What Vet Techs Really Want from Employers

Posted by Des Sinkevich on May 14, 2024

With a shortage of credentialed vet techs and other veterinary professionals, retaining your dedicated vet techs is important to maintaining a strong practice. Additionally, attracting new vet techs to your practice will be a must in the next few years as more and more people adopt animals and focus on their pet’s health and wellness. With that in mind, instead of just focusing on what you, the practice owner, want from your vet techs, consider what vet techs really want from you.

small dog being examined by veterinarian and vet tech with stethoscope.

What are the main causes of the veterinary technician shortage?

There are several factors in play that have contributed to a continued shortage of veterinary technicians across the United States. These include:

  • Low pay. A NAVTA survey found that, while average wages have increased slightly over the years, 39% of veterinary technicians state that low pay is an issue. While salary can vary, overall, many vet techs find themselves being paid slightly above their state’s minimum wage. With the amount of work, stress, and demand that goes into being a veterinary technician, minimum wage can seem insulting to current techs – and discourage new vet techs from joining the industry.
  • Understaffing/staffing shortages. Staffing shortages in veterinary clinics increase stress on the current employees, quickening burnout and fatigue.
  • Lack of title protection. There’s been a debate for years on whether veterinary technicians should be called technicians or nurses. Because the work they do is often similar to, and just as difficult, as nurses, many feel that term would be more appropriate and garner more respect. Overall, whether the official job title changes or not, creating a better understanding of what a veterinary technician is and what they do, is essential for workers in the role to have the respect they are due.


How the vet tech shortage will affect your practice

For the veterinary industry, in which many workers struggle constantly with burnout and vet tech turnover is a high 23%, focusing on what practice employees want is going to be vital to surviving – and hopefully, overcoming - the veterinary technician shortage. By 2030, the industry will need an additional 133,000 credentialed veterinary technicians; that number is likely to climb higher as more vet techs succumb to burnout and compassion fatigue, leaving the industry altogether for opportunities elsewhere.

This shortage won’t just affect your practice revenue and staffing. It will also impact the quality of care you provide patients. With fewer, more stressed vet techs on hand and a dramatic increase in patients, cases are more likely to be triaged, with the more emergent ones being seen first. That leaves pet owners either waiting months for an appointment while their pet may develop more health issues or seeking another practice that they hope has available appointments. In either case, that means longer wait time for care. Further, those patients that do get seen may not be given the full attention they require because the veterinary staff need to move on to the next patient, and the next, and the next. Over time, this can lead to costly mistakes.

Supporting your vet techs can help your practice thrive

It’s estimated that it can cost about $24,000 to replace a vet tech that leaves your practice. With the high turnover rate for veterinary technicians, that cost can add up quickly. To prevent taking a hit to your practice revenue and create a better working environment for your staff that encourages long-term dedication to the practice, supporting the well-being and growth of your vet techs is one of the best solutions. Here’s how you can best support your veterinary healthcare team members.


1. Make vet tech utilization a priority

Proper veterinary technician utilization is about understanding what each member of your vet healthcare team is capable of, what they’re legally allowed to do, and empowering them to use their skills to the fullest. Besides ensuring you get the most out of your employees, full vet tech utilization also helps your practice meet the needs of its strongest vet techs.

58% of employees in all industries say that being able to do work that utilizes their skills and knowledge is an important consideration when staying with an employer or looking for a new job. For credentialed vet techs, who’ve spent years learning the skills necessary to the job and worked hard to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) and qualify for state registration or licensing, being able to fully do the work they’re trained for is empowering.

Besides using the education that they paid for, vet techs joined the profession to make a real difference for the animals they’re passionate about helping. By allowing them to fully use their skills, you’re proving that you have confidence in their abilities which in turn gives them confidence in you, as the employer.

Further, full utilization of vet techs can help balance the workload for veterinary staff, easing the stress and exhaustion that can lead to burnout.


Read more: 5 Best Practices for Training & Retaining Your Vet Techs

2. Focus on wellness initiatives for your vet techs

In a profession in which stress can be high and compassion fatigue is a real danger, wellness, self-care, and mental health programs are necessary to ensure that your staff are equipped to handle the tough situations that arise in a veterinary practice. Besides helping your staff stay well, offering a formal wellness program as part of your employee benefits can be a draw for new employees – and a reason to stay for current ones. With 61% of today’s workforce* citing good work life balance and a focus on well-being as very important when considering job offers, focusing on wellness initiatives can be beneficial when searching for candidates to fill open positions.

To implement a wellness program for your practice, you’ll want to

  • Ask employees what they need.
  • Create programs or policies focused on physical and mental well-being.
  • Provide resources for employees, including time off (when possible) that can be used for mental health days.
  • Provide mental health education to destigmatize the need for help.


Read more: How to Set Up a Wellness Program for Your Vet Practice


3. Provide opportunities for career advancement

Opportunities for career growth are essential to keeping staff engaged and enthusiastic. For veterinary technicians who also need to maintain their credentials and earn continuing education credits on a regular basis, investing in training and education programs that allow them to grow their industry skills can be critical to retaining your most dedicated employees. Helping them reach career goals and develop new, relevant skills are also beneficial to practice success and patient care.

Training and professional development programs can range from offering Fear Free certification courses to providing a path toward becoming a credentialed veterinary technician in an AVMA-accredited college program.


Read more: The Skills Your Vet Techs Are Missing


Provide upskilling and training opportunities for veterinary practice staff

Through Penn Foster’s online Veterinary Academy, you can offer recognized education and training programs to new and current employees that allows them to grow in their careers and be even more of an asset to your practice. To learn more about implementing a training program, reach out to our training experts today!