Veterinary team burnout buster: Seek CE
You've worked at a veterinary practice for many years. You're at the top of your game. You love your career and you've taken step after step to advance professionally. So what's next? Depending on your area of passion within veterinary medicine, you may have many options to fan the flames of your love for your work.
In my 20-plus years of time in this field, I've been forced to contemplate the reasons why certain team members simply move on after a matter of time. Is it burnout? Lack of adequate compensation? Too few opportunities to advance? You can tackle some of these challenges by pursuing additional training, whether it's to obtain veterinary credentialing, obtain a CVPM, pursue a Veterinary Technician Specialist (VTS) distinction or another goal. For example, I earned my credentials as a technician and began pursuing my VTS in dentistry while still working as a practice manager. Here's what I've learned about the process and what you should expect:
1 Make an investment. Additional training does mean an investment of your time and money. For example, the continuing education requirements for a VTS are significant. In addition to lectures, there are a required number of wet labs to meet the demands of the program, and qualifying CE may not be accessible without some travel.2 Get buy-in from your boss. Along with devoting a majority of time during practice to the discipline, expect to perform paperwork and reading to fulfill the criteria. In my training, I need patient records for that paperwork, and it would be difficult to complete those tasks outside of the work environment. The support of your employer is an invaluable asset in moving through any one of these programs.
Naively, I didn't ask or include my employer in the decision to begin in the dental program—or even tell anyone for several months. I didn't want to attract a lot of attention and I wanted to make sure it was something I could do before I was openly invested. A risk for sure, but fortunately, the owner of our practice is generous with my CE allowance and supportive of any advancement that benefits our practice.
3 Trade benefits for you and your employer. As an exempt employee in our state, I am able to trade extra commitment to my job for other benefits—in this case extra CE budget. In addition to my regular amount, I've been willing to work on dentistry cases on my day off in exchange for attending continuing education at national veterinary meetings that focus on veterinary dentistry. While my employer would probably allow me to work on case logs during work hours I simply don't have the time and can only get those done by coming in on the weekends.
4 Be prepared to look beyond your practice for assistance and resources. While many veterinary practices may have all of the components needed to provide a candidate appropriate learning in their area, others may not.
Our practice offers professional dental cleanings, evaluation with digital radiographs and extractions. We have never performed advanced services such as endodontics, prosthodontics or restoration. It was clear that to satisfy the requirement of a certain number of case logs in each area, I would need to find a source outside my own practice.
Fortunately, my mentor had a connection with a veterinary dentist in our general area. The opportunity to learn hands-on how to assist with root canals, appliance fitting, vital pulpotomy, and other procedures has familiarized me with the instruments and supplies that I just wasn't using in my own practice. Developing connections with colleagues and specialists in your area is an invaluable resource as you pursue your training goals.
5 Be prepared to lead. When you pursue additional training, you position yourself as a leader and an expert in your practice. Another point to ponder: While most states don't yet offer an expanded list of responsibilities for those who have earned a VTS distinction, those with credentials can surely expect a bump in compensation and the respect of others in the veterinary field.
In the future, as veterinary medicine continues to evolve and grow the vital role that technicians play in practice, the VTS designation could occupy a place somewhere between a credentialed technician and a veterinarian. The human medical field has physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Maybe someday veterinary medicine will follow their lead.
If you're focused on advancement, look to training and educational opportunities to boost yourself to new levels of success at work. Lifelong learning is your best tool to beat back burnout, position yourself for raises and promotions and heat up your passion for your job all over again.
Kyle Palmer, CVT, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a practice manager at Silver Creek Animal Clinic in Silverton, Ore. Please send your questions or comments to