Are You Being Utilized?

Posted: Jul 27, 2015
Views: 5139 - Comments: 7

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I love giving lectures at veterinary conferences. Love it. I get the opportunity to talk about what I love, to share my passion with equally nerdy technicians, and I get to hear about medicine and cases in different hospitals around the country. In fact, even more rewarding than the lecture preparation is the time that I get to talk with technicians after the lecture is complete. And one of the most common conversations I have with technicians is how to get their doctors to allow them to be technicians.

It’s a frustrating conversation to have. I am talking with a smart and dedicated professional, often a group of them, who are just begging to be allowed to use the very skills and knowledge they are learning at this conference. “My doctor won’t even let me draw blood.” “How can I make my doctor let me look at ear cytology or fecals?” “I have to ask my doctor before changing the anesthesia machine during surgery.” “How can I convince my doctor to buy anesthesia monitoring equipment?” “The only pain drug we have is torb, how can I convince my doctor to let me order something different?”  I look at these technicians, almost all of them CVTs or RVTs or LVTs, with their pages and pages of notes taken at the conference, and then I want to find these doctors and give them a good shake. Don’t they see what they have? Can’t they see they have MOTIVATED and CARING and SMART technicians who have the capability to earn that practice literally thousands of dollars if they are just allowed to do their job?

This is a problem that does not reside just with the veterinarians. This is a problem that has contributors from all over the veterinary industry and we should all take responsibility for our part. First: veterinarians, I’m talking to you. Did you know that the AVMA performed a study that found that a hospital that employs a certified/licensed/registered veterinary technician makes over $90,000 MORE in gross revenue for EACH licensed technician employed? That same study found that a non-licensed veterinary assistant does not increase revenue for the practice. The caveat to this study is that the veterinarian needs to properly utilize the licensed technician in order to see the revenue increase. A veterinarian appropriately using licensed technicians will be freed up to see more clients, and therefore make more money.

It can be quite a leap of faith for that veterinarian to release some control to technicians. Their practice is their life. Major mistakes can cost them their livelihood. I can understand some of the control issues that many veterinarians may have with giving up duties to technicians. That is why technicians need to be responsible for taking the initiative. Start with doing the homework. Research your state’s veterinary practice act so that you know the scope of your role in the hospital. Some states have very specific tasks, others are broad. You may not need this information to show your veterinarian, but it never hurts to have a good base if the topic ever comes up.

Take the initiative to educate yourself on your job; whether you attended a veterinary technician program or not there is never an end to learning. Attend live lectures when possible, read chapters in textbooks, ASK QUESTIONS, take online webinars, do what you can to continue to learn. If you prove you are willing to ask intelligent questions and show a real interest in advancing your knowledge your veterinarian will notice.

Depending on the relationship you have with your veterinarian, you may be able to resolve your utilization problem with a frank, direct discussion about it. Schedule a meeting with them, off of the treatment floor and without distractions. Let them know what you would like to do as a technician. You may need to start small, don’t ask for the world in one day, but outline some specific duties that you would like to do. Explain that you want to be able to use your skills and be more fulfilled at work. It may not all come at the beginning, but offer to read an ear cytology and allow the veterinarian to check over your work. After a few times of you being correct, they can rest easy knowing your skills. Outline a list of veterinary technician skills – venipuncture, ear cytology, radiographs, anesthesia induction, intubation, anesthesia monitoring – and ask to take ownership of those skills. If you catch your veterinarian doing your job, remind them to go do veterinarian duties! They will eventually realize that with appropriate time to write records and call owners during the day, they may get out of work on time. When having this conversation with your doctor, be sure to outline the potential benefits to them by having properly utilized technicians.

Don’t be afraid to prove yourself to your veterinarian. Let’s say you aren’t allowed to make any adjustments to anesthesia without their approval. Before going rogue and causing problems, prove your knowledge to them. Previously you may have said “his heart rate is really high” and waited for instruction. Try saying “His heart rate is 164 and his MAP is 124. Do you want me to increase his isoflurane or can we give another dose of pain meds?” You are still asking, but also proving your understanding of the situation. When lab work comes back, look it over and test your knowledge by asking questions about it. Prove that you want to learn more and trust will build. If you want to start using a new medication or monitoring tool, research how much it will cost but also research its importance to patient care. Come prepared with a couple of journal articles of conference proceedings outlining how to use the information gained from such a purchase. Prove that you understand how this can help patients but also help revenue in the hospital.

