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From the Field, Practice Management

The Importance of Elevating Veterinary Technicians

Daniel AjaDVM

Dr. Aja is Banfield Pet Hospital’s chief veterinary relations and transformation officer. A Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Dr. Aja has more than 35 years of experience in veterinary medicine. Prior to joining Banfield in 2014, he was director of U.S. Professional and Veterinary Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and owned and operated Cherry Bend Animal Hospital, an AAHA-accredited veterinary practice in Traverse City, Michigan.

The Importance of Elevating Veterinary Technicians
TIME FOR CHANGE The Veterinary Nurse Initiative is an industry-wide effort that seeks to redefine the role of veterinary technicians and propose a nationwide standardization in title. Photo Credit: shutterstock.com/michaeljung.

From the Field shares insights from Banfield Pet Hospital veterinary team members. Drawing from the nationwide practice’s extensive research, as well as findings from its electronic veterinary medical records database and more than 8 million annual pet visits, this column is intended to explore topics and spark conversations relevant to veterinary practices that ultimately help create a better world for pets.

We are all in the veterinary profession to achieve the same goal: provide exceptional care to pets when they need us. At Banfield, we believe the key to positive medical outcomes includes creating a culture of safety where all are free to speak up regarding patient safety issues and adhere to established best practices. Further, we believe it’s a healthy and engaged hospital team that feels valued and respected that enables high-quality, compassionate care for pets and our clients.

I deeply believe that, as an industry, we need to better recognize and utilize the value of credentialed veterinary technicians to help alleviate everything from client wait times to doctor workloads, which, in turn, frees veterinarians up to practice at the top of their licenses as well. When veterinary professionals get to practice at the top of their license, hospitals get the best results: engaged clients and a unified team that delivers superior care.

Let’s take a moment to dissect this concept in the context of human medicine. When we visit a doctor’s office for a flu shot, we accept that a nurse will likely be administering the vaccine. This frees up the doctor’s time and maximizes the number of patients the doctor can see. Yet, as we see daily in veterinary medicine, there are still practices and even state laws that prevent veterinary technicians from being able to perform routine tasks like vaccine administration, and thus prevents them from doing what they sought an education to do. This contributes to larger issues, ranging from overworked doctors and underutilized veterinary technicians who eventually leave the profession—most often due to work/life imbalance and compassion fatigue.

Unfortunately, the veterinary industry still faces challenges developing a consistent model for veterinary technicians, despite multiyear educational, training, and certification requirements. While you may want to elevate this role in your own practice, you simply might not be able to due to legal barriers at the state level. As you’ve probably seen or experienced at some point in your career, certain states require veterinarians to be directly involved every time a veterinary technician administers medication to a pet, while others permit veterinary technicians to administer medications under supervision or even independently once a veterinarian has approved the treatment course.

For these reasons and many more, Banfield is investing in efforts to redefine and support credentialed veterinary technicians—as a practice and beyond. In addition to increasing hourly pay and continuing education funding for all our veterinary technicians in 2018, we are also partnering with educational institutions to create pathways for additional development. One key way we’re doing this externally is through support of the Veterinary Nurse Initiative (VNI)—an industry-wide effort that aims to positively impact the practice of veterinary medicine by redefining the role of veterinary technicians and proposing a nationwide standardization in title to Registered Veterinary Nurse.

I may not spend every day in the hospital anymore, but I still see the important work veterinary technicians do to support delivery of high-quality care for pets, engage clients, and help hospitals run smoothly. Veterinary technicians are passionate, dedicated people—and they, too, struggle with student debt, compassion fatigue, and suicide. It is critical that we support these professionals to the greatest extent possible—and it’s time we all join forces to help give them the recognition and respect they deserve for the betterment of our hospital teams and the health of pets.