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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unsung Heroes

I was talking to one of my staff today (Hi, Brooke!) and she said "why don't you blog about your wonderful techs?"  Y'know, I think it's about time that I did.

I started in veterinary medicine at the bottom kennels and walking dogs.  Over the years I worked my way up to assisting doctors, working the reception desk, doing minor groomings, and eventually becoming a veterinarian.  In my lifetime I have held pretty much every position you can at a small animal practice, and feel that I'm better because of it.  These experiences helped guide me as a vet, especially showing the importance of a good support staff.  And my time as a doctor has only strengthened this view.

You cannot have a veterinary clinic at all without a vet, so it is very arguable that the vet is the single most important part of the veterinary staff.  There are fewer vets than paraprofessionals and a veterinary education is long, difficult, and expensive.  However, I feel strongly that a vet's ultimate success is made or broken by his or her team.  Good vets rely heavily on well-trained and efficient staff to perform daily duties well.  Without a good team, the vet is left doing everything except practicing medicine and surgery, and can't see as many patients.  I would be lost without my team, and let them do as much as they are legally allowed.  Not having to read fecal samples, place IV catheters, collect blood samples and so on frees me to concentrate more on the things that only a vet can do, which in turn allows me to see more pets and still get home on time.

One of my "best" days ever as a vet involved me seeing 40 pets by myself.  To give you perspective, my practice wants a vet to see 18-22 pets per day.  More than that and you may end up compromising quality of medicine or client service because you're moving so fast from one patient to another.  However, some days are simply slammed, and you have to roll with it.  On this day about 6 years ago we were that busy.  Yet even seeing double the normal pets I still got to take a full hour lunch and left exactly at closing time.  The ONLY reason I was able to do that was because my team was very highly trained and skilled, and they handled everything for me.  If I didn't have a great team, I never would have been successful that day.

So here's to all of the kennel workers, assistants, technicians, receptionists, office managers, groomers, and anyone else besides the doctor on the veterinary team.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the great work you do.  We literally couldn't do it without you.


  1. What a wonderful tribute to vet techs!

    I have a great vet and he has great techs on staff: They care for my pets as gently and kindly as I do. They're smart and educate me on practical questions (e.g., using a soft muzzle when putting antibiotic skin spray on my dog). After my dog was hospitalized for gastroenteritis, the ICU vet tech came out to offer me a report on how cooperative my dog was when administering medications being sent home with me -- by doing so, she helped me feel confident I could effectively continue his medication regimen at home.

    A long-winded way of saying I totally agree, and appreciate your post singing the praises of great vet techs!

  2. Dr. Bern... You are my hero. Thanks for the post, even though I brought it up... (and I was kidding!) But seriously, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are a great doctor and a very humble person. I love the fact that you care about your team the way you do and want to see all of us succeed in our goals. I enjoying working for you and am happy to have joined your team. Though I have already learned so much from you, I look forward to much more in the near future. Thank you for being who you are! We all love you! TOP 1!! :)

  3. Great post - and all so true. I seriously wonder how any vet can not appreciate their staff - but it happens, and they are easy to pick because their staff turnover is massive!
    The best sign for us of a good clinic is when the staff stay for years.

  4. What a nice post! Interesting timing too - I just started the vet tech school & one of our first assignments was to read a chapter in "Tasks for the Veterinary Assistant" about the importance of having a skilled, efficient team that works as a unit. Nice to read about how this works in an actual practice from a real vet. ;) I have to admit, I get worried sometimes that I will work for a vet or with other staff that are a nightmare to deal with. I guess we've all heard horror stories. Won't let something like that stop me, though!


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