Getting Technical columnist Sandy Walsh is a veterinary practice management consultant, speaker and adviser. She is an instructor for Patterson Veterinary Management University and continues to work in a small animal practice. She has over 35 years of experience in the veterinary field and brings her in-the-trenches experience directly to readers.Read Articles Written by Sandy Walsh
All employees in a veterinary practice should embrace professional development. There is no better way to stay current, enhance your skills, learn something new and set yourself up for better opportunities within the field. Practices that support professional development see higher levels of engagement, job satisfaction and employee retention and, ultimately, greater revenue. The veterinary nurse team leader is pivotal in setting the example for career advancement and leading the way.
The general public understands specialty medicine. People go to specialists for medical care and, if aware of veterinary specialists, seek them out for a pet. Many veterinary specialists employ technician specialists to enhance the level of medical care. Highly skilled veterinary nurses, whether at a specialist’s clinic or general practice, come at a cost, so the fees you charge clients should support the expense. Clients gladly invest in their pets’ health care when the value is present. What better value can we give clients than exceptional care?
The avenues for expanded education and certification in veterinary nursing are abundant. Consider the additional education and training needed to earn the designation veterinary technician specialist (VTS) or veterinary nurse specialist (VNS). The benefits go beyond just having the initials after a name. For example, they include:
- More-focused career paths.
- Opportunities to use advanced knowledge and skills.
- Greater recognition within the industry.
- Financial and personal rewards.
The VTS program, overseen by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, was designed as a pathway for technicians to attain a higher level of recognition for advanced knowledge and skills in specific disciplines. NAVTA-affiliated specialty academies offer VTS programs across a range of focuses. The program is restricted to credentialed technicians and requires a formal process of education, experience, training and testing.
When the academies’ credentialing processes and final examinations are successfully completed, the designation veterinary technician specialist or veterinary nurse specialist is achieved, along with the right to use “VTS” or “VNS” and the specialty after one’s name. As of August, NAVTA recognized these 16 specialties:
- Anesthesia and analgesia
- Clinical pathology
- Clinical practice
- Diagnostic imaging
- Emergency and critical care
- Internal medicine
- Laboratory animal
- Physical rehabilitation
- Zoological medicine
NAVTA defines a society as a group of veterinary technicians or assistants representing a distinct specialty supported by a veterinary academy. The requirements for participation differ from those in an academy. Society members might not be formally trained or certified in the specialty but can go on to become academy members when they meet the requirements. NAVTA recognizes societies specializing in behavior, equine, zoologic medicine, and emergency and critical care. Participation is a great place to start if specialization is your career goal.
CE opportunities have expanded vastly. We’re bombarded with ads for the next event and newest learning platform. I suggest choosing the CE that resonates with your learning style, schedule, career objectives and budget.
You can choose from:
- Classroom: This likely requires time away from the practice during the workweek. The option is typically specific to a subject or credential and might involve comprehensive and hands-on learning. A flexible schedule is necessary to allow regular attendance and participation.
- Online: The curriculum might be a good fit for a busy veterinary nurse. The timetable can be flexible, and the learning is often self-paced.
- National veterinary conferences: The session choices at larger conferences can be overwhelming. Veterinary nurses may attend lectures, workshops and skill-specific wet labs. Make the most of your time by choosing the topics and labs that align with your learning objectives. Among the major conferences scheduled each year are VMX, WVC, AVMA, AAHA and Fetch. These events can be costly as they generally require travel and lodging.
- Regional conferences: Hosted by state or local veterinary medical associations, these meetings offer a variety of topics and speakers.
- Local and state technician associations: Many have regular meetings and CE offerings. They present a great networking opportunity.
- National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America: NAVTA is a valuable CE and networking resource for veterinary nurses. In addition, this is your avenue to achieve VTS or VNS certification.
- Industry publications and journals: Enjoy great resources and timely information in small bites.
- Lunch and learns: Held at a practice, they’re a tremendous way to learn what’s new with a product or service.
- Webinars: Some require a subscription or fee, but free sessions can be found.
If you’re a veterinary nurse leader, encourage your team to pursue learning opportunities. Set a good example by sharing your CE experiences and finding ways for your fellow technicians to participate.
Where does your practice stand on continuing education? The wise employer will support team members’ efforts to enhance their skills and knowledge. The practice’s responsibility necessitates paying travel and lodging expenses and registration fees and granting time off.
A CE allowance should be in all fringe benefits packages. In today’s labor market, a CE mindset might give a veterinary practice the edge in attracting qualified employees. Everyone benefits when continuing education is a priority.