Mary Berg, BS, RVT, LATG, VTS (dentistry)
When everyone is special, no one is
I'm a big believer that National Veterinary Technician Week should be about technicians only. Too many practices want to make it about the entire team, which dilutes the experience for veterinary technicians. Teams can establish other weeks for veterinary assistants, receptionists or whatever role they want to highlight.
When I was a practice manager, we would post a bio about every veterinary technician in the practice, describe their individual role and explain in general what it means to be a credentialed technician. This isn't to say veterinary assistants are lesser. It's about differentiating the two and ensuring clients know that each plays an important, distinct part in the practice. Veterinarians have a hard time practicing without a veterinary technician and veterinary technicians have a hard time practicing without a veterinary assistant.
Yes, we all work as a team together, but I don't like it when practices say they want to include everybody so no one is left out. I hate to say this, but in so doing, the practice decreases the incentive to get credentialed and devalues the increased skillset. Practices need more credentialed technicians right now, so the industry needs to celebrate them and clearly define their roles so they can be utilized to their full knowledge and capabilities.
Instead of worrying about including everyone, practices could focus on encouraging other team members to increase their education. There are many opportunities to attend technician school, thanks to distance programs. If a practice employs a skilled on-the-job-trained veterinary assistant, encourage that person to get credentialed and support them in going through the program. That might include paying some school fees and, as they progress in their education, helping them continue their on-the-job learning. That way when they are certified, they'll be poised to assume more responsibility right away and make an immediate impact on client communication, pet care and practice revenue.
Bashore Halow, CVPM, LVT
Take the week — or month or year — to review the team, not the team member
Rather than singling out an individual or any particular part of the team during National Veterinary Technician Week, I'd love to see hospitals celebrate the whole healthcare team.
I've been thinking a lot lately about whether there's value in how we review employees. Managers don't like it. Employees don't like it. What exactly is the point of the review process anyway: to change individual behavior or performance? You really think your review process achieves that?
Think about it: We almost never screw up the customer service experience as individuals. When a technician is in the room talking to a client, she's excellent. When the doctor talks on the phone, she's great. The times we screw up are in the handoffs, like when the technician tells the doctor what she learned from the client or when the doctor gives orders on patient treatment. The systems typically in place to collaborate are cobbled together over years of mistakes and complaints, so what we have is a mess.
For my part, I'm going to double down on focusing on the team as a whole. Take National Veterinary Technician Week as an opportunity to agree as a team on five goals that would make the biggest impact on clients, that would distinguish your practice from all the others and that, perhaps most importantly, would make the whole team proud. Then review the practice instead of the individuals within it. We're more likely to acknowledge challenges without feeling blamed or shamed when criticism is directed to the practice collectively.
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