Veterinary Technicians – How Special Are You?

Postd: Thursday, April 8, 2010



In 1994, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) Committee on Veterinary Technicians Specialties was formed. Since that time, it has given full or provisional recognition to many specialty academies including emergency and critical care, anesthesia, dentistry, internal medicine, behavior, zoo medicine, equine and surgery.

The newest academy has just been announced, the Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Clinical Practice. As I tend to do, I have considered this new specialty from a couple of different angles I am fortunate to have this forum to express my opinions, but your opinions are no less important or valid … but here is some food for thought from my plate.

The upside is this new academy will have subspecialties in the areas of canine/feline, avian/exotic and production animal. I have long believed that those interested and skilled in working with avian and exotics should have their own specialty, and I can understand the need for a production animal subcategory as well. These are specific species and they demand skills and knowledge that not every technician gains on the path to becoming credentialed.

But I also see a downside, particularly to the canine/feline subcategory. Having gone through the education and training to earn the initials RVT behind my name, I want to ask, ”Aren’t we credentialed technicians already qualified to care for dogs and cats?” I suppose it’s the same argument that might have surfaced when veterinarians developed the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners--didn’t they graduate vet school qualified to be a practitioner? What is the impetus for having to prove beyond your original degree and hard-earned initials that you are MORE qualified by being a board-certified DVM, or a VTS in the case of we technicians?

I also look at this from the perspective of a manager, and from having spent 12 years in referral medicine: It is difficult enough to pay technicians a competitive wage in referral practice, much less now be paying even more for a VTS!

When I wear my VESPA hat (meaning, as the acting president of the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Practice Association), I also see members who have not been informed of the advantage of hiring a VTS over a credentialed technician. They want to know, what can a VTS bring to the practice to actually make it worthwhile to pay them more? In other words, what is the return on investment, or ROI, for hiring a VTS?

Until we have the definitive answer to that question and educate the profession, it concerns me that we will continue to have new VTS Academies without the understanding of why they are, indeed, more “special.”

Let’s face it, credentialed technicians have been struggling a long time to earn respect and recognition. And before we’ve even won that battle, we find ourselves needing to make room for the VTS.  

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