A couple of weeks ago, we reported in the newsletter about Arkansas’ efforts to legalize the use of Veterinary Technician Specialists (VTS) – a certification of advanced training – to handle some tasks that only licensed veterinarians can currently perform. Examples would include prescribing some drugs and performing minor procedures such as suturing. The objective of the bill is to expand access to veterinary care in the state, which currently struggles with a shortage of veterinarians.
It’s a solution that follows the human model of using Physician’s Assistants and Nurse Practitioners to manage some of the routine care needs of patients. While in theory it would seem to offer a way for veterinary practices to be more efficient and see more patients, I wonder about the degree to which the veterinary profession would fully utilize this potential new resource.
Recently, we surveyed veterinarians as part of our annual industry overview, and asked what one improvement they could make that would most impact their practice productivity. The #1 response was to improve their staff utilization and training. If veterinarians know that they aren’t getting the most out of the staff they have now, would anything change with the addition of VTS-certified staff who can perform higher-level tasks? It may require more than just legally permitting technicians with advanced certification to take some of the load off of over-worked veterinarians; the profession may also need to shift the mindset of DVMs so they more consistently prioritize training for staff, and then empower the staff members take on new responsibilities within the practice.