Being a vet tech is hard during the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic.
Not only are they on their feet all day caring for critters, they’re now doing it all with a mask on, curbside, six feet apart from some very agitated and anxious clients. They’re hanging in there through reduced hours, low staff, and new procedures. Since pets are essential in our hearts, veterinary technicians are essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This, and many, many other reasons is why veterinary technicians, aka veterinary nurses, deserve to be honored to the fullest during National Veterinary Technician Week.
Heads up: National Veterinary Technician Week is the third week in October each year.
Practice managers and owners, this shouldn’t be news to you. Hopefully, you have a long history of celebrating the techs in your practice each October. But this year, things will likely need to be a bit different thanks to COVID-19.
5 safe ways to celebrate
1: At-home spa treatments
Typically I recommend bringing in a massage therapist to do chair massages for your staff, but that’s a no-go thanks to the pandemic. Instead, consider buying your staff tools and treatments they can use to relax at home.
Foot massagers can help soothe aching feet and foot spas elevate the experience with water. Car massage seats are great for the ride home from a long day at the practice. Bath bombs, bath salts, and candles are classic options. If you’re into CBD, you could even offer some to your staff, but be sure to get it from a reputable and safe source.
Pro tip: Ask vendor reps to contribute
Save your time and your money by asking vendors to sponsor aspects of your Vet Tech Week celebration. Most vendors are happy to provide lunch or swag in an effort to support your relationship and might even have extra budget available since many conferences were canceled or drastically reduced this year.
2: Food takeout or delivery
While food spreads and buffets might be down due to COVID-19, that doesn’t mean free food is off the table for employees. You’ll just have to be careful with it. If you’re comfortable with the idea of supporting local restaurants during this challenging time, you could get takeout or delivery for your staff. Respect employee dietary preferences by offering vegan and gluten-free options wherever possible.
Food trucks can also be pandemic-appropriate options and their popularity and numbers have really grown in the past few years. Pay for the ice cream truck to show up at your practice and watch the joy spread through your team as they hear the music and enjoy a treat. Food trucks are also a great way to maintain social distance outside.
3: Public displays of DVM and manager support
With emotions running high during the pandemic, shocking client behavior and escalations are on the rise and typically directed at techs. Show employees you care and won’t stand for client abuse. Post an open letter to your clients from the owner, managers, and DVMs on your website and social media clearly stating what behavior you will not tolerate. Fire abusive clients and step in to assist techs as needed.
If applicable, you could also add a “National Vet Tech Week: Thank a tech! Best techs in town!” etc. message to your marquee. Even better, have your DVMs handwrite thank you notes to each veterinary nurse. It’s time-consuming but incredibly meaningful. I may have trashed tons of tchotchkes from previous jobs, but you bet I saved the rare handwritten notes from bosses and coworkers. Lastly, on a lighter note, you could also have your DVMs go on a Starbucks run. Who wouldn’t love a free Pumpkin Spice Latte hand-delivered by your favorite doctor?
4: Personalized gift cards
Veterinary practices would grind to a halt without technicians and nurses. They are what fuel successful practices. Return the favor and land on a solid gift theme by refueling your techs. Provide them with gift cards for gas, groceries, coffee, nature gear, books, and anything else that might fuel your nurses.
This is a great opportunity to show your techs that you see each of them as individuals, not just cogs in the wheel. Take the time to personalize gifts based on each tech’s interests and life. For example, your tech Sara lives the furthest away so you give her a gas gift card, whereas Jacob bikes to work so you give him an REI gift card.
“Personalized employee gifts take effort but I promise they’re far more memorable than cold pizza in the break room.”
5: Bonus day off with pay
It goes without saying that time is valuable, especially during the pandemic. Show your employees that you value their time and support their work-life balance by giving them an extra day off with pay. Make sure you’re adequately staffed to handle an extra day off and remind techs of your scheduling policy. Consider whether you’d like to offer 1 extra day per year of service with a cap in place for longtime employees.
Even if this isn’t feasible for the immediate future because of COVID-19, you could plan for the bonus day to occur in 2021 but announce it now – this could be a great way to increase retention and reduce staff turnover.
Safely celebrate National Veterinary Technician Week
Hopefully this list got your creative gears turning and sparked a brainstorm of other ways you could celebrate your staff. Whatever you do, be safe, wear a mask, and show your veterinary nurses that you care during National Veterinary Technician Week.
This post was adapted from the 2019 original.