Today's Veterinary Business

JUN 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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42 Today's Veterinary Business Community The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in Ameri- ca, the national organization for credentialed veterinary technicians, launched the Veterinary Nurse Initia- tive in Ohio and Tennessee and has plans to reach all 50 states. A group of veterinary staff on the West Coast launched the Nation- al Veterinary Professionals Union. Each sets out on a different course and could have disparate impacts on animal health care in America. Let's explore. Registered Veterinary Nurse The Veterinary Nurse Initiative seeks two outcomes: • Standardize requirements for credentialed veterinary technicians. These require- ments are a degree from an American Veterinary Medical Association-accred- ited veterinary technician/ technology program and passage of the Veterinary Technician National Exam, which is administered by the Association of American Veterinary State Boards. These requirements cur- rently are mandated in a number of states for the titles of registered veterinary technician, licensed veteri- nary technician, certified vet- erinary technician or licensed veterinary medical technician. • Replace the various creden- tialed titles so that any title holder in a state with the two requirements outlined above would automatically become a registered veter- inary nurse. In those states without a credentialing pro- cess, the legislation would institute these requirements and the title of registered veterinary nurse. Vet tech titles are established in veterinary practice acts adopted by state legislatures, so any chang- es require action by the legislatures and would be enforced by state veterinary medical boards. The initiative addresses a pair of issues: • Clients do not understand what "vet tech" means. They often assume it has some- thing to do with equipment. • Clients and pet owners have no idea that credentials, ed- ucational requirements and national board examinations stand behind each vet tech. These misunderstandings lead clients to undervalue the knowl- edge, skills, training and compe- tencies of vet techs despite the fact that their credentials and training can match those of nurses in human medicine. These same clients and pet owners are content to receive their own medical care from nurses, yet they don't assign the same value to vet techs for the care of their pets. Veterinarians also fail to leverage the skills of vet techs in the same man- ner that human doctors do with nurses. The Veterinary Nurse Initiative will require some time, given the need to pass legislation in all 50 states, but hopefully momen- tum already gained will speed the process. This will be aided by the support of veterinary technician/ technology programs such as the one at Purdue University, which announced that going forward it will award associate and bachelor's degrees in veterinary nursing. Unionization The National Veterinary Profession- als Union seeks to organize the non-veterinarian staffs of hospitals and clinics so that they operate like unions in other industries. The veterinary union announced in a Facebook post that the Internation- al Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) will be its partner: "The ILWU will help us with lo- gistical and organizational support, as well as legal resources we didn't have access to previously. It is our hope that affiliating with the ILWU will help us reach more practices and organize more quickly." This partnership with an interna- tional union inexperienced in animal care promises to draw a great deal of attention as the ILWU has a long and aggressive history in organizing, strikes and political activities. The unionization effort seeks to address compensation, morale, working conditions and benefits issues for non-veterinary professionals. The new union and its long- shoremen partner will pursue bargaining rights in veterinary clinics through elections governed by the National Labor Relations Board. This requires a vote by the non-veterinarian staff in each clinic the union seeks to organize. The unionization effort does not ad- dress titles, credentials or training of non-vet- erinarian professionals. The National Veterinary Professionals Union won an initial vote at a hospital in the San Francisco area. The union has indicated that it will focus, at least initially, on larger or corporate practices, although it has not identified any differences in com- pensation or working conditions between corporate practices and smaller, independent clinics. Let's Compare It is hard to view the unioniza- tion effort as not impacting the financial conditions of veterinary hospitals. If practices are forced to bargain with the ILWU-backed union, one could expect salaries and benefits to go up and working 2018 marks the year when two vastly different efforts are emerging to address the status, professionalization and health care outcomes involving veterinary staff in animal hospitals throughout the United States. Community POLITICS & POLICY By Mark Cushing, JD Of nurses and unions Two emerging campaigns – the Veterinary Nurse Initiative and hospital unionization – could radically change the industry. 1 2 If practices are forced to bargain with the ILWU- backed union, one could expect salaries and benefits to go up and working hours or conditions to be affected. Continued on Page 44

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