Pet owners from across the United States were recently polled for a survey commissioned by the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) asking if they knew who was caring for their pets when they go to a veterinary hospital. While the survey found pet owners trust and feel positive about credentialed veterinary nurses and technicians as part of the patient care team, responses revealed striking misconceptions about their role, responsibilities, education and skills.
Nearly half (47%) of pet owners did not know that the role of the credentialed veterinary nurse/technician includes performing medical tasks and procedures. The overwhelming majority, 73%, understood their role was cleaning cages, removing animal waste, feeding or grooming pets — tasks generally performed by less experienced and non-credentialed staff. Sixty-three percent of pet owners do not know that credentialed veterinary nurses and technicians are the animal healthcare equivalent of registered nurses.
“Like their counterparts in human healthcare, credentialed veterinary nurses and technicians are also highly skilled professionals, providing life-saving and life-enhancing care for pets as well as emotional support,” Harold Davis, BA, RVT, VTS (ECC, Anesthesia and Analgesia), NAVC Board President said. “Respondents indicated they value veterinary nurses/technicians; now it’s up to us to do a better job by educating pet owners how vital they are to the veterinary healthcare team, so their skills can be better leveraged for the benefit of animals everywhere.”
Credentialed veterinary nurses and technicians perform a wide range of procedures requiring extensive skill, knowledge, and education, including:
- Monitoring and managing anesthesia, cardiovascular and respiratory functions during surgery, and throughout recovery.
- Radiology and diagnostic imaging, including advanced studies like CT, MRI and ultrasonography.
- Dental charting, teeth cleaning, instruction in home care.
- Advanced care for hospitalized patient needs.
- Nutrition and behavior counseling.
- Specialized nursing care in disciplines which mirror veterinary specialists, including oncology and cardiology among many others.
- Phlebotomy, laboratory management and more.
On the topic of education, 20% of respondents mistakenly believe that veterinary nurses/technicians have less than two years of higher education. Respondents also have little awareness of the national exam needed to attain a license or the requirements for continued education to maintain that license.
“The vast majority of credentialed veterinary nurses/technicians hold an associate degree in veterinary technology with many obtaining and now seeking out their bachelor’s to further their career goals. They have passed a national exam, are licensed, certified or registered by an external governing body in their state,” Ashli Selke RVT, CVT, National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) President said. “We are educated healthcare professionals who understand the whys behind the science and can advocate wholly for our patients.”
Survey findings also revealed that once respondents were informed about the roles and responsibilities of credentialed veterinary nurses/technicians, their specialties and the required level of education and expertise, their perceptions changed.
- 69% of pet owners reported they would feel more confident and comfortable with the level of care they can provide, and
- 84% would trust them as much as a veterinarian.
“Credentialed veterinary technicians are deeply passionate individuals who are committed to caring for animals and supporting their owners. It’s important that we help pet owners understand the critical role credentialed veterinary technicians have as part of the medical team and their dedication to the health and well-being of their patients,” said Carolyn Spivock, RVT, Director of Veterinary Technician & Assistant Development, VCA Animal Hospitals. “We believe that as pet owners better understand the medical knowledge, advanced skills and expertise of credentialed veterinary technicians, coupled with the compassionate care they provide, their confidence and trust in technicians will increase. Building stronger relationships between veterinary technicians and pet owners is one meaningful way we can continue to improve care for pets and grow the support we can offer our clients.”
The survey was conducted as a part of a national awareness and education campaign led by the NAVC and VCA Animal Hospitals, with support from NAVTA. The campaign is part of the Veterinary Nurse Empowerment Initiative, a bold new program the NAVC launched in January to elevate and advance credentialed veterinary nurses/technicians. The goal is to change perceptions and attitudes among pet owners, close the knowledge gap and instill confidence in the professionals who provide animal healthcare. For more details on the Veterinary Nurse Empowerment Initiative, click here.
Atomik Research conducted an online survey of 1,013 pet owners throughout the United States who indicated having at least one pet in their household. The margin of error for the overall sample fell within +/- 3 percentage points with a confidence interval of 95 percent. Fieldwork took place between December 22 and December 24, 2021. Atomik Research is an independent, creative market research agency.