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Spring 2020, Personal/Professional Development

The Veterinary Technician Association’s Role in Public Education

Christen Puckett-SmithBS, RVT

Christen Smith is a 2009 Murray State College graduate. She graduated from East Central University in 2005 where she received her bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations. She currently works at Murray State College Veterinary Technology Department in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. She is a full time faculty member and instructs the Veterinary Assisting certificate program. She also works at Ada Veterinary Clinic in Ada, Oklahoma one day a week to keep up her skill set and current best practices. Christen currently serves on the Oklahoma Veterinary Technician Association’s executive board as the Past President. She is a member of NAVTA, AVTE and SVBT. Recently she was voted as the NAVTA District 9 Representative. OVTA named her Veterinary Technician of the year in 2015. Christen enjoys studying animal behavior. She received her Silver Certification in Low Stress Handling University in 2018 and her Fear Free professional certification in 2019. MSC staff and students implement enrichment, positive reinforcement, socialization, and low stress handling while promoting the enhancement of the patient’s clinical experiences and relationships with staff. She has been married to her best friend for ten years, Ragan. They own 7 dogs, 3 cats, 1 hedgehog, 4 alpacas, and 3 nigerian dwarf goats. Their ranch is named BMK Acre, where they offer education events and alpaca love sessions. 

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.

The Veterinary Technician Association’s Role in Public Education

Veterinary technician associations are on the front lines of advocating for the profession at the state level and providing public education so that the critical work performed by members of our profession is recognized. Behind the scenes, veterinary nurses contribute to the work of their state veterinary technician associations, working to elevate the profession and to ignite the passion in others to consider the profession as a career.

The advocacy and educational efforts by state veterinary technician associations—and the veterinary nurses who dedicate their talents and time to their state associations—are crucial for the profession to thrive and grow. We’ve got tips to help your organization promote professional leadership, raise awareness, and advance the status of the credentialed veterinary nurse.

The Outreach Role of Veterinary Technician Associations

First, you must assess your association’s outreach efforts. You may have an outreach committee, but is it an active committee? The committee members should be the contact for anything related to outreach. State veterinary technician associations have many opportunities for outreach in their communities.

The state association should have a portable booth space that is easy to assemble and transport to exhibit at community events. Giveaways and freebies are an easy way to draw an audience and give you a chance to promote your association. Create an informational handout on the various roles of a credentialed veterinary technician, education requirements, state AVMA-accredited programs, and a state association contact. Make sure these are updated annually.

Many veterinary nurses are involved in outreach and are connected to our local extension offices. Extension offices are departments located in local counties and universities focusing on agriculture, the environment, etc. They are run by university employees and volunteers who are experts in local crops, landscaping, soil, gardening, pests, and more. This is a great group of people to have in your network. Extension offices can offer contacts at local 4H and FFA chapters, as well as access to their local high school events and county or state fair livestock events, where you can talk to interested students.

Another great resource for state associations interested in outreach opportunities are local career fairs at high schools and colleges in your state. Many of the colleges have career fairs for incoming freshmen, who have no idea what to do with their lives. These fairs provide an ideal opportunity to advocate for the profession and educate potential future veterinary nurses. 

Something that the Oklahoma Veterinary Technician Association (OVTA) is considering is placing a “request button” on its Facebook page and website. This way, visitors would be able to make a request for a representative from OVTA to lecture, promote, and educate. For example, members of the OVTA who are educators could present at a vocational school that offers a veterinary assisting program and describe the various career options available once they’ve completed the veterinary assisting program. 

We can’t talk about outreach without mentioning social media. If your state association doesn’t have an active Facebook page, ask a member who excels at social media to undertake that responsibility. Social media is the easiest and cheapest way to promote veterinary nursing. It also allows us to have a direct contact relationship with the public. Good or bad, we have the opportunity to react, answer, and promote our profession at our fingertips. Keeping it professional and answering in a timely manner are essential, as is making sure your page doesn’t become stagnant or unresponsive. 

The bottom line: make realistic goals for your executive board, committee members, and membership, and then take steps to implement them.

The Outreach Role of the Veterinary Nurse

There are also many ways in which veterinary nurses can become involved in the outreach efforts of their state veterinary technician association.

Enthusiastic, dedicated, and passionate volunteers are needed to join the effort in elevating the profession. Do you like to talk to people about our profession? Do you have a knack for social media? Do you want to meet more people who are just as passionate as you are about our profession? In today’s climate of positive change in our profession, participating in the efforts that lead to the change is the best thing you can do for the profession.

Public recognition is one of the main goals of the Veterinary Nurse Initiative, and the title change to Registered Veterinary Nurse is aimed strongest to this goal. Whether you support the title change or not, public education of the role veterinary technicians play in veterinary practice is important.

As credentialed veterinary technicians, we are walking billboards. We love our profession and are incredibly passionate about our careers. Use your voice, find the best platform, and contribute to the team efforts of your state association. Contact your state veterinary technician association and work alongside like-minded individuals. You will not regret it.

Whether you are an individual veterinary nurse seeking to benefit your profession or a member of a state association hoping to extend its outreach efforts, start today. Take any opportunity to speak about the veterinary nursing profession. In the long run, you are being an advocate for the profession—and the animals—we love.