Quality animal care is a team effort, and veterinary practices rely on the valuable contributions of dynamic team members to provide exceptional service. A veterinary practice has a lot of moving parts, consisting of different processes spearheaded by other job roles that are just as important as the veterinarian.
For leaders of a veterinary practice, it’s crucial to have a more solid understanding of all the roles they manage to maximize what they do, especially veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants, whose differences often get blurred.
What is a veterinary technician?
Often referred to as vet techs, veterinary technicians are highly trained professionals who have completed a two-year associate’s degree program in veterinary technology. They may also have additional certifications  in specialized areas such as anesthesia, animal dentistry, emergency and critical care, and internal medicine. Among all the job roles within a vet practice, veterinary technicians work closely with the veterinarian the most.
One of the primary responsibilities of vet techs is to assist the veterinarian during surgical procedures. They ensure the animals are anesthetized properly, monitor their vital signs, and assist with other tasks such as suturing and cleaning surgical instruments. Sometimes, vet techs may perform routine laboratory tests, such as blood work and urinalysis, and assist in diagnostic imaging procedures like x-rays and ultrasounds.
Apart from their clinical duties, vet techs can also support pet owners by explaining medical procedures and providing instructions on caring for their animals upon leaving the clinic.
What is a veterinary assistant?
A veterinary assistant is an entry-level job that works under the supervision of veterinarians and veterinary technicians. While they don’t necessarily have to hold a specific degree, people in this line of work have an extensive scope because what they do depends on the needs of the vet or vet tech.
Veterinary assistants can render primary animal care, such as feeding, watering, and walking animals. They may also assist with restraining pets during procedures, taking vital signs, and performing routine diagnostic tests like a fecal analysis.
In addition, veterinary assistants can take over administrative tasks such as communicating with pet owners, scheduling and managing appointments, taking and making phone calls, and billing. For these tasks, a virtual veterinary assistant can be a better option for practices looking into increasing their productivity with minimal expenditures.
What are the differences between veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants?
Their education and training level primarily sets vet techs and veterinary assistants apart. Additionally, their scope of practice also makes them different – vet technicians must be licensed in order to work directly with veterinarians. In contrast, a vet assistant doesn’t need one to perform tasks
Furthermore, veterinary technicians and assistants have different work setups. The former works strictly within the practice’s location as they need to be physically present to render their tasks, while the latter can either be in-person or virtual, depending on the nature of their duties.
In-person or virtual veterinary assistants?
Despite their different work setups, in-person and virtual veterinary assistants share the same purpose of helping a practice be more productive. Nevertheless, they also come with advantages and disadvantages that may make one more suitable than the other in certain situations.
In-person veterinary assistants have been a staple in practices for many years. One of their most significant advantages is that they can provide hands-on support during examinations and procedures. Their work setup is also what most practice leaders are used to, as office work is generally considered the norm. However, a drawback is that the cost of retaining in-person veterinary assistants can be high, particularly when combined with additional expenses for their equipment and workspace.
On the other hand, virtual veterinary assistants have only gained popularity in recent years. It’s worth noting that these professionals cannot render hands-on assistance because they work remotely. Moreover, adjusting to working with them can be challenging for some practice leaders who are more used to the standard in-office setup. However, their pros far outweigh their cons  as they are very effective in handling administrative tasks, ultimately promoting the productivity of a veterinary practice all while being considerably more cost-effective than their in-person counterparts.
To summarize, an in-person veterinary assistant is the only option for veterinarians and vet techs needing hands-on assistance in rendering quality pet care. However, virtual veterinary assistants are the most cost-effective and overall best option for practices looking for receptionist, billing, and scribe job roles.
What to look for in a virtual veterinary assistant?
When hiring a virtual veterinary assistant, there are several requirements and qualities that practice leaders should look for in a candidate, including:
1. Veterinary-specific experience or training
It’s essential to look for a virtual veterinary assistant with experience working in the veterinary industry or completed training in veterinary-specific administrative tasks. Doing so can ensure they have the appropriate knowledge and expertise to support a veterinary practice.
2. Technical skills
Since the role will be remote, the ideal candidate should have the necessary technical skills to perform their tasks. These skills include proficiency with various software programs and platforms, as well as a reliable internet connection.
3. Communication skills
Effective communication is essential in any working relationship, but it’s even more important when working with a virtual veterinary assistant. Practices should look for a candidate who communicates clearly and effectively, whether it’s through email, phone, or video conferences.
4. Attention to detail
In the veterinary industry, attention to detail is crucial. A virtual veterinary assistant who pays close attention to detail can help ensure that administrative tasks are completed accurately and efficiently.
5. Time-management skills
Being a virtual veterinary assistant is a highly demanding role that requires excellent multitasking skills, given the significant workload involved. For this reason, the person for the job should be able to manage their time effectively to ensure they do their tasks diligently.
Virtual veterinary assistants should ideally possess a high level of independence since veterinarians and vet techs are often swamped with their own responsibilities. Their assistant should be able to identify ways they can help without being told to.
When looking for a specific skill set, practice leaders should indicate it in the job post or mention it during the job interview to narrow the applicants down to qualified ones. Alternatively, practice leaders can also work with virtual assistant companies that provide skilled and knowledgeable virtual veterinary assistants.
Established and reliable VA companies like My Mountain Mover offer a comprehensive range of services that take the brunt of recruitment from the hands of practice leaders, such as receiving and reviewing resumes, interviewing applicants, screening candidates, and matching veterinary practices with a VA that best fits their needs. To learn more, book a 10-minute discovery call today!