As it stands today, veterinary team members who take the extra step to pass classes and take their state’s veterinary technician exam are either certified veterinary technicians (CVT), licensed (LVT), registered (RVTs), or nothing at all—as some states don’t have rules for veterinary technicians. (Visit firstline.com and click on “vet techs by state” to see the rules where you live.)
These state-by-state differences could be a danger to public safety, says Cherylann Gieseke, president of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. In the event of a natural disaster, disease outbreak, or terrorist attack that affects animals, volunteer veterinary technicians from all over the country will arrive in a state with its own rules about what technicians can and can’t do. How will anyone know who knows what and who’s qualified to do what? And how can we expect clients to understand a technician’s qualifications if states don’t even require the same ones?
At next year’s North American Veterinary Conference, Gieseke will join members of the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities to “get the ball rolling” on nationwide licensing, perhaps a new job title that could fit veterinary technicians in all 50 states. “The whole purpose of regulating technicians comes down to public safety and making sure appropriately educated people have met a minimum standard,” Gieseke says. “All states will need to come to grips with how they want that to work.”
More respect for veterinary technicians will come with national standards. Better national recognition of the role of veterinary technicians could also raise the bar for salaries, says Dr. Richard Flora, dean of the veterinary technology program at St. Petersburg College in Pinellas Park, Fla. “Veterinary technology education is rigorous and it’s not cheap,” Dr. Flora says. “Yet starting salaries are $25,000 to $30,000 sometimes. You can’t support yourself on that, let alone a family.”
On the ground level, it’s up to you, says Dr. Flora. Prove to your employers you can perform revenue-generating procedures and free up the veterinarians’ time to perform more high-level work. “Demonstrate your competence and reliability, and respect from veterinarians and the public will grow,” he says.