October 16-22 is Veterinary Technician Appreciation week.

In the wake of the recent AVMA article discussing the high turnover of vet techs, it seems clear that they are not feeling very appreciated.

Veterinary technicians are the heart of an animal hospital.  They do the hard jobs like restraining 90 pound raucous labs, dealing with angry clients, monitoring anesthesia, and triaging patients.  They do the important jobs like consoling grieving clients, comforting frightened animals, and making sure every inpatient has a dry, comfortable blanket to snuggle in.  They have their veterinarian’s backs–double checking our medication doses and reminding us which patients are nervous or protective of their families so we know how to approach when we get in the exam room.  Without them, our hospitals could not run.

Vet techs are over worked, under-paid, and frequently under appreciated by many veterinarians and clients.

It’s no wonder they don’t stay in the field very long.

You may be a veterinarian reading this right now, asking what you can do.  You’re only an associate, you have no say over their salaries.  You know you’re over-working your support team, but you’re understaffed and you can’t do anything about it.  Or maybe you are in charge of salaries and staffing and scheduling, but your business is struggling and you just can’t afford to do more.

You can start by fighting for them.

Remind your office manager, medical director, or practice owner how valuable these members of the team are and advocate for better wages.  If better wages aren’t in the cards right now, find ways to add other benefits to the package and let them know that you want to build up the practice together so that you can soon give them the raises that they deserve.

Also, be sure you’re leveraging these trained professionals to their highest capacity. By delegating tasks you free yourself up to see more clients. You also create job satisfaction and purpose that results in happier techs, and happy techs create happy clients. These things help to generate revenue which can eventually be used to supplement their salaries.

Salaries are important.  Our technicians work just as hard, if not harder than we do and they deserve to be compensated for that work.  But no technician is in this field for the money.  There are so many other parts of the job that make our vet techs happy.  Even if there really were nothing you as a veterinarian could do to help them receive better wages, there is plenty you could do to make them feel valued and important.

Technicians want the same things everyone wants out of a career.

They want more than just a pay check.  They want a purpose.  They got into this field to help animals and make a difference.  Empower your technicians to speak up. I’ve had technicians find a fracture on an x-ray that I’d missed, suggest differential diagnoses I’d forgotten to consider and come up with great hacks to make soaking paws and bandaging wounds easier.  Your technician wants to start instituting fear free practices?—empower them to do it.  They want to initiate a new anesthesia check list?—let them go for it.  Great employees want to stay when they know they’re making a difference.

They also want to learn and grow.

Continue to train them.  When they have a question about how to do something, don’t just show them how, tell them why. If you’re introducing a new medication into your pharmacy, teach them about it. Give them opportunities to go to CE conferences.  Help them pursue a specialty such as dentistry, anesthesia or emergency and critical care.  The opportunity for career growth motivates and increases job satisfaction.

And technicians want appreciation.

Not just of the monetary variety.  When they go above and beyond, recognize it.  At our hospital we have “You Rock” cards we can give out to let an employee know they rocked!  Or you can write a quick thank you note.  Buy lunch for the staff every once in a while.  Have an employee of the month.  Even just remembering to take 2 seconds to say ‘thank you’ when everyone is running around in the chaos of the day can go a long way to make someone feel special.

I hope my technicians know just how much I value them, but they probably don’t.  As veterinarians we’re usually too busy trying to make everyone happy, and as a result, we all—myself include—often drop the ball.  It’s a sad part of human nature that we take for granted those whom we need the most.  So I want to say it now to all my support staff, but especially my technicians—I appreciate you.  Thank you for all that you do every day.  And for all you vet techs I haven’t had the pleasure of working with, thank you for all you do for the profession and for your patients.