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The report on veterinary expertise in food animal production by Philip Lowe in 2009 argued that the veterinary profession needed to draw closer to its customers. It recommended that an area to be explored was ‘the appropriate development of the roles of veterinary technicians’. Here, Jon Reader describes how, in his practice, paraprofessionals are firmly embedded into a veterinary-led team
MANY veterinary practitioners appear to feel threatened by the increasing emergence of technicians in farm work. They argue that these operators need regulating heavily to preserve what they believe is their divine right to provide a service to the farmer. However, used in an appropriate manner and as a part of a team, these technicians/paraprofessionals actually provide a huge opportunity for the modern farm animal veterinary business.
The term ‘technician’ denotes someone whose occupation involves training in a specific technical process, while ‘paraprofessional’ denotes a trained worker who assists a professional. Philip Lowe suggested that this type of support was poorly developed in the veterinary field, and especially so in farm animal work (Lowe 2009).
Some of the roles of paraprofessionals in large animal practices are not new, but the remit and management of the individuals undertaking these roles is rapidly changing. This has been driven by the appreciation that there are technical tasks that can be undertaken by suitably qualified lay persons with equal or greater skill than perhaps the farmer and even the veterinary surgeon. Many farmers have dramatically reduced the labour units:animals ratio on an enterprise and, as a result, are more willing to outsource labour for specific procedures, but may not be willing to pay for a veterinary surgeon to carry out these tasks. Also, in some cases (as highlighted by the Lowe report), some paraprofessionals may have a better working relationship or better impact …
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