The current state of veterinary medicine has changed rapidly since 2019 due to a worldwide pandemic, lockdowns, and mandates. To combat these challenges many veterinary practices had to change their approach in order to remain open and serve their customers. Like all businesses, especially those in healthcare, hiring and retaining staff members has been challenging for practices. Similar to nurses in human healthcare, veterinary technicians are the lifeline of any veterinary practice, making retention exceptionally important for this role.
As a veterinary technician for the last eighteen years, I have seen many staff members come and go, moving on to new endeavors as they grow in their career paths. My years in the profession have taught me one important element that causes employees to stay or leave: the role of management. Developed in conjunction with my current patient care coordinator and practice owner, below are 3 critical factors for veterinary practice managers to consider for retaining veterinary technicians.
3 considerations for retaining veterinary technicians
1: Delegate and elevate
Delegating and offering leadership roles to experienced veterinary technicians is one way to help keep valuable technicians within a practice. Giving them leadership roles demonstrates trust and new responsibilities keep them engaged. Many times, technicians use their roles to help establish or develop new training standards and protocols, ensuring that newer technicians meet requirements before advancing their training — a clear win for the practice overall.
For example, starting a new technician in the pharmacy or lab gives them valuable experience learning what medications would be sent home for cases and what tests need to be run to continue filling medications. Plus, it also teaches them the importance of these areas of the business.
2: Nurture a healthy work environment
Creating a positive work environment with open lines of communication goes a long way in supporting mental health and fostering a feeling of worth for veterinary technicians. Experienced staff members often have valuable insight, so working together to solve problems creates a more welcoming environment and helps improve care within the hospital.
Supporting physical and mental preparedness and work-life balance is also important. I have worked in clinics where I worked 12-to-13-hour shifts and felt like I accomplished very little and left so tired and physically worn out. Today, most technicians are accustomed to working long hours, but having more than one day off to keep a proper work-life balance is a great way to keep technicians from looking elsewhere.
Hiring qualified employees is critical to overall team wellbeing. Hiring for need rather than for one’s qualifications is still occurring today. An owner or manager could hire multiple untrained assistants to fill every need for their hospital when instead they could hire one experienced technician that knows how to do everything and is much better prepared for the workings of the day-to-day.
“Having too many inexperienced employees can physically wear down experienced technicians.”
3: Increase compensation and benefits
Wage, compensation, and benefits are other important factors when it comes to retaining technicians. When I started my career in 2004, I thought it was more important to help save an animal’s life regardless of how much I was paid and what benefits were offered—now I know better. My current employer provides fair compensation and access to benefits like health insurance, 401k, disability, and education reimbursement. Benefits significantly increase a technician’s quality of life and help bond technicians to practices. Knowing that they could start a family, take a medical leave, or submit tuition payments for partial reimbursement can help technicians overall.
I appreciate the health insurance now more than ever as I have been dealing with a back injury for three years which has limited me to doing more pharmacy and lab work. This limitation has also helped me grow into more of a teacher. I’m happy to be able to work with the owner, lead technician, and inventory manager to improve our pharmacy standards and protocols.
Veterinary technicians are essential
Finding and retaining veterinary technicians is more important than ever for managers and owners. Giving them fair wages, benefits, growth opportunities, and lines of communication within the hospital are key steps being taken. As a technician for nearly twenty years, I have seen many employees come and go often due to not being paid for their skill set, but mainly due to poor management. Giving access to additional benefits shows that the owner and manager care for the employees they hire.