The following is an article I wrote for Partners in Practice, the digital veterinary business management magazine sponsored by Merck Animal Health. The article spawned an interesting email discussion between myself and a retired veterinary technician about the limited prospects facing most technicians, regardless if they are registered or not. Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunities in companion animal hospitals. This is likely a combination of work flow behind closed doors, and the type of dental and surgical procedures performed in a companion animal hospital. Unless a tech is working for a surgical equine practice there doesn’t seem to be many opportunities for them. It is the rare vet who lets a technician give iv injections, or take x-rays on a farm call. In any case, I thought I would give some of my opinions on other options that are available for technicians in an equine veterinary practice.
As an aside, the photo above is of all of our technicians. We are very fortunate to work with such amazing, dedicated and consistently curious people. Their desire to do more as technicians allows us to involve them even more in the care and treatment of our patients. We are a better business for doing so. Without them our vets couldn’t do their jobs as well as they do.
On with the article.
Every veterinary practice has investments that have not worked out as planned. Have they really made a profit on a gastroscope or PRP machine? Sure, taking a DR xray is convenient and clients love the immediacy of the results, but are the vets taking enough x-rays in a year to justify the leasing and maintenance fees? One of the most underutilized investments in an equine veterinary practice are the veterinary technicians. Unfortunately, the typical scenario for many equine vet technicians is a wasted education and boredom if all they do is hold legs for injections or jog horses. As a result, there is a high turnover of technicians as they get frustrated by their low wages, and no career advancement.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Many equine veterinary practices are taking their cues from their small animal colleagues and utilizing their technicians for many non-dvm roles by expanding the job descriptions for their technicians. These forward thinking businesses are finding that they have happier and more loyal clients and staff, and they are actually saving money by paying their techs more than they have in the past. Here’s how.
Technicians are ideal for educating clients about health care issues during appointments, or as part of a formal client education seminar. While the vet is at the truck preparing treatment medications, or writing the bill, a technician can be explaining treatments or recommended after care instructions. Presentations to clients don’t have to be the sole domain of vets either. Technicians can present on topics like bandaging, nutrition or rehab, for example.
Client Follow Ups
It is the rare client who doesn’t appreciate a follow up call from the veterinary practice inquiring how their horse is doing after a procedure, or answering client questions about a recent appointment. A well-trained tech can make these calls freeing up the vets time for more appointments. If the client asks a medical question beyond the scope of the tech they can arrange a time for a follow up call from the vet. In the meantime the bulk of the interactions between clients and techs will not require further input from a vet.
If a tech likes to write or take photographs they can be utilized to supply content for the various social media platforms the vet practice are involved with. Whether it be a blog, or posting to Facebook or Instagram techs are well positioned to take the photo of the healing wound, or the new foal, or write about deworming protocols, or even a behind the scenes look at the role techs play in the practice. What seems mundane to most vets is very interesting to their clients. After all, most horse owners at one time considered becoming a vet. Any information a practice can supply on the activities in a vet practice is always appreciated.
While the vet and tech drive from farm to farm there is often ample time for a technician to be writing up invoices for previous calls. Initially, the vet might need to dictate many of the invoice items, but over time many techs become very familiar with the ways of the vets they are working with and can often prepare an invoice and a basic medical record on their own. The vet may want to add some notes to the medical record, but that takes far less time than creating a complete invoice. An interesting benefit of this is that unlike vets, techs are less likely to offer discounts to clients.
A little extra training for your technicians to expand their roles offers so many advantages to an equine veterinary practice. Clients appreciate the many touch points that a tech can offer, which gives vets have more time to focus on what they do best, diagnosing and treating horses. Clients that feel appreciated are less likely to move to another vet practice and are more compliant with patient care. It’s far easier to keep current clients than replace them. There is another financial benefit since an employee happy in their job is less likely to quit. A rule of thumb is that it costs a years salary to train a new hire and regain the lost knowledge of the departed staff. If a vet practice is replacing disgruntled techs every year how much money are they losing? It’s certainly worth paying existing staff a bit more to help show appreciation.
Veterinary technicians are often an underappreciated opportunity for business growth and cost savings. By expanding technicians roles many veterinary practices are discovering that their vets are busier seeing more horses, clients are happier and techs are more satisfied in their jobs. Who wouldn’t want all of this for their business?