The Best Investment Your Clinic Can Make
A Credentialed Veterinary Technician
by Tasha McNerney, CVT, CVPP, VTS (Anesthesia)
Step into any veterinary clinic post-COVID, and you will notice a theme: long wait times, overextended staff, and more patients and appointments than ever before. While we aren’t dealing with the annoyance of curbside as much, we are still trying to wrestle with the sheer increase in patients needing to be seen. In larger cities such as Philadelphia and Boston, the number of patients needing to be seen has increased beyond the demand of staff.
In fact, in Boston, the MSPCA reported a 40% increase in emergency visits at the Angell Animal Medical Center and predicted 10,000 new cases this year. While some in the industry advocate that the answer to this problem is simply increasing the class size of graduating veterinarians, this is a long way off from helping in the immediate term.
We do know there is one thing that can not only improve the workflow and efficiency in the clinic but also elevate patient care (and as a bonus add to the revenue at the clinic): Employing a credentialed veterinary technician (CVT).
Different from certified veterinary assistants or on-the-job-trained assistants, credentialed technicians are highly trained professionals who have completed a rigorous education and testing process. They are subject to continuing education requirements, and during schooling, they learn everything from physiology and pharmacology to anesthesia and surgery.
Most programs also require an externship where veterinary technicians can learn hands-on technical skills like placing catheters, running diagnostic tests, and monitoring anesthesia. In the broadest terms, CVTs may not diagnose or prescribe medication or perform surgery. However, in most states, they can take on almost any task outside of those core veterinarian responsibilities. This means CVTs can run blood work, perform radiographs, place intravenous (IV) catheters and start IV fluid and drug therapies, perform dental prophylaxis, recover patients from anesthesia and sedation, write up notes and discharge instructions, and communicate with pet owners after a procedure.
Expediting Patient Care
As an example of utilizing technicians to the highest degree, practices can differentiate technician tasks and doctor tasks to expedite patient care and improve quality of care. For example, after the diagnosis of urethral obstruction, credentialed veterinary technicians can administer sedation, place IV catheters, perform a sacrococcygeal block, and gather supplies to ultimately have everything ready so the veterinarian can continue seeing clients until the patient is ready to have a urinary catheter placed. In some instances, veterinary technician specialist (VTS) trained technicians even have the skills necessary to place urinary catheters.
In fact, at some hospitals, credentialed technicians are helping streamline the demand by running their own appointments. At Banfield hospitals, appointments can be scheduled with credentialed veterinary technicians at nearly one-third of its locations. Having credentialed technicians provide services such as vaccinations, heartworm tests, and nutritional counseling—all under a veterinarian’s direction—improves efficiency, patient care, and client satisfaction.
Another set of bonuses for fully utilizing your credentialed veterinary technicians is twofold. Greater engagement and job satisfaction leads to longer employee retention, which lowers overall clinic operating costs. In addition, we know from an AVMA study that the number of CVTs per veterinarian in a practice has significant impact on gross practice revenue. In fact, the study showed that the average veterinary practice generated $161,493 more gross revenue for each unit increase in the number of CVTs per veterinarian. On the other hand, the number of noncredentialed veterinary technicians per veterinarian was not significantly associated with gross practice revenue.
When asking yourself how you can best utilize the credentialed veterinary techs in your practice, the best course of action may be to ask them! Do they want training in a certain area? For instance, if your clinic wants to start scheduling technician-led dental cleaning days, identify team members who are interested in dentistry and send them to continuing education focusing on dental cleaning and radiology. A technician-led dentistry day where one technician cleans, charts, and radiographs teeth while another technician monitors anesthesia can be very profitable for the clinic, as it allows the veterinarian to concurrently oversee multiple appointments.
And speaking of appointments, are there simple tasks that can be made into technician appointments? Do technicians have an interest and want to take on appointments? Sit down and plan with them instead of for them.
A final thought is that it might be time to change or modify the way your practice labels support staff. An important signal of respect is to be mindful of the labels we use when talking to and about our teammates. Credentialed veterinary technicians are highly trained and educated members of our team, and most have passed either a mandated or voluntary national exam. If we refer to noncredentialed staff as veterinary technicians as well, we’re inadvertently minimizing the time, effort, and money our CVTs have invested in their education.
Tasha McNerney BS, CVT, CVPP, VTS (Anesthesia), is a certified veterinary technician from Glenside, Pennsylvania. She is also a certified veterinary pain practitioner and works closely with the IVAPM to educate the public about animal pain awareness. McNerney has authored numerous articles on anesthesia and analgesia topics for veterinary professionals and pet owners..
Photo credits: Photos courtesy of Tasha McNerney