Survey finds underuse related to retention for veterinary technicians

Preliminary results from a survey of veterinary technicians revealed that job satisfaction correlated with working directly with clients, feeling appreciated by their boss and co-workers, and years spent as a technician. Job satisfaction had a negative correlation with the number of places where a technician had previously worked.

When it came to retention, veterinary technicians who planned to remain as a technician were more likely to have graduated from a four-year, AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities–accredited program; to be accredited in more states; to have children at home; and to be overused. Veterinary technicians who did not plan to remain as a technician were more likely to have worked more places as a technician, to work more hours per week, to work at practices with more employees, and to be underused.

dr Lisa House, professor and chair in the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida, presented these findings during the presentation “Job Satisfaction Among Veterinary Technicians” at the AVMA Veterinary Business and Economic Forum, held virtually Oct. 14-16

A survey by researchers at the University of Florida found a correlation between stress and busyness among veterinary technicians in practice. Of about 2,000 respondents, 92% reported being credentialed. On a scale of 1 to 10, about three-quarters of survey respondents said they were busy to very busy throughout the day, while over half indicated they were stressed to very stressed and couldn’t take breaks during the day. (enlarge)

Job satisfaction and retention

The goal of the survey, conducted from late June through August this year, was to discover factors related to veterinary technician usage, job satisfaction, and intent to stay in the industry. dr House said she and her team were still analyzing the findings and that their overall goal was to examine barriers to utilization and the impact of misutilization on job satisfaction and retention. But how these factors interact still isn’t quite clear from the survey.

For example, the findings show that underuse does appear to be related to retention but possibly not job satisfaction. And the team found that self-reported underuse and an 18-question scale developed to more objectively measure underuse do not measure the exact same concept, so more analysis is needed on both perceptions and the quantitative measures used.

The researchers had the survey distributed by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. A survey link was also posted on VetTech Nation, a closed Facebook group for technicians. The final sample size was about 2,000 respondents, and about 92% of respondents reported being a credentialed veterinary technician.

One confounding factor, Dr. House said, there was some confusion about not only requirements for being a credentialed veterinary technician but also differences between veterinary assistants and technicians. For example, 58 participants reported they were credentialed but reported not passing the Veterinary Technician National Exam or needing a state examination. And 48% of respondents reported equal times as being a veterinary assistant and veterinary technician, indicating respondents might not differentiate between these terms.

The researchers also found a significant correlation between stress and busyness. On a scale of 1 to 10, about three-quarters of survey respondents said they were busy to very busy throughout the day, while over half indicated they were stressed to very stressed and couldn’t take breaks during the day.

Almost 60% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their job is too physically demanding. And just over a third said they didn’t like their job. That said, 68% report planning to work as a veterinary technician until retirement, and 76% report they plan to stay in the veterinary industry until retirement.

Veterinary technician utilization

When it comes to veterinary technician utilization, 37% of survey respondents said they were sometimes or frequently asked to perform medical tasks by their supervisor that they were not qualified or trained to do. However, 59% said they were sometimes or frequently asked to perform tasks that a lower-level person could do, and 57% said there are medical tasks they are qualified or trained to do but are sometimes or frequently not asked to perform by their supervisor .

Survey respondents who said they were busy were less likely to self-report being underused. On the 18-question scale of underuse, which asks veterinary technicians about tasks they perform, Hispanic respondents were less likely to score as being underused, and respondents who were female and had worked at more places as a technician were more likely to score as being underused.

Respondents who scored as underused on the 18-question scale were less likely to self-report being underused, although the relationship is very weak. dr House said either the scale is not capturing underuse, or it is measuring something different than the feeling of underuse, and this issue was something the team would look into more.