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.

 

January 06, 2020

Jill Clark, DVM

Written by Jill Clark, DVM

Dr. Jill Clark founded IGNITE in 2016 with the singular goal of elevating the knowledge of veterinary teams to enhance their wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the patients and clients they serve. Her nearly 30 year career in veterinary medicine has been dedicated to the constant improvement of veterinary outcomes and operations and has created many opportunities for the personal and professional growth of the incredible people who make up our profession. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with her DVM, Jill practiced medicine 10 years before taking on VP of Operations for an 80-hospital group. Next up she served 12 years with VCA, both in operations and as vice president of professional relations and knowledge development. She was responsible for creating VCA’s award-winning corporate university, WOOF-U which helped train and develop over 24,000 veterinary learners, which was part of the reason she followed her dream to start IGNITE, which is the culmination of all that she learned about how veterinary teams learn best over the course of her career. Her passion for animals is without limits. In her free time, Dr. Clark shows quarter horses and enjoys spending time with the love of her life, Dr. Bob Murtaugh, and their seven dogs, six horses, two cats, two goats, and two mini-Belted Galloway cows.