According to Brakke Consulting’s 2022 Veterinary Wellbeing Study, just under a third of veterinary technicians (29%) said they’re very likely to leave practice in the next two years and the same number (29%) said they’re somewhat likely. Why are so many vet techs planning on quitting?
After comparing results from LifeLearn Animal Health’s survey of veterinary workers against 2016 findings by the AVMA and similar findings over time, five common vet tech complaints persist and continue to cause turnover:
Vet techs want to do more of what they were trained to do. When they’re primarily relegated to things like cleaning, animal restraint, and administrative duties, many leave in frustration.
2. Low Pay
Though the average vet tech earns 25% more than in 2016 (according to a recent NAVTA survey), current salaries still do not represent a living wage for many vet techs.
3. Feeling Unappreciated
Some vet techs feel unappreciated when they receive the same pay as non-credentialed veterinary assistants. Others feel unappreciated by staff members or undervalued when pet owners object to or question the necessity/cost of procedures and treatments.
4. Stressful Work Environment
Stressful workplace elements mentioned by respondents in LifeLearn’s 2022 survey included staff disrespect, negativity, micromanagement, lack of trust and communication, poor practice management, lack of accountability, and even staff bullying.
Burnout among veterinary staff appears disproportionate to that of veterinarians. According to the Brakke study, nearly 50% of veterinary staff feel burned out versus 30.5% for veterinarians. Aside from the primary concern and cost to mental health, findings published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science show that practices lose a median average of $59,000 annually from veterinary technician turnover caused by burnout.
The good news for practices: Survey results published in December 2022 by Today’s Veterinary Practice show that 46% of vet techs and other veterinary workers would return to practice if the reasons they left were addressed and fixed.
To help improve retention at your practice, here are five veterinary recommendations:
1. Let Veterinary Technicians Operate at the Top of Their License
In a recent dvm360 article, Dr. Phil Zeltzman notes how veterinarians often feel hesitant to delegate veterinary medical tasks because they believe “they are the best at doing what they do.”
Vet techs know they’re not veterinarians. Yet they also recognize and value themselves as formally educated animal health professionals trained to assist veterinarians and can feel undervalued or rebuked when asking questions in alignment with their qualifications.
When veterinarians foster a workplace that lets vet techs operate at the top of their license, they support both vet tech retention and better practice efficiency.
“When we fully leverage our technicians’ skills,” writes the AVMA, “we free up veterinarians to spend more time using their advanced veterinary medical and specialty education to treat patients. The result? Technicians feel more challenged, satisfied, and valued at work. So do veterinarians, who can focus on the work that only they can do. And the whole practice operates more efficiently.”
2. Foster Open Conversations
“Open, honest conversations send the message to your credentialed techs that you value and trust their autonomy,” writes Chantal Faraudo (CVT, CVPP) for the Portland Veterinary Medical Association. Open conversations also help improve practice operations. “Credentialed techs,” adds Faraudo, “can bring insight into many situations and issues that you may not even realize the practice had.”
3. Tell Pet Owners About the Qualifications of Your Vet Techs
Most pet owners are unaware of the training and skills that veterinary technicians have, and believe their responsibilities are limited to things like cage cleaning and pet grooming. “Informing clients about technician qualifications,” notes a dvm360 article by the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, “is another way to bolster their satisfaction and loyalty,” adding, “Expertise is one of the three main things clients value when it comes to veterinary professionals.”
To ensure pet owners know about the qualifications of your vet techs, make sure to include their qualifications and experience on your practice website. You can also let pet owners know in other ways, like sending out client communications or making social posts that celebrate achievements or milestones for your vet techs.
4. Empower Your Vet Techs to Provide Client Education
A recent article in Today’s Veterinary Practice (TVP) notes how vet techs often feel underutilized in the provision of client education. “When we as veterinarians step back and allow our nurses to provide client education,” says Dr. Stacy Bartholomew in the TVP article, “we improve the client experience” while allowing veterinarians “to keep moving in appointments without rushing the client.”
To simplify the provision of client education handouts, many practices use ClientEd, the trusted pet health education library providing instant access to more than 2,100 pet health handouts (including over 250 medication handouts) that practice teams can email or hand to clients.
5. Foster Growth Ideas
In a December 2022 Practice Life blog “Why I Quit Being a Vet Tech,” Melissa Murray (RVT) echoes the experience of many veterinary technicians. “Despite repeated discussions about what the practice could do to improve the quality of care and pet owner education,” writes Murray, no one was motivated enough to implement solutions. “We always went back to the same old routine… and that wore my spirit down.” When you encourage growth ideas and involve staff in their implementation, you evidence an environment where staff can learn and grow, which encourages people to stay.
Vet tech turnover is reaching concerning levels and understanding the driving factors is essential. Need further tips to help retain staff and reduce turnover? Download LifeLearn Animal Health’s complimentary Veterinary Staffing & Employee Retention Kit with tools and resources to help retain staff and attract new talent.