How your practice can celebrate Vet Tech Week amidst a workforce crisis

by By Kate Zirkle

12 min read

Take a moment to visualize a typical busy day in your practice: perhaps you see phones ringing non-stop, edgy pet owners, new patients, delays, curbside service, inventory backorders, etc. Now take a deep breath and imagine all of that chaos without your veterinary technicians.

You and I both know your practice would screech to a halt without techs, and unfortunately, with the current workforce crisis, many practices are inching closer and closer to this possibility. This is one of many reasons why it’s crucial for practices to celebrate Vet Tech Week this year.

Now more than ever, it’s more important to honor and support your vet techs. 

Stale bagels in the break room just aren’t going to cut it this year. If you want to retain your staff and keep them engaged during this workforce crisis you’ll need to break out of the box for Vet Tech Week. Considering the wild incentives and sign-on bonuses being offered by other — often corporate — practices, your staff members may already be tempted to entertain outside offers. (Side note: now might be a good time to start conducting stay interviews.)

Take another deep breath. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate right now — I see you, I hear you, and I support you. 

Below I’m going to list five things for you to consider implementing as a way to fully honor and support your veterinary technicians. You don’t have to do all five. Pick one or two that you think could have the most impact at your practice and test them out. You could even run some of these ideas by your senior technicians to see which would be the most meaningful to your staff.

Also, before we dive in, I’ve seen each one of these ideas implemented in actual practices to the delight, relief, and joy of their vet techs. These aren’t some pie in the sky, “oh we could never afford that” ideas. These are doable and tend to be worth the investment. 

5 Ways to honor and support staff during Vet Tech Week

1. Give your team access to Talkspace

You may have seen the Michael Phelps or Demi Lovato commercials for Talkspace, but if not, Talkspace is a unique form of therapy that provides a convenient way to connect directly with a licensed therapist 24/7. You can text with a therapist whenever you need — even at 3 a.m. — and receive secure and personalized support.

When your vet techs already have a busy schedule, fitting in traditional talk therapy appointments can be difficult. Talkspace gives them a way to get help and support right when they need it. Imagine after a particularly challenging euthanasia, your tech steps outside for a moment and sends a quick text to their therapist as a way to process their experience before heading back inside. For some, this simple action just might prevent a walk-out or call-off the next day and, more importantly, support their overall mental health.

Talkspace accepts insurance and even works directly with businesses. Reach out today to see how you can provide this mental health support tool to your team. This idea is close to my heart as I’ve personally seen it work wonders for my friend who is a vet tech.

2. Offer a retention bonus (especially if you offer a sign-on bonus)

I’ve seen some wildly high sign-on bonuses popping up in the veterinary industry lately. I suppose you’ll have that when in the midst of a workforce crisis and extreme measures are necessary to hire staff members. But imagine how your overworked and stressed-out employees feel when they see those exorbitant sign-on bonuses — jealous, upset, under-appreciated, and under-valued perhaps?

This is where a retention bonus can come into play. You don’t have to call it that when you present it to your staff though. Label it an appreciation bonus and let your team know how much you appreciate them and couldn’t run your business without them. Highlight three specific things you’ve noticed and appreciate about each individual — let them feel seen and acknowledged.

If you’re concerned about absorbing the cost to issue staff bonuses, consider increasing your prices and evaluating your cost of goods sold (COGS) to offset the impact. 

3. Extend your appointment times

The pandemic has created a unique challenge for veterinary practices: new safety protocols, increased client demand, and increased employee turnover. You’re likely seeing more patients per day with fewer staff members while juggling new protocols and procedures. This is a recipe for staff burnout. 

Instead of throwing more people at the problem which can be more costly in the long run, consider officially extending the duration of your appointment times. If you think of those days where you’re running behind and can’t get to each appointment on time, this is likely already happening — just behind the scenes and at the detriment of your staff’s wellbeing.

Officially extending your appointment times in your practice management software signals to your team that you understand today’s unique situation and won’t make them try to squeeze a now 45-minute appointment into a half-hour timeslot.

4. Give each team member a raise

The move toward significantly increasing veterinary technician base pay is gaining traction in our industry. More and more, practices are offering higher wages to new employees and increasing existing employee pay to match. (We likely have corporate practice groups to thank for that — seriously, thank you.) 

To remain competitive in a tough labor market, consider issuing raises to your veterinary technicians.

And I mean right now, not at your next annual review. An unexpected raise is an amazing way to honor your team members, increase your retention, and create loyalty. Again, if you’re concerned about being able to afford to issue raises, consider evaluating your prices and your cost of goods sold (COGS) to offset the impact. 

5. Create a well-being room 

Circling back to the euthanasia example from earlier, wouldn’t it be nice if that vet tech had somewhere private to go to decompress for a moment? Well, that’s exactly what some practices have started to create for their staff members: well-being rooms

Picture a private room in your practice with relaxing music, comfy couches and chairs, salt lamps, diffusers, plants, tissues for tears, and absolutely NO interruptions. This is a safe space, available to any team member who needs a mental break in their day. We’ve all been there and needed that moment.

Consider cleaning out that one storage catch-all room at your practice and establishing a well-being room to further support your staff. 

Go beyond the typical pizza party for Vet Tech Week

Beyond these 5 ideas, there are certainly many more options for truly honoring and celebrating veterinary technicians and nurses for Vet Tech Week. Get creative and be bold with your support for your veterinary practice.

Let me know if any of the ideas above resonate with you. I’d love to hear from you.

Kate Zirkle

Kate Zirkle

Kate Zirkle is a Product Marketing Manager for Vetsource. She is passionate about animal rescue, personal development, and travel. When not working to advance the veterinary industry, she can be found kayaking, reading, and planning her next trip.

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