Certification Day Nears For Surgical Techs Everywhere

Certification Day is nearing for all of the surgical technicians across the U.S.

From left, AVST board members Susan Holland, Tanya Niles, Danielle Browning, Heidi Reuss-Lamky, Kim Schmidt and Teri Raffel.

Photo courtesy of Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians

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At long last, surgery technicians will have their own certification. This is excellent news for technicians who spend their lives behind a surgical mask, scrubbed in or handing surgical instruments.

After years in the making, a new breed of veterinary technicians specializing in surgery will soon emerge. The Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians (AVST) was approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. After completing a rigorous application process and passing an examination, veterinary surgical technicians will have a degree that shows their unique expertise.

Since the certification announcement, hundreds of technicians from the United States and abroad have e-mailed AVST board members.

Below is a guide to the seven parts of the application package. The information came from AVST president Heidi Reuss-Lamky and secretary Teri Raffel.

1. Proof of professional experience

• Applicants must show proof of credentials and must be licensed, certified or registered veterinary technicians. For U.S. applicants, the designation may vary depending on the state.
• A copy of a diploma from an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited program should be submitted.
• Applicants should show that they have worked at least 6,000 hours as credentialed technicians. This represents about three years in a full-time position. At least 75 percent of that time, or 4,500 hours, should be dedicated to surgery.
• Applicants should list their experience working as a credentialed veterinary technician in the five years before the application submission date.

2. Case log

• A log of at least 50 surgical cases should be submitted and detail management of the patients.
• The case log should mention the patients’ signalment and the procedures performed.
• Procedures must be performed in 2011 for applicants taking the exam in 2012. Generally speaking, the surgeries must have been performed in the year immediately prior to the application. The deadline to submit the application package to the AVST is Feb. 1, 2012.
• Applicants should submit more than 50 cases, with a maximum of 75, in case the committee rejects some.
• Cases should include a variety of procedures. In other words, they can’t all be orthopedic, ophthalmology or dentistry patients. In soft tissue surgery, for example, the cases could involve thoracic, abdominal and reconstructive surgery as well as wound care.
• The case log should reflect the applicant’s advanced surgical skills through all steps of the management of a surgical patient.

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Learn More

Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians


6516 Monona Drive, #246
Madison, WI 53716

President: Heidi Reuss-Lamky    
President-Elect: Kim Schmidt
Secretary: Teri Raffel
Treasurer: Tanya Niles
Members-at-large: Susan Holland, Danielle Browning

3. Advanced surgery skills

• To ensure that an applicant has enough practical experience, a skills list will be required. This will encompass knowledge in sterilization methods, diagnostic techniques, anesthesia protocols, instrumentation, nutrition, post-op care, bandaging, wound management, rehabilitation, client education, surgical complications and basic anatomy and physiology.
• Because the certification is designed for large- and small-animal technicians, the guidelines and exam questions are not species-specific.
• Because of the variations in technician tasks, only 90 percent of the skills on the list will be required. For example, a technician who works at a university that has a central supplies department may never sterilize instruments. In addition, some technicians may not be allowed to legally perform certain tasks in their jurisdiction.
• All these skills must be verified by a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) or, when they exist, by a VTS (Surgery). This person will attest that the skills have been mastered.

4. Waiver agreement

• The applicant needs to certify that the information provided is accurate.
• The technician agrees to abide by the board’s decision.

5. Continuing education

• An emphasis will be placed on continuing education (CE).
• A minimum of 40 hours of advanced CE in the field of surgery and related specialties will be required within five years before applying.
• The CE must be obtained after becoming a credentialed veterinary technician.
• The CE must be provided by a member of a veterinary specialty academy or college.
• CE can be earned at a national meeting such as the ACVS Symposium as well as at a regional, local or in-house venue. Approved online courses may be accepted. In-house and online classes cannot exceed 50 percent of the requirements.

6. Case reports

• Applicants need to submit four detailed case reports. Ideally, different species should be represented.
• Case reports should be five pages long and explain everything related to the surgery in detail. The reports will include the patient’s signalment, history and relevant pathophysiology.
• The reports can include information such as how the technician played an active role in a successful outcome; how she prepared for the case; monitoring equipment, special instrumentation, suture material, post-op care and rehabilitation; lab work; anesthesia; special diagnostic procedures. The goal is to show expertise in the nursing management of a variety of surgical veterinary patients.
• References should be provided when scientific information is mentioned.
• Case reports are an opportunity for the applicant to demonstrate that a variety of skills were used in the management of the patients.

7. Other Requirements

• Applicants need two signed letters of recommendation. They can be written by a VTS (Surgery) or a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgery.
• Until there are more VTS (Surgery), letters of recommendation also can be written by a VTS in anesthesia, emergency and critical care, dentistry or internal medicine.
• One author should be the technician’s direct supervisor.
• The letters should include details on training, ethical behavior and quality of skills.
• Applicants who want to sit for the first examination must submit six copies of the application package by Feb. 1, 2012. The application fee is $35.
• The first exam will be offered in Washington, D.C., in November 2012. The fee is $100.
To download the application packet and for other details, visit www.avst-vts.org.
“Certainly, becoming a veterinary technician specialist in surgery is not an easy process, and that is exactly what makes it worthwhile,” Raffel says.
“Otherwise,” adds Reuss-Lamky, “everybody would be a VTS, which would decrease the value of the diploma in the eyes of technicians, employers, general practitioners, surgeons and pet owners.”

Dr. Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon near Allentown, Pa. His website is DrPhilZeltzman.com.


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