Over the past 50 years, veterinary medicine has become highly sophisticated. Many veterinarians find practice goals of simultaneously providing a high level of medical care and attaining acceptable profit margins can no longer be met without the care provided by credentialed veterinary technicians. The veterinary technician has become a skilled practitioner of patient assessment and critical thinking.
Since the Veterinary Technician profession’s inception in the 1960s, professionals were called Animal Health Technicians (AHT). In 1989, the AVMA approved another name change, resulting in the title Veterinary Technician, with the credentials in various states being either certified (CVT), registered (RVT), licensed (LVT) or Licensed Veterinary Medical Technician (LVMT).
In recent years, veterinary-centered television programs have heightened awareness of veterinary medicine and technology, leading to an increased expectation for practitioners and pet owners that animal patients will receive excellent veterinary nursing care.1
Through no fault of its own, the profession has experienced growing pains from lack of regulation.
Although some states do recognize the title of veterinary technician, very few states consistently enforce non-veterinarian practice distinctions. The result is a large number of non-credentialed team members also carrying the title of “veterinary technician” within practice walls, creating controversy, confusion, and misperception among the veterinary industry and public. See “Man on the Street: What is a Tech?” in which public perception is surveyed.2
In addition to the misperception, the NAVTA demographic study has continuously identified profession challenges since its inception in the early 2000’s.3 The demographic study of 2016 repeats similar identified challenges of 2008 and 2012; lack of professional recognition, low income, underutilization of skills and lack of distinction from on-the-job-trained ‘technicians.’ The challenges leave the credentialed profession understaffed, as individuals with education leave the profession to seek employment opportunities in other career tracks.4
“Imagine that you are a newly graduated veterinarian. You have spent years with your nose in a book, accumulated student loan debt that would make Warren Buffet weak in the knees, and you’ve just landed your first job! Excited to put your knowledge to work and optimistic about the mark you will make in your community you arrive at your practice, only to find out that you are going to be used as a glorified technician. You will not be introduced to clients as a veterinarian, you will not be allowed to do surgery and your every move will be watched over by a controlling team member. Others that have not gone through the same formal education you have are calling themselves veterinarians in the practice.”5
The Veterinary Nurse Initiative (VNI) is seeking to reverse the lack of regulation, misperception, lack of recognition and low income. The most important point to understand is that reversing the trend will not happen overnight and could take several years in states that do not recognize the profession at all. Change must happen before the profession becomes extinct.