Don't believe anyone who offers up a get-rich-quick, three-easy-steps-to-make-more solution. Experienced team members in all roles in practice who've transitioned their jobs into careers point to hard work and innovation as the keys to unlocking the door to more pay.
The truth is, your bosses and managers are often too busy working on the business of keeping your practice in business to focus on how you as a team member can grow your career. So you may need to take the reins and look for places where you can grow—and generate revenue.
Properly utilizing the team is a big factor in how practices can afford to pay team members more, says Julie Legred, CVT, executive director of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. "Once you utilize team members more, it all falls into place. Clients comply more because they receive more education from the entire team. Clients will feel more comfortable providing the care the team recommends, whether it's feeding a diet or offering flea and tick prevention or dental care. The increased profits will come to the practice, and doctors can afford to pay team members more."
See the big picture
Before you can earn more, you need to look beyond your own needs and see the big picture of how your business operates, says Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member Kyle Palmer, CVT, practice manager at Silver Creek Animal Clinic in Silverton, Ore. Palmer began his veterinary career as a kennel attendant and worked his way up to practice manager.
If you can identify areas to evolve and improve, you can improve the practice's profits. "I think I'm safe in saying all practice owners still value the ability to save money and eliminate waste," Palmer says. "Team members who are focused on keeping our waste down get my attention first. And becoming exceptional at your position is the next level."
Palmer advises team members to lobby for the opportunity to attend local, regional and national CE meetings regularly to expand your knowledge. It's advice Palmer takes to heart. He earned his CVT in 2009 and he's currently pursuing his VTS in dentistry certification.
Ask your doctor for a leg up
"Based on education, training and desire, team members can lift themselves above coworkers by earning a reputation for excellence," Palmer says. "This may be as an anesthetist, it may be as a great communicator with clients, it may be as the person who is best at difficult catheters or it may be as the best patient handler. Regardless, it's a progression toward becoming invaluable."
Push for innovation
For example, Palmer created a niche for himself in two areas: assisting with dentistry and taking Orthopedic Foundation for Animals registration films. By expanding his skills into these areas, he generates an additional $100,000 of revenue that doesn't require more doctor time. And in his practice, he says there are at least four more areas like this team members could grow into to generate more revenue. For example, Palmer recommends areas such as becoming an expert with the microscope, educating pet owners about pet insurance, counseling clients about nutrition and obesity or tackling inventory management.
Caitlin Rivers, a former Firstline board member and team trainer, agrees. She recommends making a list—one or two tasks to start—of items you'd like to take over that don't cost a lot but will add to your skills and job description.
At one practice where she worked, Rivers lobbied to place catheters in each pet before anesthesia. Each catheter cost less than $1 at the time, and it improved the patient's experience, because adding fluids helped keep their blood pressure up and offered an access point in an emergency. The first time she asked to make the change, the veterinarian said no. With persistence, she convinced him, and the veterinarian was able to advertise his safer anesthesia protocol and raise the cost of the anesthesia package.
"Most practice owners will appreciate team members who take the initiative," Palmer says.