LVT, VTS (Zoo)
Erica began her veterinary career as a technician in a small animal practice over 25 years ago. After almost a decade, Erica decided to switch gears (and species) and pursue her childhood dream of working in a zoo. Fortunately, she obtained a job at her hometown zoo, where she has worked as a licensed veterinary technician for the past 15 years. In 2018, Erica became the 12th member of the Academy of Veterinary Zoological Medicine Technicians (AVZMT). Since that time, she has been involved with the AVZMT as a mentor and, most recently, as a member of the executive board.Read Articles Written by Erica Campbell
RVT, VTS (Zoo)
Marianne has been in veterinary medicine since 1995 and has been a licensed RVT since 1999. She previously worked in a small animal/exotics practice before moving into zoo medicine at the San Diego Zoo in 2005. In 2014, She earned her VTS in zoo medicine. Marianne has been fortunate in her zoo career to have traveled to Australia, South Africa, and Hawaii to work in conservation projects with endangered species. She is an active member of NAVTA, AZVT, AVZMT, and the San Diego County Veterinary Medical Association. Marianne spends her free time with her biggest supporter, her husband, along with the variety of animals that share their home. She enjoys spending time outdoors, running, hiking with her dogs, and gardening.Read Articles Written by Marianne Zeitz
A love for animals and a fascination for the uncommon are 2 things I [Erica Campbell] have always possessed. When I was a child, I would carry around a plush toy chimp and tell people that I was going to work in a zoo nursery when I grew up. As a teenager, I worked at a local pet store, where I enjoyed caring for reptiles and birds, which eventually led to a job as a veterinary assistant at an exotic companion animal practice. After graduating from college and attaining my veterinary technician license, I spent many years working in private practice, mostly with dogs and cats, and although I am incredibly grateful for the experience I gained during that time, the lack of diversity left me feeling uninspired and unfulfilled. That boredom, and most likely burnout, led me to a career shift into zoological medicine.
After finding my passion as a zoological medicine veterinary nurse/technician, I felt excited to go to work again and eager to expand my knowledge and skill set. Zoo medicine is unique in that the animals under our care are not domesticated but also not completely wild. The challenges that come with managing medical care under those circumstances require adaptability and creativity. Working with an expansive variety of species, where every day is an opportunity to problem solve and learn, was the inspiration I needed to feel fulfilled in my career. That continual thirst for knowledge and drive to be proficient at new skills is what eventually led me to pursue my VTS in zoological medicine.
The Academy of Veterinary Zoological Medicine Technicians (AVZMT; azvt.org/avzmt) exists to promote excellence in the discipline of zoo medicine and is a fully recognized specialty with NAVTA. The AVZMT is a small, exclusive family of specialists—slowly yet steadily growing each year.
Attaining a VTS in zoo medicine is possible through fulfilling the eligibility criteria and completion of the application process.
Veterinary nurses/technicians seeking this accreditation must meet certain criteria prior to their application. For full details, visit the AVZMT website (azvt.org/avzmt-application). Eligibility to apply for the VTS in zoo medicine includes:
- Being a graduate of an AVMA-accredited veterinary technology program and/or credentialed to practice as a veterinary technician in a state or province of the United States or Canada
- Accruing 5 years (a minimum of 10 000 hours) of work experience in the field of zoo medicine, with all experience completed within 7 years prior to application
- Earning a minimum of 40 continuing education hours in zoological medicine or appropriate related topics within the 5 years immediately prior to application submission
- Being a member of NAVTA (recommended but not required)
- Being a member of the Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians (azvt.org; strongly encouraged but not required)
To apply for the VTS in zoological medicine, a veterinary nurse/technician must provide documented competence in advanced technical zoological medicine by completing the following:
- Emailing a letter of intent to submit an application. Once the letter has been recognized and accepted, the applicant will be eligible for participation in the mentorship program. Participation in the program is recommended but completely voluntary.
- Completion of the Advanced Skills Checklists
- A case log with a minimum of 40 medical or surgical cases recorded. The cases must reflect the management of the patient and proficiency in advanced skills as provided in the Advanced Skills Checklists. Cases up to 3 years prior to the application submission date can be included.
- A total of 5 detailed case reports chosen from the case log, including at least 1 report representing each of the following taxon: 1 mammal, 1 avian, and 1 reptile/amphibian/fish/invertebrate.
- A letter of recommendation from 2 individuals meeting the following 3 categories (in order of desirability): an AVZMT member, a diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine, or a supervising zoo veterinarian.
Upcoming Application Window
Key dates for the 2023 application window have already passed. The AVZMT Executive Board is currently updating and streamlining the application process. Due to this, the AVZMT will not be accepting exam applications in 2024. The organization will resume accepting applications in 2025.
Applicants will be notified as to whether they are approved or rejected to take the necessary accreditation examination no less than 6 months preceding the scheduled exam date. Approved candidates will be advised of the exam format no less than 3 months prior to the examination.
Once attained, a VTS not only positively adds to your résumé or CV, but it can also open many doors. Opportunities for professional writing, speaking, and teaching are just a few. Veterinary nurses/technicians with a VTS credential from any specialty are likely to become mentors for others seeking to attain their VTS credential and can become an invaluable resource for others, both inside and outside of their own organizations.
Since earning my [Erica Campbell] VTS (Zoo), I feel like I have reached a new level of trust with my veterinarians and the zookeepers at my zoo. I enjoy knowing that they have confidence in my ability to be experienced, informed, and up to date on things pertaining to my field and to provide the best level of care for my patients.