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).
To 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.
Client 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.