Poll: Do You Support the Veterinary Nurse Initiative?
The Veterinary Nurse Initiative (VNI) has gained quite a bit of momentum since being formed by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) in 2016. It’s no secret that many veterinary nurses feel they are underutilized, underpaid, burned out, and underappreciated. There is also great frustration by the lack of professional standardization and regulation.
There are currently 4 different credentials for veterinary nurses across the U.S. — certified veterinary technician (CVT), registered veterinary technician (RVT), licensed veterinary technician (LVT), and licensed veterinary medical technician (LVMT). Credentialing requirements and job definition varies widely depending on state; Connecticut and Utah do not even utilize a standardized credential or title.
Today’s Veterinary Nurse created a Facebook poll on June 8, 2019, that asked: “Do you support the Veterinary Nurse Initiative to standardize credentialing, title and scope of practice in the U.S.?” The response and feedback was astounding. With 1,500 votes cast by our Facebook fans, 89% voted “yes,” including TVN Editor-in-Chief Kara Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, VTS (Nutrition), VTS-H (Internal Medicine, Dentistry). When asked why she supported the VNI, Burns responded, “The initiative put forth by NAVTA seeks to unite the profession under a single title, credentialing requirements, and scope of practice. Through the standardization and public awareness of the credential, the profession will make strides toward better recognition, mobility, and elevated practice standards, leading to better patient care and consumer protection.”
Our Facebook fans expressed their frustration with the lack of standardized credentialing in the U.S. “Everyone who works for a veterinarian calls themselves a ‘veterinary technician,’ regardless of education level and training,” says Amanda Daun. “Most of the public do not know the difference. Only a trained individual can call themselves a ‘nurse’ or ‘doctor.’ Nurse would be a more accurate title for a trained and licensed individual.”
The VNI has gained momentum by working with “the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), professional veterinary organizations, and legislators to create common terminology, practice acts, policies, and procedures,” according to the official Veterinary Nurse Initiative website. Another key component to moving the initiative forward is public awareness. Those in favor of the initiative say that as pet owners, future veterinary nurses, and others voice their support for the initiative and bills being put forward, the more likely — and quickly — change will be made.
Many big-name veterinary associations have spoken out recently to give their support to the VNI, including the AVMA, AAHA, Banfield Pet Hospital, VCA Animal Hospitals, Zoetis, and Royal Canin. “Currently over 40 organizations have contributed to VNI either financially, by issuing supportive positioning statements, or by promoting VNI through media outlets,” points out Burns. “In addition, Purdue University, Harcum College, and Colby Community College have changed their veterinary technology programs to veterinary nursing programs.”
However, not every veterinary professional supports the VNI. 11% voted “no” in our Facebook poll and shared why in the comments. “The no’s are not from inept persons,” Charlotte Ward Waack wrote. “Many of us are experienced, credentialed technicians that feel we are better off to try to align to an RVT credential.” Tamara Schulz Riebe shared, “There were no accredited tech programs in the large city I lived in and online training was not available at the time. I want to be certified but question why I should go further into debt to get licensed when the programs do not allow me to transfer my credits from previous schooling.”
One of the oft-repeated comments from veterinary technicians for why they don’t support the VNI is that current title protection matters more than title change. If veterinary practices and hospitals already don’t support the clear delineation between veterinary technicians and assistants, then why even change the title? “Until we can guarantee that all staff respects and uses titles correctly, it doesn’t matter to me what our title is,” shares Kristen Hagler, RVT, CCRP. “The title I have is supposed to be protected but it is not enforced. The term technician is so loosely used in the clinical and casual setting that it undermines everything that I have done to advance my career and be who I am today. Even doing due diligence and reporting illegal title use doesn’t seem to make a difference; there are no repercussions.” Because veterinary assistant jobs are often stepping stones to becoming a certified technician, NAVTA recognizes this role in the field and has vowed to push for Approved Veterinary Assistant Programs within the VNI.
Human Health Nurses Fight VNI
Pushback also comes from human nurses who argue that the title “nurse” should be protected and only used for the care of human patients, although they agree that veterinary technicians should standardize their education and licensure. However, veterinary technicians argue there are also similarities. “We took classes, did our internships, passed the VTNE and we have to keep up on CE’s and pay dues,” says Amanda Willis. “We deserve the respect that our human counterparts get.”
WHY NAVC Supports VNI
“A single, unified title and a standardized credential throughout the nation is the next step to improve the level of patient care, align public perceptions of the veterinary nurse, and bring clarity to the field of veterinary medicine,” says Burns. “The alignment will open avenues for better reciprocity, or the ability to work as credentialed technicians outside of the state where they were originally credentialed, across the nation.”
As the term pet becomes more aligned with family, human clients are spending more on pet care revenue than ever before and holding veterinary staff to higher standards. Veterinary technicians deserve the respect and clear job descriptions and title in order to work effectively and happily.
Learn more about the Veterinary Nurse Initiative on Today’s Veterinary Nurse