6 Fool-Proof Ways to Keep Your Veterinary Technicians Happy
No, pizza is not the solution to your veterinary staffing crisis. If you believe this is true, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help you keep your veterinary technicians happy in their current position, and prevent them from looking for greener pastures. According to a NAVTA survey, more than half the vet tech population has left the industry entirely within five years of technician school graduation, and the many challenges that vet techs face in practice have led to a 22 percent turnover rate. Office dynamics and team communication are cited as the greatest challenges vet techs face in daily practice, closely followed by lack of client compliance. Lack of management and understaffing also ranked high on the list of daily struggles.
Overall, the six most significant problems facing credentialed veterinary technicians include low income, burnout, lack of recognition, lack of career advancement opportunities, skill underutilization, and competition with on-the-job trained technicians. With all these issues, how can you keep your vet techs engaged, productive, and happy? Here are six ways to help your veterinary technicians feel appreciated and valued in their workplace.
#1: Learn your veterinary technicians’ workplace language of appreciation
You may have heard of the five love languages, but did you know they can be tweaked to show workplace appreciation? Determine each of your vet techs’ appreciation language, and show them how much they’re valued through ways that mean the most.
- Words of affirmation — Offer praise for accomplishments, whether in-person, in front of others, or through a handwritten note.
- Quality time — Perform regular check-ins, host team-building activities or retreats, or spend one-on-one time together.
- Acts of service — Offer to help with tasks, or stay late to help complete duties
- Tangible gifts — Give a small gift card, or bring in treats or drinks, or gift a book or magazine related to personal interests.
- Physical touch — Although physical touch is not typically used in the workplace, you can offer high fives and handshakes, or a hug and shoulder to cry on during emotional times.
Deciphering how your vet techs feel appreciated can be challenging, especially if they’re new hires. As part of your onboarding process, have each employee fill out a survey that identifies how they would feel most appreciated and encouraged.
#2: Ensure the position remains attractive after hiring
When designing an ad to attract veterinary technicians to your practice, you likely strive to make the position sound as appealing as possible. Throwing in a sign-on bonus and benefits that your current employees aren’t receiving can breed resentment between old and new staff, so ensure you provide everyone equal benefits, which can include:
- Paid time off
- Health and life insurance
- Retirement fund matching
- Schedule flexibility
- Continuing education compensation
- Uniform allowances
- Pet health care coverage
- Licensure reimbursement
In addition to a great salary and benefits, veterinary technicians are looking for advancement opportunities, a positive workplace culture, an attractive location, and an appropriate work-life balance. With so few technicians looking for employment, you must make your practice too desirable for your current vet techs to leave, or to look for better benefits elsewhere. Ensure that you make any benefits you offer to new hires also available for your loyal technicians, and reward them for staying with your practice.
#3: Encourage an appropriate work-life balance
Veterinary technicians are known for their hardworking attitude and inability to say “No” to a pet or person in need, meaning they often stay late and come in early, to provide extra care. However, a lack of a work-life balance can lead to stress and burnout, which can prompt vet techs to look elsewhere for a practice that promotes a healthy balance.
Flexible scheduling is a great way to promote work-life balance. Employees who have a long commute, or young children to care for, may appreciate longer days and shorter work weeks. For example, ask your vet techs if they’d prefer working a four-day work week with 10-hour shifts, rather than eight-hour shifts five days per week.
Additionally, respect your vet techs’ time away from the practice. Leave them alone on their standard day off, after business hours, or during their vacation. Another employee can likely answer that burning question, or you can wait until they’re back at work.
#4: Support your veterinary technicians’ professional growth
Veterinary technicians crave professional growth, and most quest for more knowledge throughout their careers. Incorporating training programs not only can help retain your vet techs, but also help them add new skills and knowledge that benefit your practice. Look for opportunities to reward your staff with relevant professional development around topics like new medical techniques, communication and wellbeing skills, or subjects they are particularly passionate about. Many veterinary vendor representatives will provide complimentary in-hospital, technician-relevant continuing education sessions. Popular topics include administering dental blocks, pain management, low-stress handling techniques, communicating with clients about finances, and working together as a cohesive team.
#5: Let your veterinary technicians perform tasks to their fullest extent
Let your techs do tech stuff! Nothing is less satisfying than a job that does not allow you to perform all the tasks you spent thousands of dollars and many years learning. Plus, when your technicians are busy being techs, you get the added bonus of your veterinarians being freed up to do veterinarian-only duties, boosting your efficiency and revenue. So, let your vet techs place IV catheters, draw blood, take X-rays, run lab work, develop anesthetic protocols, monitor anesthesia, and provide devoted nursing care. Many vet techs also love discussing pet health with clients, and can perform the bulk of your client education tasks, from disease management and parasite prevention, to nutrition and behavior.
#6: Invest in your team’s wellness
Wellness, mental health, and burnout are common topics about veterinarians, but they must also include support staff. Since veterinary technicians work so closely with patients, providing one-on-one nursing care, they often have closer bonds with their patients and clients than the veterinarian. Such a huge emotional investment in their patients’ well-being—and the subsequent stress that comes with dealing with the patients’ owners—makes vet techs also prone to burnout, compassion fatigue, and mental health problems.
Veterinary practices can invest in wellness for their entire team in many ways, such as:
- Stress check-ins — Ask your team how they are doing through regular one-on-one check-ins, but especially after stressful situations, such as a social media onslaught, or after the loss of a special patient.
- Network support — Ensure employees have a support network inside the practice that helps them cope with their daily stresses.
- Physical health programs — Provide programs that promote physical health, such as healthy eating challenges, or group workouts. Physical health goes hand-in-hand with mental health, so urge your team to focus on both.
- Time off for professional help — Encourage employees who are struggling to seek counseling or other professional help, and give them the time off that they need for this help.
- Outside activities — Inspire employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and invest in activities outside the clinic and the veterinary profession.
If your practice is feeling the effects of the nationwide veterinary industry staffing shortages, look for relief help to flesh out your team, while you work on attracting additional team members. Contact our Veterinary System Services team, if you need relief technicians to fill your staffing gaps.
Brad’s love for animals and exposure to working with them has come in many forms, and spanned decades. From volunteer work, that includes 5 years with the Denver Dumb Friends League, to countless hours being a victim for Search and Rescue dogs, or a chew toy for police dogs, he has a passion for working with animals. In college, Brad worked for a small, three-doctor practice cleaning kennels. Before starting VSS, he spent almost 10 years as an inventory manager for one of the state’s largest animal hospitals. He has seen this industry from many angles.