Combat Veterinary Practice Fatigue Through Training Programs

Posted by Des Sinkevich on November 3, 2021

Stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue aren’t new challenges for veterinary practices. But since the pandemic began, veterinary practices have faced an increase in patient appointments while struggling to remain fully staffed - only further exacerbating the problem. With exhausted staff working extended shifts to meet the needs of clients and patients, the obvious solution seems to be hiring more qualified veterinary technicians and assistants to ease the heavy workload.

But while building out your practice staff is vital to decreasing burnout and fatigue, alone it only acts as a temporary stop-gap solution without further addressing the underlying issues that contribute to employee turnover and stress. Offering effective, in-depth training to both new and current employees, along with increasing hiring efforts and fully utilizing your credentialed technicians can combine to create a strong foundation for your veterinary practice’s growing team and needs.

vet tech with dog.

Why onboarding new hires alone isn’t enough to solve for fatigue

It’s been said multiple times over the last few months: more and more households have added a pet to their family during the pandemic, nearing 11 million, which has increased new patient appointments, wait times, and put further strain on an industry that needed to quickly adapt to social distancing and safety measures, as well as so many leaving their jobs. Hiring more staff, from veterinary technicians and assistants to support roles, can bolster your current employees – for a while. Alone, however, it won’t long be an effective solution to employee fatigue and burnout. There are several other factors outside of adequate staffing that play a role in wearing down once-passionate veterinary technicians that also need to be addressed. These include:
  • Scheduling issues. The day-to-day work of veterinary healthcare professionals is often stressful – even when practice conditions and staffing are at their peak. From handling rumbunctious puppies and difficult clients to dealing with death on a regular basis, veterinary staff take on a lot of emotionally charged issues. When your practice is understaffed, those issues are amplified by exhausted techs working long shifts to pick up the slack. Employees then don’t have enough opportunity to decompress after a hard day and the problems or stress from the day before can trickle into the next day, piling on until they face burnout.
  • Underutilization of veterinary technicians’ skills. In almost every industry, dedicated and knowledgeable employees want the opportunity to use their skills to the fullest. For veterinary technicians, who entered the profession to make a real impact on the lives of animals and spent years learning the specialized skills needed for the job, that desire is even more important to them. Credentialed veterinary technicians are highly skilled individuals and, when they’re not allowed to make use of those skills, they often can become unsatisfied in their role.
  • Lack of career growth and learning opportunities. Veterinary technicians are passionate about helping animals and they’re motivated to keep moving forward in their careers so they can make as much of a difference as possible. But when their career goals aren’t supported or encouraged, it can feel as if they aren’t appreciated or respected. Additionally, with no room for advancement, your technicians have more incentive to look for positions at other practices or even leave the field altogether.

Training and vet tech utilization can alleviate fatigue and turnover

If in-depth training is essential to ensuring veterinary technicians and staff are prepared to handle the important tasks and stressors of working in a busy veterinary office, it shouldn’t be a job handed off to more seasoned employees. Assuming your current veterinary staff will take on training new hires only burdens already exhausted employees, leading to slapdash learning and, ultimately, accelerating burnout. Instead, providing learning and development opportunities through an industry-recognized training company is often the best bet to prepare new employees for the job while also allowing current workers to expand their skills.

In addition to training your staff to meet the needs of the practice and patients, it’s also vital to make sure you fully utilize the skills of your veterinary technicians. Veterinary technicians are often the backbone of a well-run practice, taking on a wide range of responsibilities from assisting the veterinarian to lab work, radiology, and educating clients on their pets’ needs. Allowing them to work to their full abilities can go a long way toward maintaining quick turnaround times for patient appointments and ensure that everyone on staff isn’t overwhelmed with the day’s work. Further, properly utilizing your staff plays an important role in employee morale. Not allowing your credentialed veterinary technicians to complete all the tasks they’re capable of can be demoralizing, contributing to unhappy working conditions, fatigue, and burnout.

Partner with a trusted provider to offer industry-recognized training for your practice

Partnering with a trusted training provider like Penn Foster to offer accredited veterinary technician, veterinary assistant, and practice manager programs to your employees can not only ensure they’re ready to tackle the tough days that come with working in veterinary medicine, it can also be a benefit to attract and retain highly skilled, passionate workers. To learn more about offering training and education programs to your practice staff, contact one of our training experts today.

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