A while back our veterinary relations team received an inquiry from Nicole Allen, LVT, asking if she could participate in our student externship. Despite her impressive initiative and MBA coursework, we had to turn her down: Our externship is for veterinary students only.
But we set up a meeting at WVC for Nicole with me and with Dr. Dennis McCurnin, who served as a Professor of Surgery/Management and Hospital Director at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University. Dr. McCurnin now lives in Las Vegas and is a consultant and speaker who does a lot of teaching with veterinary technicians. Long story short, we were able to provide Nicole with some assistance/resources/guidance for her career.
We were recently thrilled to see a picture of our Phoenix sales rep, Jamie Turner, with Nicole . Nicole is now the practice manager at the Horizon Animal Hospital in Scottsdale. Horizon is using our Preventive & Wellness Services (P&WS, pronounced “paws”) practice-based wellness plans for their clients, and Nicole is a strong advocate for wellness care.
Q. There has been a lot of discussion about the importance of keeping good technicians in the profession. You took the initiative to reach out to industry leaders to advance your career. What do you think would empower more technicians to do so? Do you see anything holding them back?
A. Often money, time, and loss of passion can create a roadblock for technicians to advance and pursue their dreams. While we love the work we do, we can get burnt out and/or have compassion fatigue depending on the amount of hours we put into our jobs and the type of work we do. Another factor is that some may not be able to afford travel expenses and hotel stays, in addition to taking time off of work to attend industry conferences to gain additional skills and further knowledge in an area that interests them or would allow them to increase their wages. In addition, many people may not know who to contact or where to get the information they need so they can go to the next level in their careers.
I would encourage other technicians to not give up on their dreams. If you have a passion for something, never stop researching every avenue until you achieve your goal. E-mail or call other technicians in the field. Do the same with veterinarians. Offer your free time and volunteer in your specific area. This will allow you to gain insight into the field and gain some experience, which is what employers are looking for. This will also be a great way to connect with people so you can have references, mentors, and people to call on for answers to your questions.
Sometimes we may be faced with “no’s” or “not right now’s,” but if you persevere, you will get to the place in your career where you want to be. Always remember that when one door closes, another one opens.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, to stand out in the crowd. This will let people know that you are serious about your interests. Industry leaders may have busy schedules, but they do appreciate it when we reach out to them in a professional manner. Make the most of every opportunity!
Q. You have taken MBA courses. Do you think business courses or degrees are as important to technicians as medical training is? Why or why not?
A. I don’t believe a business education is as important for technicians as medical training is, unless that technician is interested in learning how to run a business or pursue a career in management. There are always new advances in medical treatments for our patients, and learning how the new technology works or new thoughts in patient care is always going to help the veterinary technician be ready to give the best care to her patients. Medical training is going to be the best option for those looking to continue to practice as veterinary technicians, and an education in business is not critical to success.
In my case, I became interested in the management side of the veterinary hospital. I enjoyed working with the clients and being a part of the decision-making process and organization of the business. Although you may still find me placing a catheter and taking x-rays from time to time, my focus has now become employee management and overseeing hospital operations.
Q. I know you have been an integral part of your practice’s efforts to grow the number of wellness plans in use. How are you getting the point across to clients that “staying well is the new getting well”? What about to other staff, technicians and veterinarians who are used to a more “reactive” than “preventive” standard of care?
A. At our hospital, we work on educating our clients about the benefits of bi-annual wellness exams to help catch diseases or disease processes in the earlier stages. Through our hospital-specific wellness plans, we are able to offer these exams as part of the wellness plan package, as well as many other preventative health services for our young, adult, and senior patients. Some of the services we offer include yearly vaccinations and blood work to help identify any abnormal organ functions that may be developing. This is the mindset that is translated to our clients and our staff, which helps them to see the importance and value in our wellness plans. With this in mind, it gives our staff the opportunity to be much more involved with the health care of our patients, and allows our veterinarians to provide more of a personal touch to their treatment recommendations when they see pets more often for well-care visits.
Our Nationwide representative is very hands-on, and is in constant contact with us, so for those staff members who seem to catch on less quickly, there is always the benefit of staff incentives and training to help with motivation and education on how to speak with owners about our wellness plans.
In addition, I am constantly on the lookout for brochures and other marketing materials to place around the hospital for clients to look at when they are waiting to be seen. This helps to reinforce the idea of preventive health, and puts it on the forefront of their minds so that they will bring it up during the exam appointment.
Thanks, Nicole! I’m very interested doing more of these “Three Questions for …” features, and if you have any suggestions in mind, please let me know.