If you are an equine ambulatory veterinarian whose practice focus is reproduction, a perfect spring day might sound like this: As you get into your truck to head to your first farm call, you notice how neat, organized, and well-stocked the vehicle is. When you pick up your technician he/she greets you with a cheery “good morning.” Daylight starts to break as you pull into the farm. While you chat with the farm manager, your technician sets up your ultrasound, mare box, and other supplies. As your tech hands you a rectal sleeve and lube, he/she relays to you the mare’s last exam results.

Throughout the day everything runs smoothly as your technician keeps track of the records and billing and cleans up and then reloads the truck while you answer any last questions an owner or manager might have. He/she remembers which mare dislikes being twitched and is the first to notice that a foal has been slightly lethargic as you examine his dam. As quickly as you recognize you need something from the truck, your technician has it ready for you, and at the end of the day he/she turns in all of your blood work, reminds you to call a client about test results, and restocks your truck for the next day. This individual has diligently kept track of everything used during the day and ensures you did not forget to bill for medications dispensed.

While some of you might smile as you read this and be thankful for the technician that helps keep your day running smoothly, others might think this is just a “fairy tale” that does not exist in the hectic world of equine ambulatory practice. However, a well-trained and skilled technician can make a veterinarian’s job much easier and more enjoyable, especially during breeding season.

A technician’s primary function is to assist the veterinarian during the day-to-day routine. A technician can help the practitioner be more productive on farms by knowing what is needed for certain procedures, drawing up and administering medications, recording procedures performed, and keeping vehicles stocked with the appropriate medications and supplies. Another application of their skills is for horse handling. It is always helpful to have an extra pair of skilled hands to catch horses, handle mares, or restrain foals.

Technicians also play a vital role in providing the highest standard of care to patients. Often during the breeding season, as we work to get everything completed in one day, we might overlook small details. A well-trained and experienced technician can help remember key details—such as drug allergies or foal aggressiveness—about a patient’s history. While all this information should be noted in the patient’s record, it is easy to overlook or forget things during a hectic day.

Even in tough economic times, employing a good technician can be justified, especially when he or she is educated on the importance of inventory control and accurate billing. A tech that is efficient in writing detailed procedure records and bills can help keep inventory costs low. Having a tech that can prepare the billing eases the veterinarian’s responsibility and allows him or her time to work on more demanding tasks. Many vets also have their techs record every procedure performed on any given mare in a notebook. Doing this gives them a chance to quickly look over past procedures and bring to light any pertinent information that has been missed.

However, we must remember that a technician is only as good as his or her training. We must educate, train, and instill in these techs the importance of their role on the team by supporting their continuing education, discussing new research with them, and encouraging them to pursue new skills. With this in mind, a technician can be a valuable asset to your practice: The fantasy is attainable if we work toward it.

Originally published in Partners in Practice.