Photos by North American Veterinary Community
The rewarding field of veterinary medicine has never been more in demand. As more people have pets and want to give them top care, the more veterinarians, nurses and technicians are needed.
In an industry poised for continued growth,1 attracting and retaining talent is essential. And part of that retention focus is to help people feel valued in the workplace. However, the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) 2020 research found that 34% of veterinarian nurses and technicians were considering leaving the field within five years.
“We saw that as a real problem for our community because the veterinarian nurses and technicians are the backbones of the veterinarian community,” Gene O’Neill, CEO of NAVC, shared.
While a certain amount of attrition is expected in any field, the NAVC board chose to consider this as an opportunity to lean into its mission of facilitating opportunities for learning, growth and wellbeing within the veterinarian community, and create a multi-pronged initiative.
The Veterinary Nurse/Technician Empowerment Initiative launched last fall with a Veterinary Nurse/Technician Summit. Other programs include webinars, hands-on workshops, a mentorship program and a consumer awareness campaign. And it has certainly struck a chord with the veterinarian nurses and technicians…
According to Robin Pence, Vice President of Public Relations at NAVC, “Any and every veterinary nurse/technician I spoke with about our Initiative was thrilled, and one, in particular, broke down in tears when I shared our press release with her in January announcing the Initiative. Through tears, she said, ‘I’ve been waiting 35 years for this.’”
As stated in the accompanying press release for its first webinar, which was hosted on April 13th of this year, “The NAVC is committed to supporting the entire veterinary healthcare team, and that includes helping to elevate the role of veterinary nurses and technicians so they can reach their full potential,” said O’Neill. “The webinar series, a key part of the NAVC’s broader veterinary nurse/technician empowerment initiative, is designed to give these critical team members the tools and resources to take care of and advocate for themselves.”
The consumer awareness campaign is another vital element of this initiative, where VCA serves as a partner with support from NAVTA. The goal of this division is to help build the confidence that pet owners have in those caring for their pets.
“Pet owners are nervous when pets are outside of their sight. But once they’ve developed any level of rapport with the doctor or staff, people are much more likely to calm down,” Dr. Jenifer Chatfield, DVM, DACZM, DACVPM says.
The staff veterinarian at 4J Conservation Center, Inc. in Dade City, Florida agreed and had this to share: “The recent NAVC survey2 showed that people have no idea who’s handling their pet care. If they recognize the people looking out for the pet are skilled, trained, and care for their pets, it’s an opportunity.”
The opportunity is one of improved pet healthcare and advocacy for support staff. As pet owners recognize the skills of veterinary nurses and technicians, they feel more confident in their pet care. This confidence spills over to the staff, who then feel more appreciated.
Pet owners are largely unaware of these support staff members’ training and skill level. The NAVC-commissioned survey2 found that 73% of pet owners thought veterinary technicians and nurses mostly cleaned cages and fed pets. According to that survey, “Sixty-three percent of pet owners do not know that credentialed veterinary nurses and technicians are the animal healthcare equivalent of registered nurses.” Yet, the survey found 84% of pet owners would trust support staff as much as the veterinarian if they knew their training and skill level.
Dr. Chatfield has recently started using different terminology, such as veterinary assistant instead of veterinary technician, during her pet-owner interactions. She says it’s a way to explain to pet owners the level of training and care veterinarian staff bring to the practice.
“These people have more education and awareness than just how to handle a dog, and they can handle catheters, draw blood, and some can read advanced diagnostics,” Dr. Chatfield shares.
Not only does such advocacy help educate the public about the skill level and care of veterinarian support staff, but it also helps them find more job satisfaction.
“Practice owners and employees fail to recognize that job satisfaction isn’t just about having a job,” Dr. Chatfield continues. “It’s about providing an opportunity for growth. When you offer staff additional training opportunities, instantly, that person feels valued.”
She says at the practice level, that can mean offering to pay the registration fee and lodging for the state conference. Then, at the next staff meeting, each attendee is asked to share one thing they learned at the conference.
“When people feel like valued team members, they’re more likely to stay longer in their employment,” she adds.
Not only does the practice retain a valued team member, but reduced staff turnover means your patients are more likely to develop relationships with staff which makes for calmer and better-informed pet owners. It may even help them obtain better pet care since there is a relationship of trust and confidence where the pet owner may feel comfortable asking additional questions or offering background information.
Of course, this NAVC initiative offers additional continuing education opportunities in the form of webinars and more that can easily fit into any veterinary professional’s schedule.
Gene O’Neill says, “We want to help the veterinarians as much as possible. If the veterinarian nurses and techs feel like they have the opportunity for continuous learning and to fully utilize their skills, they perform at their highest levels, and that translates into job satisfaction.”
You can find out more about the initiative and dates for upcoming events at: navc.com/veterinary-nurses-and-technicians-empowerment-initaitive/ +
1. Global Veterinary Services Industry (2020 to 2027) Market Trends and Drivers. (22, Dec, 2020). Business Wire. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201222005520/en/Global-Veterinary-Services-Industry-2020-to-2027—Market-Trends-and-Drivers—ResearchAndMarkets.com
2. Who’s Involved In The Care Of Your Pet? (29, Mar, 2022). NAVC. https://navc.com/whos-involved-in-the-care-of-your-pet/