5 Easy Ways to Empower Your Vet Techs

"Veterinary technician empowerment" is a buzzword that has been making the rounds for several years and is often proposed as an antidote for everything from staff shortages to burnout. But, how can practice owners and managers successfully empower and inspire their vet techs without adding more responsibilities to their already strenuous workload?

Here are five simple ways to help your veterinary technicians feel valued.

1. Express Your Gratitude Frequently in Clear Language

Gratitude is powerful, but the sentiment must be genuine and delivered in a way that resonates with your technician team. For example, while previous generations may have accepted that their paycheck and continued employment signaled their work was valued, today's younger professionals covet regular face-to-face feedback and acknowledgment and are motivated by those communications to improve their skills and enhance their job performance. Ensure your team knows how you feel with regular one-on-one and group recognition. Feedback should be a balance of specific and individualized gratitude and general praise. For example:

  • Specific, individual: "I really appreciate how you helped Mrs. Thomas understand her cat's surgery."

  • General praise: "You guys rocked it last night when that emergency came in. I'm so proud that you all worked as a cohesive unit."

Don't leave your gratitude open to interpretation—communicate your appreciation often in different ways to ensure your technicians know exactly how you feel.

2. Ask For Your Vet Techs' Input and Opinions

The vet tech's role may not include diagnosing and prescribing, but they can share their insights about a case. Many times, the vet tech has a unique connection to the patient and client and can see opportunities and obstacles the veterinarian may not notice. In addition, vet techs can offer a fresh perspective on practice management issues, so include experienced technicians in discussions by asking them their opinion on a patient, treatment plan, or proposed practice change. Listen closely and consider their answers—you may learn something new, and you'll demonstrate respect and value for their knowledge and perspective.

3. Trust Your Technicians With Some of Your Tasks

Many vet techs are limited by their practice's traditions or their veterinarian's style, and they can't perform to the fullest extent of their education and knowledge. Whether intentional or not, underutilization can cause vet techs' frustration to increase and job satisfaction to decrease, and ultimately drive them from the field.

Revisit your state practice act to familiarize yourself with the tasks included under a veterinary technician's purview, and then assess your team's individual abilities and comfort level with various skills and responsibilities. If your team is struggling but eager to learn, mentor them on the desired proficiency skills. Also, delegate proficient tasks to your technician team by adjusting clinical workflows to accommodate their new responsibilities. For example, dedicate an exam room and a schedule column for tech appointments and assign one or two veterinary technicians to this position each shift.

4. Invest in Your Technician Team

Professional development through continuing education (CE), mentorship, and certification programs shows your team you recognize their potential and want them to grow in their roles. Inviting your technicians to suggest or vote for CE topics they find interesting or relevant can make their learning more meaningful, and ultimately your practice will be more profitable.

5. Encourage Technicians To Explore Niche Interests

Although most veterinary professionals relish the variety and novelty of their position, many will develop a soft spot for certain cases, patients, or specialty areas.

Encourage your vet techs to share their interests with practice management and veterinarians and explore them in the workplace. Ensuring your technicians feel seen, heard, and appreciated and allowing the team to hone special interests can open up alternate practice revenue streams, like rehabilitation, behavior, or training. Encourage a technician's curiosity and ambition by inviting them to join you for relevant cases or opportunities. For example, someone interested in dog behavior can help a client seeking advice on reactivity. Or invite them to host wet labs or presentations and share their expertise or passion with the team and support their efforts toward advanced certification.

Your practice may not be able to provide financial support, but you can encourage your technicians in non-monetary ways, such as:

  • Arranging an in-house mentorship with a veterinarian who shares their interests

  • Working with your collective professional networks to connect technicians to external learning opportunities

  • Allocating enough time in technician work schedules to complete required duties

  • Recognizing major achievements, such as certification or course completion, with staff celebrations or gifts

  • Sharing significant achievements and milestones (e.g., admission to a program, passing an examination) on your social media channels

Empowerment is critical to ensure your veterinary technicians feel valued and respected for all their efforts. In addition to enhancing your practice's efficiency and productivity, technician empowerment boosts workplace morale by creating a growth-minded culture and will bond the technicians to your practice by celebrating individual strengths. It also fosters continued development, inspires curiosity and fearless learning through clearly demonstrated support, and ultimately attracts other eager, motivated techs to join your team.

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Sarah Rumple
Owner, Chief Creative Officer of Rumpus Writing and Editing

Sarah Rumple is an award-winning veterinary writer and editor. Since 2011, her work has focused on pet health/behavior and veterinary practice management topics. Her clients include individual veterinary practice owners, national corporations, nonprofit associations, media companies, consultants, and others. Learn more at sarahrumple.com.

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