What the Heck is a Vet Tech?
Today kick’s off National Veterinary Technician Week! Many pet parents I speak to don’t know veterinary technology is a profession or how their pet benefits from the specialized care these nursing professionals provide to their patients who dedicate themselves to their care.
First celebrated in 1993, National Veterinary Technician Week (and the whole month of October in Canada) is set aside to celebrate and say Thank You to these hard-working women and men who give expert compassionate care to our pets.
Veterinary Technicians (or veterinary nurses – more about that later) are critical to the day-to-day function of veterinary practices. Top notch veterinary care occurs when veterinary technicians are utilized to the best of their abilities. Vet Tech’s are the first line of defense in preserving animal health and welfare, not just for companion animals but animals across species from rainforest to desert and beyond.
A Day In the Life
You may be familiar with the person who often distracts and restrains your pet during examinations and vaccinations. That function is just one crystal on the tip of the iceberg that is veterinary technology. Some of the things you might not see that a veterinary technician does for your pet:
- Assist in surgery
- Administer and monitor anesthesia
- Perform laboratory procedures including Microbiology, Parasitology, and Hematology
- Take digital and film radiographs (x-rays) and perform ultrasounds
- Perform dental cleanings
- Post injury/surgery rehabilitation
- Provide emergency/critical care
- Educate pet parents on home care
The state in which I am credentialed, technicians can do everything EXCEPT: perform surgery, diagnose disease, or prescribe medication. That is a whole lot of veterinary care going on.
All Creatures Great, Small, & Endangered
The vast majority of veterinary technician’s work in small, mixed, or large animal private practice. Even though this is the standard, unique diversity exists to the settings in which technicians work. Outside of veterinary hospitals, veterinary technicians are employed in the following settings:
- Humane Societies/Animal Shelters
- Wild animal rescue/rehab
- Research Facilities
- University/Veterinary Teaching Hospitals
In the past, when I have told people, I’m a Veterinary Technician, I get a blank stare. About 10 years ago, I started saying Veterinary Nurse and people have a much better understanding. One reason it is confusing, not only for pet parents, it’s confusing even among those of us in the profession because of credentialing in not standard. How can we ask pet parents to know who we are if it is called something different from state to state?
There is an alphabet soup of credentials that fall under the title “veterinary technician”. Depending on the state you live in, a credentialed technician could be a:
- Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT)
- Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT)
- Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT)
- Licensed Veterinary Medical Technician (LVMT)
- Some states have no credentialing at all
A Vet Tech must graduate from an AVMA accredited veterinary technology program. Then the candidate must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) which is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (ASVSB). That was a lot of acronyms for those not familiar with veterinary medicine. Each of these organizations represents a set of rigorous skills and standards that ensure the vet tech is prepared and they embark on their career. There has been a movement to transition our credentials to Registered Veterinary Nurse.
The Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine (my Alma matter) will be changing the Veterinary Technology degree to Veterinary Nursing for the class of 2022 and is supportive of the Veterinary Nurse initiative Coalition. The Coalition will work with the AVMA, ASVSB, industry & professional veterinary organizations, and legislators to create common terminology, policies and procedures to ease the burden on individual states and associations in governing credentials. The Initiative will start with a handful of states this year and then work with any state interested in these reforms going forward. These are exciting times!
I have been a Registered Veterinary Technician for more than 16 years. Although I no longer work in practice, I am proud every year when National Veterinary Technician Week rolls around. I am particularly excited about the changes that are happening within the profession.
My Forever Patients
There are many things I miss about practice. Primarily the relationships with staff, wonderful pet parents, and long-lasting relationships with pets. The patients who stay with you like Duke Johnson, Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The sweetest and most easy-going dog who was just a big cuddle bug and why I named our Pug, Duke after him. Teddy, a DSH who had Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) and was frequently in hospital for care. Finn, the Norwegian Fjording who was in hospital from the local zoo. These are just a few of the patients, who are no longer alive but live in my happiest memories from working in practice. You don’t get all the good feels like that from just any profession.
Since I don’t currently work in practice I feel I can say all the wonderful things I have that make up veterinary technicians and why it’s important to celebrate these working professionals. When I’ve moved and have to look for a new veterinary hospital for my four-legged kids, it’s the veterinary technicians/ nurses that earn my trust and keep me coming back.
Let the vet techs in your community know you appreciate them all the time, but especially this week.
Happy Veterinary Technician Week!