How to achieve veterinary team success through synergy

Tips to make your veterinary practice run more smoothly

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At the foundation of every successful veterinary practice is a successful veterinary team made up of a kaleidoscope of colors (personalities), levels of responsibilities and passion in the care of veterinary patients and clients. It truly takes a variety of people and skill sets to make the team function. When combined together on an efficiently functioning team, it truly can be a super opportunity for synergy (1+1=3)!

As an example, like many within the field of veterinary medicine who say that they knew they wanted to work with animals since a young age, I knew being a credentialed veterinary technician was my career calling since the age of 8. Others have migrated to the veterinary community as a second, and sometimes a third, career.

Whatever the career path, it takes kennel aides, receptionists, assistants, veterinary technicians, managers and veterinarians to make the “veterinary hospital world go ’round.” And within that world, it takes a variety of personalities, education and motivation to make it all work. Each team member fulfills a specific need, impacts quality of care, gains career satisfaction and promotes client service.

The Many Roles in the Veterinary Practice

“The veterinary profession is enhanced through efficient utilization of each member of the veterinary health care team by appropriate delegation of tasks and responsibilities to support staff,” states the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in regard to the veterinary team as stated in its Policy on Veterinary Technology Preamble.

It takes a certain individual—gregarious, detail oriented, curious and communicative—to fulfill the job description of a veterinary receptionist (client service representative, or CSR). Kennel aides support the patient’s needs of basic husbandry and TLC. Managers, geared for growing teams and companies, embrace office and human resources duties, follow state laws governing small businesses and embrace effective communication. Assistants and veterinary technicians, a direct extension of the veterinarian in regard to medical orders and patient care, allow veterinarians to focus on their duties of diagnosing, prescribing medication and treatment plans, and preforming surgery. Team satisfaction is elevated when team members are supported in their jobs and are empowered to achieve their highest potential.

Formally trained team members may have graduated from a university with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM), an Associate in Applied Science (AAS), a Bachelor of Science (BS) or an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) certificate. Team members may hold a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) or a Certification in Veterinary Practice Management (CVPM).

The varying degrees of passion and focus within a veterinary hospital all bring valuable knowledge and expertise to the team. Now is the time to embrace and respect each individual in the veterinary practice for the unique knowledge and experience they bring. Properly leveraging all team members for their expertise, education and experience is important in achieving team satisfaction, patient care and profitability.

Often there is confusion around the nomenclature (title), credentialing and education of veterinary technicians. Team members who have graduated from an AVMA-accredited veterinary technology program with either a two-year (AAS) or four-year (BS) degree are appropriately titled veterinary technicians. Team members with an AAS are considered technicians; people with a BS degree are considered technologists.

Once a degree is obtained, graduates must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE), maintain their credentialing in the state they practice in by fulfilling individual state requirements and pay their credentialing fees in order to be considered licensed, registered or certified veterinary technicians.

The titles of LVT, RVT or CVT depend upon the specific state that the person works in and the state practice act or governing body credentialing veterinary technicians. At this time, there is no national credentialing system in place. All titles, requirements and governance are done at the state level.

Credentialed veterinary technicians are eager to assist their veterinarians and be leveraged to their highest potential. As veterinary technicians, it is their job to be the veterinarian’s “right hand.” As empowered, trusted and knowledgeable team members, it is their duty to recognize and anticipate the needs of their veterinarians.

AVAs have completed training in programs that are recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. These curriculums range from a few weeks to two years depending on the facility that is chosen.

Cross-Training Builds Understanding

Great value lies in empowering everyone on the veterinary team to reach his or her highest potential. Consider cross-training team members to pitch in and complete tasks that are within their scope of practice, as needed. As an example, CSRs may shadow a veterinary technician for a day or two to understand the duties being performed “in the back.” A veterinary technician may shadow a receptionist to better empathize with the demands of the team “in the front.” A kennel aide may shadow a veterinarian for a day to understand the determination of a treatment and why a pet is hospitalized. Cross-training doesn’t mean a receptionist becomes a veterinary technician; it merely establishes an opportunity for team members to understand other’s duties and better grasp the big picture.

By empowering the entire veterinary team to take an active role in completing tasks within their scope of practice and to their fullest potential, the effectiveness of the entire veterinary healthcare team improves and patient care is elevated.

Through respect and understanding of all the team members’ education and skill sets, teams will be successful in providing the best veterinary medicine, patient care, client service and team satisfaction.

Team synergy can be a reality (1+1=3)!

More Information

For a detailed list of the education that veterinary technicians receive through accredited programs, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s page outlining the essential and recommended skills list here.

Visit the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America’s page outlining the Essential Skills List here for veterinary assistant training. There you find requirements for obtaining the AVA designation.


Rebecca Rose, CVT, founder and president of CATALYST Veterinary Practice Consultants, has 30 years of veterinary industry experience as a veterinary practice management consultant, a practice manager at two AAHA-accredited animal hospitals and an award-winning veterinary technician. She is the immediate past president of NAVTA (2017). Contact her at getCATALYST@CATALYSTVetPC.com, visit CATALYSTVetPC.com to learn more about in-hospital training and upcoming events, and follow CATALYST Veterinary Practice Consultants on Facebook.

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