Finding and retaining veterinary technicians has never been a simple feat in the veterinary profession. Much of the problem can be attributed to the supply vs. demand aspect- there are more veterinary practices than there are technicians. But there must be something more to this, right?
The 2016 Demographic Survey from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) highlighted those issues. The survey results were released in August 2016, and as AVMA summarizes: “Low pay, and compassion fatigue and burnout, as well as lack of recognition and career advancement, remain ongoing concerns in the veterinary technology profession.” Further, technicians identified office dynamics and communication (40 percent), client noncompliance (39 percent), and lack of resources within the clinic (11 percent) as the greatest challenges they face in practice.” An alarming discovery from this 2016 survey is that average veterinary technician is only slightly above the poverty line, once income taxes are considered. (The poverty line in the United States for a family of four is $24,300.)
But no one in veterinary medicine went into the profession for the money, so why are technicians leaving practices or the field altogether? Low wages are not the only reason people leave the field, feeling underappreciated and overworked are also major contributing factors. Many technicians wear the hat of multiple roles within a practice; cleaning staff, medical records, client education, and communication, stocking, ordering supplies and nursing care to name a few. In addition, compassion fatigue is often related to only veterinarians but this affects the veterinary technicians as well.
What can we do to find and retain technicians?
Offering an equitable salary to your area and practice size as well as offering a competitive benefits package that fits your employees’ needs will always be beneficial. Try tactics that make the technicians a part of the team, and part of the practice’s growth. If your technicians have an idea- take the idea into sincere consideration. When possible, include them in decisions that affect their day to day role. Supporting local veterinary technician programs can be advantageous to finding staff members, and encourage your staff to become certified veterinary technicians. It is customary practice to conduct exit interviews, consider conducting “stay” interviews- ask longer-tenured employees why they stayed, what would make them leave, what they would change or improve? These answers from dedicated employees may offer good insight on how to keep a good team or build even a better one. Foster employee development, communicate your business’ mission and promote from within when possible. Be certain the employees know what is expected of them, especially when the employee has a wide breadth of responsibilities. Finally, one of the most important things an employer can do is to create an open line of communication between their staff.
Having an employee feel valued will always benefit the company!
Submitted by Elisa Rogers CVT, VTS(ECC)
Director of Veterinary Technicians