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Veterinary Technician Specialists – Extraordinary Partners in Your Pet’s Care!

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Like human medicine, veterinary care has made some fantastic strides in both knowledge and technology in the last few decades.  Pet owners and general practice veterinarians increasingly look to specialists, such as veterinary oncologists or veterinary dentists, to help resolve complicated problems.

Veterinarians who specialize undergo a multi-year process of work ending in a board exam and what is known as “board certification”. In many cases, it is the equivalent to another doctor’s degree.  Working alongside these specialists are growing numbers of Veterinary Technician Specialists who carry the designation: VTS.

Most people are aware that veterinarians need a knowledgeable and helpful staff for the day to day running of the hospital, but many don’t know that some team members are actually credentialed professionals – usually identified as a CVT, or certified veterinary technician.   Beyond that, some techs have taken additional time to advance their knowledge and skills and have been awarded certification in one of several areas of technician specialization.

In 1994, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) granted their first provisional specialty to the newly formed Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians.  In this case, the term “academy” designates an organization that administers a formal process of education, training and testing prior to awarding recognition to individuals as “specialists”.   Only registered, licensed or certified veterinary technicians can be part of any academy.

Credentialed technicians can now choose from 11 different academies of specialization.  These range from anesthesia to dentistry and internal medicine to behavior, equine care and even zoo animal medicine.   A complete list of approved academies can be found at the NAVTA website (www.navta.net).

Technician monitoring patient Veterinary News NetworkTo accomplish this, veterinary technicians will need to work thousands of hours in their chosen area and log dozens of cases for review.  In the case of Veterinary Technician Specialists in Anesthesia (VTSA), these individuals must work at least three years as a veterinary technician and submit more than 4500 hours of work with anesthesia.  During the calendar year of application, the technician must also submit 50-75 case logs, including at least four cases submitted in full detail to highlight the applicant’s knowledge and skills.

Even after all of this, extensive continuing education credits must be proven along with two letters of recommendation and the completion of the certification exam.  Some academies also call for annual examinations to insure that their specialist technicians are staying up to date with the changes in veterinary medicine.  Although each academy has slightly differing requirements for their applicants, the Anesthesia Academy’s example details just how challenging this career path can be!

Whatever specialty they choose, VTSs are crucial in helping the veterinarian specialist provide the highest level of care to patients.  As a case in point, veterinary emergency and critical care technicians (VECCT) will function to triage animals coming into the hospital as well as manage the patients present in the ICU ward.  These highly organized individuals function well under the pressure of a chaotic emergency room atmosphere and can be an island of calm when owners are frantic and worried about their pets.

Technician explaining heartworm prevention to client Veterinary News NetworkClient interaction and education is another important task for veterinary technician specialists.  Often, the patient’s condition is complex and serious and worried owners may not remember all of their questions or concerns while speaking with the veterinarian.  By being available and knowledgeable enough to handle these situations, technician specialists will help lessen client’s fears, provide a higher level of patient care and increase their veterinarian’s efficiency.

Beyond specialty hospitals, veterinary technician specialists can also be found at general practice veterinary clinics, helping to educate staff members and increase the hospital’s expertise.

There’s no doubt that everyone who works in any veterinary practice, from the smallest country clinic to the largest specialty hospital, has a passion for helping pets.  But, when your regular veterinarian talks about the need for a beloved fur-friend to see a specialist, it can be unnerving and stressful.  Rest easy and know that dedicated doctors, along with compassionate and knowledgeable technician specialists, will do all that they can to ease your pet’s ills and send him back home to you.

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Veterinary Technicians – Trusted Partners for Your Pet’s Care

Anyone who has read James Herriot’s immortal novels about veterinary practice knows that much of the work he did with animals and pets he did by himself.  The owners in the stories were either unable or unwilling to help and having any sort of assistant was reserved for extreme situations, like a difficult calving.

Fast forward to today and many pet owners will see a wide range of people working at the veterinary hospital.  Are these veterinary technicians just like nurses in a human hospital?

The answer to that question is, to some extent, yes, but the reality is technicians actually perform a wider range of duties than do most nurses for people.  Veterinary technicians end up being the nurse, laboratory technician, dental hygienist, phlebotomist, radiology tech, anesthetist and surgical assistant for your pet as well as helping provide essential information to animal owners.

Although the first attempts to certify veterinary assistants go back more than 100 years, the very first program to provide training was actually started by the United States Air Force in 1951.  This was followed by a civilian program in 1961 at the State University of New York.  Now, interested individuals can find more than160 programs available across the US and even enroll in online education courses.

To earn certification as a veterinary technician, a student must attend either a two year or four year accredited program in veterinary technology.   This education will provide a broad background in everything from medical terminology and anatomy to pharmacology and animal nutrition.  Some schools even include business and management courses.

Although the term “technician” is often used to describe any veterinary assistant, most states’ practice acts do define a veterinary technician as someone who has obtained the education described above and then passed the Veterinary Technician  National Exam.   These folks are designated as Licensed Veterinary Technicians (LVTs), Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs) or Certified Veterinary Technicians (CVTs).

Veterinary assistants, on the other hand, are usually trained on-the –job, but often have similar skills and duties.  Again, each state defines what types of responsibilities and procedures assistants or technicians can perform.

Technician monitoring patient - Veterinary News NetworkIn either case, both of these vital team members function as the right hand for many veterinarians.   By performing tasks such as collecting blood samples, capturing x-rays or even providing important education to clients about parasites, the technicians help make the veterinarians more efficient.  Your pet’s doctor can now focus on doing examinations, prescribing needed medications, diagnosing problems and performing surgery.  Of course, the overall well-being of your pets is a primary concern for all technicians.  This means they are also very skilled at providing exceptional levels of nursing care to pets who might be scared, in pain or simply anxious about being at the hospital.

Some technicians will even further their education and skills by specializing in areas such as anesthesiology, nutrition, behavior, dentistry or even zoo medicine.

According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA; www.navta.net), there is a strong demand for graduates of veterinary technology programs.  In fact, the Department of Labor lists veterinary technology as one of the top twenty fastest growing careers where education makes a difference.  Another fun fact…95% of all veterinary technicians are women!

Tech giving HWP to client - Veterinary News NetworkYou know that your veterinarian is an important partner with you in the healthcare of your pets, but it is also crucial to get to know the other vital members of the veterinary care team.  These are the folks who will be insuring that your cat stays warm after her spay surgery or that your dog’s pain medication is delivered on time.  In many cases, veterinary technicians and assistants can also provide you with some rock solid advice about vaccinations, parasite prevention and even nutrition.

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