The meter above represents the average score obtained by all submissions received by this website through the assessment tool located at vtutilization.com. Our hope is that by helping the veterinary field visualize where the needle currently is, we will help improve utilization.
Reasons for Non-utilization
When asked the question “What is the most common reason that prevents your practice from utilizing veterinary technicians?” the following reasons are given.
Is Underutilization an Issue?
A significant proportion of individuals stated there are no issues with veterinary technician utilization in their practice, however, the overall score data indicate there are areas for improvement in utilization for veterinary technicians. Veterinarians were significantly more likely to state there is a utilization issue compared to other roles.
It is important to consider that there is a difference in utilization between practices due to a variety of factors and many Veterinary Technicians may not be trained to perform or realize what could be their full potential utilization. Given other surveys that have clearly identified underutilization and underappreciation of Veterinary Technicians as a major reason for individuals leaving the profession, we encourage teams to consider looking at ways to improve job satisfaction for their Veterinary Technician teams through full utilization.
Consider that heavy workload is not always synonymous with heavy utilization. When veterinary technicians are performing job tasks that can be delegated to those with less formal training in veterinary nursing (e.g. clerical work, housekeeping, reception work, simple restraining, etc) preventing them from performing tasks most appropriate for their training, their workload is increased unnecessarily. Creating a team structure with individuals that can work with Veterinary Technicians in a supportive role (i.e. utilizing veterinary assistants) becomes increasingly important.
The Shortage of Veterinary Technicians
It is a common discussion across the country that there are not enough Veterinary Technicians and the report data indicates the same. This makes it even more important to ensure that Veterinary Technicians have job satisfaction and want to stay in their chosen profession. By addressing retention, other factors such as the ones listed below are tangentially addressed and provide overall improvement of the team and its efficacy. A tendency we have seen in responses is that veterinarians are significantly more likely to state the shortage of Veterinary Technicians to be an issue than any other team member.
The shortage of Veterinary Technicians makes limiting the assignment of clinical tasks to Veterinary Technicians and minimizing risks a challenge as it increases the workload for Veterinary Technicians and creates a bottleneck in workflow. We advocate that practices establish and hire veterinary assistants to work in a supportive role and train Veterinary Technicians to utilize veterinary assistants as a part of the team as their extensions to improve team efficiency. Some practices may have a complete lack of Veterinary Technicians on their team. While the best hiring efforts are underway, these practices are likely to utilize veterinary assistants as veterinary technicians (within the capacity of the law). Even though this is the reality of the veterinary field today, Veterinary Technicians being treated equally as veterinary assistants in responsibilities is a source of dissatisfaction among Veterinary Technicians and an effort to differentiate the two once Veterinary Technicians are hired into the practice is recommended.
Time Commitment Required in Training
Not having enough time to train Veterinary Technician team members is commonly a result of both understaffing and misassignment of tasks. That said, it is one of the most important aspects of having a highly functioning team. Taking the time to properly train someone can seem like a hit to the bottom line in the moment but, if done well, more than makes up for it with a highly functional member of the team who feels comfortable in their role.
Many support staff members are expected to “hit the ground running” and that seems to be particularly true for Veterinary Technicians given the acknowledged shortage across the country. It is hard to invest in new graduates as they lack the experience necessary to put the education into practice. That said, looking to new graduates or Veterinary Technicians who are changing areas of practice as a long term investment is similar to taking the time to invest in training any new hire. There may be short term sacrifices but these will be made up long term.
Faster to Do than to Delegate
It is common to feel that just doing a task is better than delegating as it may be a quick task that takes just as much time to explain to delegate. However, that is a short-sighted approach as it only looks at that one interaction. Instead of entirely delegating a task that is new to a Veterinary Technician or other team member, the first interaction can be used to do the task with them. As with other training, this will be a minor hardship in the short term but, this person is now set up to do the task with little to no help in the future, which allows for the trainer to be utilized elsewhere, increasing efficiency in the long run.
There are obviously the right time and right place for training to occur, and team members will need to make their best judgment of when the Veterinary Technician can be shown how to perform a task without overly compromising overall workflow and quality of patient care. The Veterinary Technicians will also need to have realistic expectations and be able to accept “I’ll show you next time” as a reasonable answer at times.
Veterinarians Can Perform These Roles
There were many participants that felt “Veterinarians can perform tasks faster and/or better”. This shows an overall misunderstanding of the tasks that Veterinary Technicians are educated and trained to perform and how that is different from the tasks that Veterinarians focus on during their education. Given that this base understanding seems to exist, it is important to take the next step of acknowledging the modern and appropriate delineation of roles between Veterinary Technicians and Veterinarians.
Any individual with appropriate education and training can indeed perform tasks faster and better with practice and repetition. The question that should be asked, however, is if the task being performed by veterinarians truly requires their specific education. If the answer is no, there are other tasks that require their attention and Veterinary Technicians being trained to perform the task faster and/or better is a more sound long term strategy for better workflow.
Untrustworthy Veterinary Technicians
Thankfully, very few participants felt the Veterinary Technician was not trustworthy. There are various possible reasons for individuals choosing this response as a reason for not utilizing Veterinary Technicians. Were they remembering one individual or a specific scenario where a Veterinary Technician made a mistake or underperformed? It should be remembered that everyone encounters a situation or an individual who they perceive to be inadequate for the position they hold. Whether this is reality or perception, it must not impact the overall approach to how others in that role are utilized. If specific Veterinary Technicians are not trusted to perform a certain task due to a lack of skill and knowledge, they should be trained to perform the task through a functioning training structure that provides the competency necessary to be successful. If specific Veterinary Technicians are not trusted because they are of untrustworthy character, they should not be retained as a part of the team.