How by-the-bootstraps veterinary technicians can get ahead
Some technicians and assistants have been walking the halls of veterinary hospitals longer than new credentialed technicians have been alive. But the growing trend on credentialing technicians isn’t going away. So where do you fit in if you don’t have the time, money, or patience to sit through classes about things you’ve learned in the school of hard knocks?
Just ask Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member Caitlin Rivers. She went from kennel attendant to shadowing a technician as a veterinary assistant in three weeks back in 1996. She hasn’t gone back for her technician licensing because it doesn’t make financial sense, but that doesn’t mean she’s stopped growing in her career. She’s had tough conversations with her boss about her place in the practice, and she now works as purchaser, senior staff trainer, and client coordinator at Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa.
Use these tips from Rivers to find out how you, as an uncredentialed technician or assistant, can grow if certification just isn’t for you:
> Talk to your boss. When Rivers spoke to the owner about her future at Metzger Animal Clinic as an uncredentialed technician, “there was a lot of fidgeting on both sides,” she says. It was a difficult conversation. Rivers needed to be sure that she was valued and that her boss wanted her to stay at the practice and expand her role. “You need to ask what the future holds,” she says. Do you have to go back to school? Is the owner changing protocols and demanding all technicians be credentialed? Do you need to take the time and money to become credentialed? And, importantly, will the practice owner help you with paying for and scheduling around classes?
> One step backwards can be two steps forward. If you’re going to be required to take classes on things you’ve learned in practice, take advantage of that learning. “You have to get that chip off your shoulder,” Rivers says. You may already know how to take a quality radiograph, but you can also learn what those fresh-faced credentialed technicians are learning and become a better mentor. “You’ll see what’s being emphasized and not emphasized, and it’ll help make you the best trainer you can be,” she says.
> Go back to school—letters or not. Just because you’re not going to get a veterinary technician certification doesn’t mean you get to ditch the learning, Rivers says. Read articles, take classes, and use online courses. Make yourself valuable. Remind the practice owner or your supervisor of the work you’re doing and how you can educate other team members, maybe in a short 30-minute presentation.
“You may not be a credentialed technician, but you can prove you’ve got skills and information the others don’t have,” Rivers says. If you’re feeling rankled by pushy new veterinary technology school graduates, take a deep breath. “Start looking at what everyone brings to the table,” Rivers says. “And keep learning.”