Becoming a Vet Tech Supervisor
Having an effective support staff is absolutely vital for any modern veterinary practice. Veterinary aides, veterinary technicians and other pet care professionals provide the assistance the veterinarian needs in order to ensure that the animals under his or her care receive the best possible veterinary care and oversight.
Among the most important members of the veterinary team are those supervisors who ensure that the veterinary technicians can effectively carry out their duties.
Usually these individuals are themselves veterinary technicians who have been appointed to the position of supervisor by the veterinarian or company management.
The Needed Qualifications to be a Veterinary Technician Supervisor
In most cases, the employer requires that all veterinary technician supervisors be experienced and highly skilled in the field of veterinary technology in order to ensure that they can provide proper guidance and leadership to their subordinates. The following qualifications are normally required of most applicants:
- Be a licensed veterinary technician. In states that do not demand licensure, the employer may require that any candidates be certified by a local professional veterinary technician association.
- Have a varying amount of job experience, usually ranging from two to five years. In some cases, the employer may demand that the applicant have experience in a closely related specialty to the one the business focuses in.
- Be able to work with the supervising veterinarians and managers, his or her subordinates and the public in a professional and polite manner.
- In some cases, a veterinary technician supervisor may also be required to obtain certification in a field that is recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). This is most common when the supervisor is expected to primarily work in that specialty such as in a specialty veterinary clinic or research establishment.
- Although not always required, many employers look favorably on vet tech supervisors who have taken formal courses in management techniques. This can be especially important for those vet tech supervisors who are working in a large establishment where management policies are usually more formalized than they are in a small veterinary practice.
In addition to the direct professional qualifications, a vet tech supervisor must possess excellent managerial skills. These include being able to organize his or her subordinates, keep accurate records, work with human relations (HR) officers, and effectively interact with managers and veterinarians alike. In addition, the vet tech supervisor must be able to carry out his or her direct duties while still effectively supervising the other veterinary technicians.
In many cases, a vet tech supervisor will play a major role in the hiring process for other vet techs. He or she may be present for any job interviews or even be the primary interviewer. In other cases, the vet tech supervisor may be asked to observe the new employee during his or her probationary period to determine if the employee’s skills are acceptable to the practice.
Worker Management and Discipline
In many cases, the veterinary technician supervisor will work closely with his or her superiors in handling worker related issues such as enforcing discipline or preparing the case for terminating a worker. In larger practices, the vet tech supervisor may also work with HR officers when determining if it is necessary to terminate a worker.
This often requires that the vet tech supervisor not simply keep very accurate records, but also take a direct role in any attempts to work with the employee to rectify the deficient areas. By doing so, not only is the need to terminate a worker reduced, but also the company can demonstrate that it complied with all relevant regulations regarding the hiring and termination of employees.
In addition to working with his or her subordinates and superiors, veterinary technicians often have a wide range of other duties, depending on the size and type of practice they are working at. In many cases, the vet tech supervisor will work with his or her superiors and fellow vet techs in order to develop policies to improve the practice’s workflow, responsiveness to customers and other managerial and procedural issues that may impact the ability of the practice to provide high quality care for its animals.
These duties often include the following:
- Providing in house training for veterinary technicians, both to train them on new equipment and to provide refresher courses for experienced staff.
- Help vet techs who wish to obtain a higher degree of skill in their field by assisting them with obtaining continuing education (CE) units in the specialty they are interested in.
- Verify that all vet techs are currently in good standing with state and professional licensure agencies. This may include obtaining letters of recommendation from the practice’s veterinarians.
- Develop schedules that ensure that all veterinarians will receive the support they need from the practice’s vet techs.
- Manage vet tech shifts in order to ensure that all vet techs have a reasonable workload and that their performance will not suffer due to fatigue or other factors.
Government and Legal Duties
In many cases, the supervising vet tech may also be required to help ensure that the practice and their subordinates are currently in compliance with federal, state and local regulations.
Depending on the size of the practice, the vet tech supervisor may function primarily as an observer or he or she may be directly involved with ensuring that the practice does not fall out of compliance with various regulatory requirements.
These requirements usually include the following demands:
- Ensuring that cases of misconduct are quickly reported, both to management and to the relevant regulatory agency.
- In some jurisdictions, evidence that an animal has been deliberately harmed must be reported to law enforcement officers.
- Ensuring that sanitary regulations, including those controlling the disposal of used instruments and the maintenance of sterile conditions in the office are abided by.
- Ensuring that biologically active samples, including the bodies of deceased animals, are properly disposed of.
- Working to help the practice remain in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.
This aspect of a vet tech supervisor’s job is extremely important. Failing to remain in compliance with federal, state and local regulations can result in large fines, the possible revocation of professional and business licenses and in some cases, the filing of criminal charges against the responsible parties.
Vet Tech Supervisors and Drug Control
One very important part of a vet tech supervisor’s duties is to ensure that all drugs and medications used by the practice are probably accounted for. Many drugs are strictly regulated by the federal government and have extensive record keeping requirements. Because of this, many veterinary practices will generally assign supervisory staff to handle the storage and tracking of various types of medications. Failing to keep accurate records can result in fines or other sanctions.
Vet Tech Supervisors and the Job Market
The overall job market for vet techs is extremely promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently estimates that the overall job growth for veterinary technicians and technologists between 2010 and 2020 will be at least 52 percent, which is far greater than the national average.
Furthermore, veterinary technician supervisors, being somewhat more experienced and qualified than most vet techs, will tend to make a higher average wage. While there are no specific figures for supervisory vet techs, the top ten percent of vet techs earned over $44,000, according to the BLS.
Due to their importance to the smooth running of a research lab, veterinary hospital or even individual clinic, vet tech supervisors enjoy a very secure career. In addition, they are highly respected by their superiors, coworkers and the patrons of the veterinary practice alike. Furthermore, vet tech supervisors have a wide range of career options should they desire to move into other veterinary specialties.
Ultimately, becoming a vet tech supervisor is a job that demands a high degree of technical and managerial skill. However, those interested in this field find becoming a vet tech supervisor a materially and emotionally rewarding decision.