Share the work: The case for adding a veterinary technician

By MWI Animal Health

As veterinary clinics continue to deal with above-average demand, hiring a veterinary technician can be the answer to an increased workload. A veterinary technician or veterinary nurse is a credentialed, licensed professional that has a formal education and professional certification. They are graduates of a two- or three-year American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA)-accredited program in veterinary technology. In most cases the graduate earns an associate's degree or certificate. The terms technician and nurse are interchangeable, as it is up to each state as to which title they choose.
New vet tech in training

Along with the basic course curriculum, veterinary technician education includes hands-on courses in animal restraint, drawing blood, reading fecals, and taking x-rays. Some programs have rotations that include externships with private practices, where they receive further hands-on, real-world experience. The amount of hands-on experience varies between programs, so when recruiting a new hire, you need to be aware of this and adjust your expectation of their skill level accordingly.

Veterinary technicians fill varied roles

In addition to working under the direction of a veterinarian to help take care of animals and assist with examinations and treatments, they also are dental hygienists, radiology technicians, research laboratory technicians, and surgery and anesthetic technicians. These professionals are qualified to do more advanced clinical tasks than veterinary assistants, who usually have on-the-job training without a formal degree. By utilizing a veterinary technician, a practice is able to maximize the veterinarian’s time to actually diagnose and treat patients.

By AVMA definition, “The veterinary technician’s role is to provide professional health care in conjunction with the veterinarian.” A veterinary technician performs under the direction, supervision, and responsibility of a veterinarian. The state veterinary practice act provides limitations on veterinary activities performed by non-veterinarians, which vary from state to state.

Veterinary technicians are not allowed to diagnose, prescribe, or perform surgery and must take the Veterinary Technician National Examination for certification. They must also be licensed by the state board of veterinary medicine, veterinary medical examiners, or other state regulatory agency in the state in which they will work. In addition, they must participate in continuing education to maintain this licensure.

Bringing value to your practice

In general, each practice should strive to have at least two licensed veterinary technicians per veterinarian. This frees the veterinarians to meet with as many patients as possible, while ensuring that every patient gets quality care and every client gets the information they need to best care for their pets. In addition to decreasing the workload on the practice veterinarians, you will increase your practice revenue.

Research has shown clear links between the increased use of veterinary technicians and the practice gross revenue. An AVMA study suggested that adding a credentialed veterinary technician to the practice increased the typical veterinarian’s gross income by over $93,000.1 The best veterinary practices are built of strong teams that include these licensed veterinary technicians. In general, the higher the ratio of non-DVM staff to DVMs, the more efficient the practice, which translates to an increased clinic net profit.

Once you hire a veterinary technician, you should allow them to do what they have been trained to do: assist veterinarians and more importantly, provide client education. By having a technician, the standard of care and client satisfaction will increase because the veterinarian will be able to operate more efficiently and see more patients daily.

Hands on with admin tasks and animal care

Veterinary technicians can induce and maintain anesthesia and recover a patient from anesthesia. They can also assist during surgery, resulting in shorter surgery times and fewer complications. They can do blood draws and run laboratory tests as well as communicating results to clients.

Veterinary technicians can also play an important role in the day-to-day operations of a veterinary clinic. Some may add organizational and practice managerial skills to the position. Inventory, practice and employee management are also areas they can lend their expertise and training.

Finding the right fit for your practice

When hiring a veterinary technician, make sure they’re a good fit for both you and the potential hire. Veterinarians tend to focus on their satisfaction with an employee’s performance while technicians are focused on the utilization of their skills and knowledge. Pinpointing their strengths and adjusting that to their role in the team is paramount. At times, more training and mentoring is needed. Salaries vary by state but the median annual salary is $36,260.2 In addition, offer a CE stipend along with other normally expected benefits.

By hiring and using veterinary technicians to the fullest extent of your state’s guidelines, you can increase your revenue, your clinic’s efficiency, your client’s satisfaction, and your patient’s quality of care, all while decreasing your stress levels and improving your overall mental health.

What to know about hiring a veterinary technician for your practice

  • A credentialed, licensed professional
  • A graduate of a 2 or 4-year AVMA & CVTEA accredited program
  • Perform duties under the direction & supervision of a veterinarian
  • Maximizes veterinarian’s time to diagnose & treat patients
  • Ratio of 2 licensed veterinary technicians per practice veterinarian
  • Salary range of $25,000 to $42,000

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Veterinarian working on her computer