and skills
  5. Veterinarians are able to do more of the key duties that only they can do. They see higher revenue and more days of getting out on time
  6. Doctors and medical staff have higher job satisfaction
  7. Turnover of medical staff declines and patient care and client delight goes up


I will confess that I am an eternal optimist. I created IGNITE in some ways to address this very scenario and provide demonstrative evidence that learning works and can change people and patient outcomes for the better. Our observation checklists, micro-learning and technician and assistant tier training help to craft skills lists for our learners, but anyone can start a skills list on their own based on the education and job experience they have.


It would be interesting to see what would happen if technicians and assistants start showing these lists to employers, ask to be able to demonstrate these skills on a daily basis, and receive merit-based pay according to what skills they bring to the practice. As I said, I’m an eternal optimist.

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