Who is your Veterinary Technician?
The Veterinary Technician is an indispensable part of your pets medical team yet it seems that many people outside of the veterinary world have no idea what we do. Do we simply hold animals for the doctors we work for? Do we snuggle puppies and kittens all day long? (No, though that doesn’t sound bad...) Are we similar to human nurses? Have we gone to school? Are we licensed or registered? How are we different than Veterinary Assistants? This blog post is here to dispel all these myths and to hopefully answer your questions!
A Registered Veterinary Technician (or Certified or Licensed depended on what state you live in) is a technician who has passed the VTNE, the Veterinary Technician National Exam. They will also have satisfied the additional requirements their particular state and/or province may have. The VTNE is a rigorous examination encompassing both small and large animal medicine. Most states and all provinces require that VTNE candidates be graduates of a Veterinary Technology program accredited by the American or Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. There are a few states left that allow technicians to “grandfather” in, meaning they can use on the job experience in order to qualify to take the test however, this is going out of favor.
Most RVT’s have graduated from either a 2 year or a 4 year Veterinary Technology program where they studied everything from anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, surgical nursing, anesthesia, radiology, parasitology, medical math and more. During these programs students typically complete externships where they gain on the job experience and many students work at veterinary practices too. Upon graduation and successful passing of the VTNE, a person can be lucky enough to call themselves a Registered Veterinary Technician. There are many different avenues a technician may choose to go into such as working with laboratory animals, food animals, zoo animals, equine medicine, small animal general practice or emergency practice, specialty medicine and more!
There is another level of expertise that Registered Veterinary Technicians can pursue and that is to obtain their Veterinary Technician Specialty certification. There are a variety of specialties a technician may pursue such as Small Animal Internal Medicine, Emergency and Critical Care, Anesthesia, Dentistry, and more. This is an extremely demanding process that requires many hours of experience in their specific field (3 years or 6000 hours as an example), letters of recommendation, continuing education, case logs and case reports, as well as passing another rigorous examination. There are only about 700 VTS’s in North America. Becoming a VTS is a great way for technicians to advance in the veterinary field and to gain advanced skills and knowledge.
So, now that you know about the education level of RVT’s, lets delve into what they do all day at work. A technician will likely wear many hats during the course of a typical day. Legally, we are not allowed to perform surgery, prescribe medications or diagnose a disease or illness. These are tasks left to the Veterinarian. Aside from these, we perform the majority of patient care tasks. One of the biggest things that RVT’s do is induce, maintain and recover patients from anesthesia. When your pet has a dental cleaning, surgery, endoscopy, or any other anesthetized procedure, the anesthesia is likely done by an RVT. A technician will also be taking radiographs (x-rays), drawing blood, placing IV catheters, placing urinary catheters, performing dental cleanings, running laboratory tests, giving medications, educating clients,
assisting the veterinarian, and many more tasks. A RVT is similar to a human nurse and there is a push in our field to start calling all licensed or registered veterinary technicians, Veterinary Nurses. We will see if this change comes about.
A Veterinary Assistant does many similar tasks that a Veterinary Technician may do however, they have not completed a Veterinary Technology program or passed the VTNE. Legally there will be a few things that they cannot do, such as induce anesthesia, give rabies vaccines, give IV injections without an IV catheter, etc. Many Veterinary Assistants are very knowledgeable and experienced. I know that I could not live without the assistant on my team! They are equally as indispensable as Veterinary Technicians, but they do not share the same title or credentials.
I hope that this blog post has cleared up a little bit about what a Registered Veterinary Technician is and does. Next time you see the technician at your pet’s veterinary office, make sure to give them a big hug and a thank you for all of the personal care they provide to your beloved pet!