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Fall 2019, Practice Management

The Issue of Title Protection

Kenichiro YagiMS, RVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM)

Ken has spent nearly 20 years in practice. He obtained his VTS certification in emergency and critical care, as well as small animal internal medicine, and earned his master’s degree in Veterinary Science. He served as ICU Manager and Blood Bank Manager at Adobe Animal Hospital until 2018, and is now Program Director for the RECOVER CPR Initiative and simulation lab manager of the Park Veterinary Innovation Laboratory at Cornell University. He co-chairs the Veterinary Nurse Initiative and serves as a board member of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society, the Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians, and the Veterinary Innovation Council.

Heather PrendergastRVT, CVPM

Heather has spent over 25 years in small animal practice, teaches veterinary technology and assistance programs, and is the author of Front Office Management for the Veterinary Team. She lectures on topics ranging from grief management for health care professionals to nutrition, inventory, communications, and veterinary team management. She has also written several articles and participated in published roundtable discussions on these topics.

Currently, Heather provides consulting services for veterinary hospitals and is an instructor for Patterson Veterinary University and VetMedTeam. She serves on several advisory committees and is the Program Chair of the Technician Program at the North American Veterinary Conference. Heather was named the 2014 Veterinary Technician of the Year and Continuing Educator of the Year for 2016 at the Western Veterinary Conference.

The Issue of Title Protection
Photo: Shutterstock.com/ARLOU_ANDREI
The veterinary profession should support the implementation of licensure and title protection in every state. This requires grass roots advocacy from veterinary technicians and is best done through state associations.

There are not many things that demoralize credentialed veterinary technicians more than having their title applied to those who did not rightfully achieve it, and this unfortunately is highly prevalent among veterinary practices today. While those who utilize the title of Certified, Registered, or Licensed Veterinary Technician or Licensed Veterinary Medical Technician may currently have met varied requirements depending on the state they reside in, it can be said that those credentialed as a veterinary technician have met a standard in education virtually in all states. So why is it that the “veterinary technician” title is commonly used to describe those who are credentialed and non-credentialed alike?

From a legislative sense, states with licensure that our profession have the ability to institute title protection laws or regulation which specifically state that the title may be applied only to those that have met the licensure requirements. Title protection language is put in place to prevent individuals from misrepresenting themselves as meeting qualifications without actually doing so. For example, the Indiana code states, “An individual who is not a registered veterinary technician may not use the title ‘registered veterinary technician,’ ‘veterinary technician,’ or the abbreviation ‘R.V.T.’” and deems it a misdemeanor to misrepresent oneself in such a way. There are, however, various states that do not have title protection laws in place. It is also a common complaint we hear from our peers that even in states that have title protection laws, they are often not enforced. This leads to a great deal of frustration from members of the profession and is contributing to the lack of fulfillment in the field.

So what can we, as veterinary technicians who are feeling helpless and frustrated against the misuse of our professional title, do? Solutions to this issue will come in different forms and require the efforts of all members of the field.

Legislative Changes

In states with no licensure or title protection: Not all states have a licensure process in place and even fewer have title protection language. The veterinary profession should support the implementation of licensure and title protection in every state. This requires grass roots advocacy from veterinary technicians and is best done through state associations.

In states with title protection: The veterinary medical boards will need to enforce title protection. Because enforcement works off of complaints, members of the veterinary team and public will need to file a complaint to draw attention. However, individuals are sometimes hesitant to file complaints out of fear of retaliation. Our culture needs to shift to being able to uphold the practice act as a professional responsibility.

Educating Veterinary Professionals

Regardless of the licensure and title protection status of the state, each practice can educate their staff on proper use of titles and implement policies surrounding respect of the qualifications of those within their team. There currently are individuals without a veterinary technician credential who are highly competent and contribute in the same or similar capacity as a credentialed veterinary technician, and veterinary teams show concerns that non-credentialed team members may feel demeaned being called “assistants.” This is yet another cultural shift we must embrace in the veterinary field. A credentialed veterinary technician has a title that is associated with a credential. It is earned. Similarly, we should be concerned that credentialed veterinary technicians will feel demeaned by their title not being properly protected. The credential is a clear-cut difference and it doesn’t mean that a non-credentialed team member contributes any less to the practice.

Where Do We Stand?

A question we should be asking ourselves is, “Where do we stand with title protection?” Is this issue significant enough that we feel an organized effort must be made to change the current culture? The question is rhetorical as we, as NAVTA leaders, have been working toward change to on a national level. That is why NAVTA has backed legislative bills that institute title protection as a major goal in the Veterinary Nurse Initiative. That is why NAVTA has fought against proposed changes that reduce the qualifications that are needed to become credentialed veterinary technicians.

As individuals, are you discussing this issue with the veterinary medical boards? Veterinary medical associations? Your state veterinary technician association? Those are the entities that can drive change in legislation. Are you discussing the issue with the management of your veterinary practice and the team members to professionally convey the importance of establishing policies that recognize our credential within practice?

If the answer is “not yet,” then we urge you to join the conversation and become a professional representative and advocate for veterinary technicians around the nation. If the answer to these questions is “yes,” thank you for the effort you are putting in to changing the culture of the field for the better. Real change can be made, and it will take a collective voice.