Nursing care differs greatly from the veterinarian’s job duties. Technicians are responsible for monitoring changes in the patient and bringing those changes to the veterinarian. Use critical thinking skills to ask good questions and prove your worth and value to the hospital. Continue to remind the veterinarian what they should be doing, and allow you to do your job. You don’t have to be annoying about it; continue to treat everyone with professional respect and you may surprise yourself with the trust you gain and new skills you can utilize. Your veterinarian should see the difference in their ability to see more patients and complete more of their work during the day.

Don’t settle for a job that does not utilize you for all that you can offer. There are too many veterinarians out there who don’t want a credentialed technician doing awesome technician work; they only want someone who will do as they are told. Don’t be afraid to walk away from those positions. If you try and still cannot gain any ground with a stubborn old-school veterinarian, look for a position with a hospital that wants credentialed technicians who can use all of their skills and knowledge. Those jobs are out there and as veterinarians are learning how amazing technicians can be, those jobs are increasing. Be proud of your career, your skills, and your knowledge; technicians are AMAZING!



Liz Hughston's picture

Fantastic advice! One of my soapbox issues, and I'm happy to see this blog post!

Derek Escaranio's picture

Very good information overall, however, (and I know this wasn't your study Megan but) as a long time, very experienced UN-licensed assistant, I find it hard to believe that we as a group have not been shown to aid in the increase of a hospital's revenue. I have been an assistant for over 14 years, and can say at the various hospitals I have been at I have certainly helped improve revenue, and have physically seen proof of it. My point to the practice owners, tech managers, medical directors, etc in this comment is don't overlook a qualified assistant lacking letters after their name solely based on that. Because in my experience I have been in general practice, emergency, internal medicine, oncology, the lead "technician" of a very busy cardiology dept, even a hospital manager and I have seen some very very talented, very motivated, and very beneficial assistants in my day. I am certified in three states for radiology, certified as a Veterinary Nutritional Advocate, and Parasitology Counselor by CAPC, and have been sourced out to train general practice staff in the area on several occasions on how to properly utilize out of room radiographic techniques, as well as recognizing common abnormalities on an ECG during anesthesia in a GP setting, and feline and canine parasitology. While there are legal aspects of a credentialed technicians duties we can not perform, we are still an asset to the practice. My point in saying all of this is, please don't underestimate, or under value us due to our lack of formal credentials. I have done it, and I have seen it on all sides from many different positions in our field. mbrace us, help us grow, give us the opportunity to thrive and we can and WILL benefit the practice!

Megan Brashear's picture

Derek, of course there will be the extremes on either end of any study. I absolutely value the contribution that assistants make to the hospital. There is no way I can be efficient without assistants who tirelessly keep everything moving along. But with credentialing comes the ability to do more legally (depending on the state practice act, but hopefully we'll continue to see those evolve with our profession) as a technician that can bring more revenue into the hospital. I never want to discredit any member of the team, because we are all in this together, but we need to get veterinarians to loosen the reins a little bit and let credentialed technicians do what they were trained to do; they will be surprised at what they (the veterinarian) can accomplish when they use their team to its potential.

Terri Massa's picture

I see what Megan is saying. In states where there is more legislation governing what tasks licensed vs. unlicensed staff are allowed to perform, there will be a discrepancy between the revenue each class of employee brings in. It would be interesting to read that study to see what their study population resided. Did it review the revenue generating potential of vet techs only in certain states or was it country-wide?

Nicole Pechin's picture

Where are all these studies that say CVT's increase revenue and other employees do not?

Madeyne McCarthy's picture

This is valuable information. I learned a lot from the blog. I love that it mentions “This is a problem that does not reside just with the veterinarians. This is a problem that has contributors from all over the veterinary industry and we should all take responsibility for our part.” I learned that it is hard for the veterinarians must give a lot to veterinary technicians. The veterinarians have so much control over the technicians. It is a lot to have. Take the time to educate them so everyone can lean and make it a better place. Do not be afraid to prove yourself to your veterinarian. Do not be afraid to go out there and learn more and do something better.