Veterinary Assistant vs. Technician: Differences to Consider as You Build Your Business Plan

By First Financial Bank
Mar 12, 2021
In business, your people are your biggest asset. If you’re planning to open a new veterinary practice or clinic, you’ll want to make sure that you provide your clientele with the best service possible by filling your employee roster wisely.

To do so, you’ll need to implement a staffing strategy. A well-developed staffing strategy is a must-have for ensuring your business’s success, and will help you outline what skills are needed to optimize your day-to-day operations. As a veterinarian, you’ll likely need to staff your practice with both veterinary technicians and assistants. Understanding the differences between their roles and duties is essential in crafting the right staffing strategy and meeting your clients’ needs.

Below we’ve included comparisons between vet techs and assistants to consider as you begin to assess the skills that will help you grow your vet practice.

Basic Job Duties

Let’s start with an understanding of the shared tasks performed by both veterinary technicians and assistants. Individuals in both roles assist the veterinarian in their regular duties, and help carry out their requests. Neither of them may diagnose illnesses, nor prescribe treatment or medication for animals.

Now some differences. Veterinary technicians are educated in the care of handling animals, the basic principles of normal and abnormal life processes, and in performing multiple laboratory and clinical procedures. In a clinical setting, veterinary technicians share many of the same responsibilities as veterinarians, including maintaining patient case histories, collecting specimens, performing laboratory procedures, and more.

By contrast, veterinary assistants typically take on administrative roles and help with tasks such as helping restrain animals and answering client questions. They are on the front lines of routine pet care, assisting with less technical tasks like bathing pets, exercising animals, kennel maintenance, and administering medication.

Your practice will likely require hiring a mixture of both veterinary technicians and assistants, and understanding the differences in their job roles will help you balance the number of positions you expect to fill.

Both veterinary technicians and assistants are frequently required to perform a variety of overlapping duties, but there are limits to that versatility.

Specialties

A major distinction between the roles is that technicians may choose to specialize in a specific area, such as internal medicine, zoological medicine, emergency care, dental technology, anesthesia, and more.

Individuals may become a Veterinary Technician Specialist (VTS) designation through additional training, which comes with its own host of specific requirements. Having a VTS at your practice provides multiple benefits, including greater expertise and knowledge in certain areas of animal care, the ability to empower clients with specific post-visit instructions for their pets, and increasing the office’s productivity by being qualified to handle specific duties without a veterinarian’s supervision.

When building your staffing plan, consider your expected needs. Will your practice primarily provide family pets with long-term care? Then maybe a VTS focused on internal medicine or dentistry is right for you. Do you want to offer emergency and critical care services? In that case, a VTS specializing in that area might be a better choice.

Of course, additional talent comes at a price, so review average VTS salaries and your budget to determine if the added benefits of having a VTS on staff outweigh the costs. A VTS can help your practice stand out to potential clients, but only if the demand for their services exists. Depending on what services you want to provide, you might not need a VTS at all. A regular veterinary technician or assistant could very well satisfy your business’ needs.

Licensing and Certification

Currently, there are no licensing or certification requirements for veterinary assistants in the US. By contrast, most states have strict requirements for veterinary technicians. Candidates usually need to attend accredited vet tech programs and demonstrate their competency, often through passing a licensing exam such as the Veterinary Technical National Examination. Successful individuals are then given typically to fulfill the technician’s role in that jurisdiction.

Veterinary assistants may have training through a college certificate program or from experience on the job, and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in American (NAVTA) has a list of approved veterinary assistant programs that you can reference as you vet candidates. They’re not required to possess formal education beyond a high school diploma or GED.

The value of your employees is by no means dictated by the level of their education, but depending on what type of services you want to offer clients, including knowledge of the veterinary field, may determine who you want to employ.

Takeaway

The nuances between a veterinary technician and assistant can be difficult to parse through, even for those who are experienced members of the veterinary field. Individuals in both roles provide essential services that help keep a practice up and running, and you’ll likely make room for both in your staffing plan as you strategize the next best move for your business.

Need some help building your business plan? Find a downloadable guide here. Want to chat about your plans? Let’s chat!

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