Veterinary technician utilization has been a big topic in the veterinary industry over the last few years and is likely a part of the solution to the veterinary technician shortage. Utilization has become a big enough issue that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has taken note and formed a task force to look into the problem and now has a committee to work on utilization. I believe it is essential for everyone in the industry to understand what an important issue this is for absolutely everyone in veterinary practice and beyond.

The Truth in Data
We know utilization is one of the reasons technicians either leave a job or leave the industry altogether. Per Phillip Russo, the Executive director of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), the most recent NAVTA Demographic Study found that in 2022, nearly 20% of respondents said they do not feel utilized to their fullest potential at their workplace; 41% stated they did feel utilized but not to their fullest potential while the other 40% said they do feel fully utilized. These numbers are better than what was found in the 2016 Demographic Survey but show we still have room for growth (1).

The top 3 barriers given by the survey participants to better utilization were:
• Lack of trust/confidence by the DVM in the Veterinary Technician skillset
• Training uncredentialed staff to do veterinary technician tasks
• Not allowing Veterinary technicians to handle tasks that they are licensed to perform, control issues on the part of the veterinarian

The other important statistic to look at is that 1 in every 5 technicians that answered the survey said nothing is being done to attempt to improve veterinary utilization.

3 vet tech students sitting and talking at school around a computer

Another issue that needs highlighting here as a barrier to utilization is the lack of consistent (or any) scope of practice for veterinary technicians. According to a report by James Penrod with the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) at the Veterinary Hospital managers (VHMA) 2022 Conference:

• 39 states currently regulate veterinary technicians
• 2 states are working on legislation that passed in 2022 that will go into effect in 2023
• 4 states are in the process of trying to pass legislation to regulate technicians

But the following numbers reported by Ashli Selke, president of the NAVTA executive board, at the same conference put a light on the problem:

• 31 states have nothing in their State Practice Act that defines Scope of Practice for Veterinary Technicians
• 10 states have very little Scope of Practice for veterinary technicians in their State Practice Act

This creates a lot of ambiguity, which can be a big barrier. Veterinarians, practice owners, and practice managers may be hesitant to let technicians practice at their full potential because they don’t know what is legal and what is not.

Who Benefits
It is a common misconception that utilizing veterinary technicians to their full potential only benefits veterinary technicians when in actuality, everyone in the practice benefits from utilization. Here are just a few of the benefits that we see for all stakeholders:

• Technicians – Fully utilized technicians are more satisfied with their jobs, less likely to play into toxic behaviors, more likely to stay in their position, and more likely to stay in the field.
• Veterinarians – If a technician is not fully utilized, the veterinarians aren’t likely utilized appropriately either. When both positions are appropriately utilized (per the State Veterinary Practice Act), you will have veterinarians that are able to see more patients that really need them, focus extra time on medical records and other tasks that likely keep them past the official end of their day, have a better work-life balance, and contribute to a more positive practice culture.
• Practice owners – Practice owners will see two big benefits, more revenue, and a happier team. This is not anecdotal, but there is data to back it up. An AVMA Economic Study found that the typical veterinarian practice’s gross income increased by $93,311 for each additional credentialed veterinarian technician per veterinarian in the practice (2).

This study showed positive relationships between gross practice revenue and the number of credentialed veterinary technicians, as did a study done by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), Canada’s largest veterinary association (3).

• Patient – Our patients will benefit from a better quality of medicine and care. They can be seen more quickly and have a dedicated professional keeping an eye on them.
• Client – Utilizing vets to see the patients that really need them and putting the technician tasks back on those that should be doing them will open the vet’s schedule up so they can see more patients. Fully utilized technicians should also be seeing “Technician Appointments” for those things that do not require a veterinarian to be directly involved. This means it will be easier for clients to get their animals in to be seen.
• Practice manager – What practice manager would not benefit from fewer client complaints, a practice owner making more money, vets who have a better work-life balance, techs that are happy and staying put, and an all-around better culture?

It is essential that technicians advocate for themselves when it comes to better utilization, but many don’t know where to start. This process needs to start with a conversation with practice leadership. It is imperative to think about a couple of things going into this conversation. The first is staying positive, and the second is assuming best intentions. The lack of utilization is not usually anything personal. It is truly a lack of understanding of what a technician has been trained to do and what they legally can do.

The lack of understanding means the conversation needs to start with education. One of the biggest tools available to any technician having this conversation is the State Veterinary Practice Act, especially if it defines a scope of practice for veterinary technicians. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, very few of them do. That is where the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) stepped in to help. They have put together Model Regulations – Scope of Practice for Veterinary Technicians and Technologists (3). This document can be used in states that do not have a Scope of Practice of their own in place. Technicians can also use their technician program course catalog, course syllabi, and course outlines to show leadership what it is that they were trained to do.

The next step is to determine the practice’s current utilization. This is normally very eye-opening for practice leadership because if asked to estimate how they are doing, most often overestimate what their true utilization is. This, again, goes back to a lack of understanding as to what a technician can do. The best way to do this is to list all the medical tasks done in the practice allowed by the state for a technician to perform. Then go through and mark who performs them. Use this to calculate a percentage.

Now it is time to create a plan. This step is key, as it is important to suggest a way to tackle the problem. The plan may change as conversations move forward, but at least there is a starting place. Important keys in plan creation include:

• Stay within what technicians can legally do based on State Veterinary Practice Act.
• Start with baby steps – don’t try to take on the world with the first go of it. Trust takes time to build, so start with a task or two at a time.
• Have the technicians write the protocols for the tasks they want to take over. This will help show leadership that they have the knowledge.
• Make sure the plan includes an evaluation period, feedback, and re-training if needed.

The veterinary technician shortage will not be solved with utilization alone, but this is a big part of the solution and benefits everyone. It is crucial that veterinary technicians take the reins and advocate for their utilization using all the resources available to them.


  1. NAVTA 2022 Demographic Survey Results
  2. Contribution of Veterinary technicians to Veterinary Business Revenue, 2007 JAVMA, Vol 236, No. 8 April 12, 2010
  3. Value our RVTs (OVMA Study) 
  4. AAVSB Model Regulations – Scope of Practice for Veterinary Technicians (PDF download)

  1. It’s so interesting to see that this is a universal issue within the field. I do think it makes a difference when technicians are certified and doctors can understand the skills that certified technicians have and are actually able to carry out daily.

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