The Top 10 Gifts Veterinary Technicians Really Need for Christmas
This has been one heck of a year! We’ve seen the pandemic stress continue, veterinary practices that are overbooked and understaffed, and wait times that make the pet-owning population ever more frustrated. In addition, this year has made the veterinary technician shortage more evident as technicians are leaving the profession in droves. The burnout is real, and other employment opportunities offer a less stressful and more lucrative way to support themselves and their families. So, it is more important than ever to show your appreciation in a way that will make them want to stay. The goal is no longer to keep your technicians happy but to keep them in the field. And how do you do that?
You make veterinary technology a sustainable career.
P.S. Please note, many of the things here can be applied to all team members, not just veterinary technicians.
Here, the top 10 ways to make veterinary technology a sustainable career:
- A living wage
As we continue to see a worker shortage across most industries, we see wages go up and up to catch potential employees’ attention. Food workers, gas station attendants, and retail salespeople are in high demand and demanding top dollar. Many veterinary technicians are still living paycheck to paycheck and could leave and make more money in an industry that requires less schooling and has less stringent qualifications for employment. We need to do better and pay them a wage that makes it possible to support themselves and their families.
Veterinary technicians deserve affordable medical, dental, and vision insurance plans. Paid time off (PTO), including sick time, is another benefit team members need. One surprise emergency without insurance and/or PTO can send someone spiraling into debt. Another significant benefit would be a retirement plan with an employer match. When you live paycheck to paycheck or close, the last thing you are thinking about is saving for retirement. Offering that plan and a match (along with a living wage) will make it more desirable to save for the future.
- Training & Development
Many veterinary technicians leave the field because they aren’t utilized, and they feel they have very little to no room for advancement. There is a vast range from veterinary practice to practice as to how much money technicians are given for continuing education (CE); sadly, it often is only about $200 per year per veterinary technician. That CE is essential for credentialing, training, utilization, and development. And it’s an amazing way of giving back to your hard-working team with the empowering gift of constant learning. It’s exciting to see some veterinary practices starting to offer unlimited CE programs to help technicians advance, and encouragement and financial support to become Veterinary Technician Specialists (VTS). But not all practices have jumped on board, and there are still many technicians out there that lack a realistic CE budget and feel they’ve hit the ceiling in their practice. Show them you are invested in their professional development!
Pro-tip: Don’t forget VETgirl memberships when investing in CE! (Wink, wink!)
It is important to remember that credentialed veterinary technicians have a college degree, have passed a national board test, have registered with their state credentialing body, and have significantly invested in this career choice. The last thing they want is to spend the day answering phones or restraining animals while someone else does the work they were trained to do. It is not a good use of their time or anyone else’s. So let them do what they were trained to do (within the scope of practice in your state’s Veterinary Practice Act, of course)!
- Day off (PAID) slated for self-care
In a time of so much burnout and exhaustion, self-care is ESSENTIAL. Yet, when you talk to many technicians, they’ll tell you they don’t have the time or money to focus on themselves. What better gift than a paid day off to get some gifted spa time?
Pro-tip: Spa Finder is a great service to find and book local services or give gift cards.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a vet tech brought to tears by a hand-written personal letter of thanks. It really does mean more than you would think. The key is it must be personalized to each individual with what you appreciate ABOUT THEM. This gift loses all sentiment if everyone gets the same generic thank you. What is great about this gift is that it costs nothing (other than the card/paper it is written on), and you don’t have to be a practice owner/manager to do this.
Pro-tip: Vet techs, do this for each other! You have no idea what this can do for the culture of your practice.
Simply stated, support is defined as having someone’s back. Support your veterinary technicians with listening, understanding, and “having their backs.” Be willing to stand up for them and provide the support they need. This may mean firing the out-of-control client, providing a social worker/Employee Assistant Program (EAP), or firing that toxic employee that is bringing everyone down. This is another concept that can be so simple and yet mean so much.
Pro-tip: Techs, again, do this for each other! Build each other up.
- Investment in their health
Taking care of yourself can be hard enough under normal circumstances. It becomes even harder when you add in long hours, missed lunch/dinner breaks, and well-meaning clients bringing in goodies. So why not help keep those hardworking techs healthy? Gym memberships, a complimentary subscription to a meditation app, onsite workout rooms, a wellness coach, required breaks, and nutritious meals and snacks prepared for them for each shift they work are all great ways to do that. While Grub Hub and Starbucks are very appreciated, they won’t sustain your team the way a healthy meal can.
Pro-tip: Get your team members involved in preparing these meals with the help of a nutritionist and teach them to apply these healthy changes in their lives outside of work as well.
- A non-toxic work environment
Unfortunately, toxic work environments have become even more prevalent due to the current state of our industry. Practices are so short-staffed they are willing to put up with destructive behaviors that they never would let fly a couple of years earlier. As a result, your veterinary practice’s culture suffers. You may have kept that team member by ignoring the bad, but you will lose the good ones who don’t want to stay in that environment. Either way, you’re short-staffed. Don’t let destructive behaviors go and bring you down.
- Be their Unicorn Practice
A concept often talked about among technicians has become the “Unicorn” veterinary practice… you know, that mythical workplace that you don’t think exists, but you hear might be out there. These unicorn practices aren’t perfect, but they are happy places to work where problems can be worked through, and you get up every day happy to go to work. Unicorn practices treat everyone the way they deserve and encompass the top 10 things that vet techs really want for the holidays above.
Pro-tip: This is a very small industry significantly based upon relationships. Whether you like it or not, your reputation gets out. Why not make it a good one? A bad reputation makes it even harder to hire than it already is. A good reputation will have people lining up outside your door to work for you.
Some of the things on this list may be harder to do than others, but take the first steps and start making a change to keep veterinary technicians in this field. They are the heart and soul of veterinary practices and are essential to a smooth workflow. They don’t want to leave this field; most of them have been dreaming of working in veterinary medicine since they were kids. Help make it possible for them to stay, as they truly are our right hand in veterinary practice.
What tips do you have? Weigh in below!