Tech vs. nurse: The national credential initiative cheat sheet

Tech vs. nurse: The national credential initiative cheat sheet

Don't be embarrassed if you don't understand (or haven't kept up with) NAVTA's national credential initiative. Here's a quick breakdown of what it is—and what it means for veterinary technicians (and the profession). Bonus: No test at the end!

Do you need a recap of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America's (NAVTA) national credential initiative? Here are the details in a nutshell as dvm360 content specialist Hannah Wagle interviews Ken Yagi, BS, RVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM).

Need the cheat sheet?

The summary

NAVTA is pushing a national credential initiative to bring more uniformity to the credentialing status of technicians. Depending on the state you're in, being a "veterinary technician" could mean:

• Your credentialing is regulated by the government

• It's a private credential

• This is a title someone gave you when you started working at a veterinary practice and there's no credentialing system in your state

The alphabet soup of credentials

Depending on the state you live in, you might be a:

• Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT)

• Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT)

• Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT)

• Licensed Veterinary Medical Technician (LVMT)

And in some states there's no credentialing at all.

Ken explains it here:


We know what you're thinking. Why now? Click "Next" to read about the survey data to change the title from veterinary technician to veterinary nurse.


The national credential initiative has two goals

1. Standardize the credentialing requirements throughout the nation so veterinary technicians receive the same education.

2. Unify the title. Instead of CVT, LVT, RVT and LVMT, veterinary technicians will unite under a single title to create a consistent identity. One proposed title: veterinary nurse. Why? To bring recognition to the profession. Or, in a nutshell, so pet owners have a better idea of the job you perform at a veterinary practice.

This conversation has been around for decades. Why now?

As NAVTA makes the move to standardize the credentialing requirements and the title, it seems like an obvious time to consolidate under veterinary nurse.

NAVTA has completed a few surveys—the first with veterinary leaders throughout the country, including board members, veterinary technician associations and VTS academies. In this survey, 73.3% of respondents favored the term nurse, and 97% said they want to unify the title.

In the 2016 NAVTA demographic survey, within the technician population 54% favored the term nurse, 37% wanted veterinary technician and the rest were undecided. 

Here's what Firstline readers had to say earlier this year.

Ken explains more here:

Right now you're thinking the demographic survey makes it seem like there's big split.

One of the main reasons respondents reported they favored the title "veterinary technician" was because they didn't believe it was possible to change the title. Specifically there's a concern about title protection for nurses in the nursing community.

Ken explains why (and the next steps) here:

In the past, in some states technicians have encountered problems trying to change their title to veterinary nurse and faced opposition from nurses because of it.

On closer examination, NAVTA found that in 26 states, title protection for nurses likely won't be a problem—at this point. NAVTA is also working with the nursing advocacy and regulating organizations to engage in a dialogue to explain the education veterinary technicians go through and compare the professions.

One common objection: Some technicians say they do more than nurses. NAVTA's suggestion: Educate yourself on what nurses really do, including the structure nurses have for additional certifications and the job roles that they do in different settings to accurately compare it to the veterinary technician profession. They think you'll see more similarities than differences.

Next step?

Make up your minds. 54 to 37 is a big split. NAVTA wants a mandate for change. (Share your opinion with NAVTA with the survey here.)

We lied. There is a test at the end.

Pop quiz

What should you do next?

A. Get educated on the topic (you just did that—horray! A+)

B. Share your thoughts (Hey, wait! There's a poll right here on the right. You can totally do this!)

C. Find more info about the National Credential Initiative at (but totally take the poll first) and talk to your national and state associations

D. All of the above

veterinary nurse

Currently, nurse is a proprietary title for human nurses who have a bachelor's degree as well as specific training to become a nurse. So will veterinary nurses be getting the comparable education and training so that the title actually means what the public may well expect it to, that these people are equivalent to human nurses in training and education? If veterinary nurses do plan to satisfy equivalency to human nurses, with the cost of two more years of school and the low salaries paraveterinary staff receive, can they bear this additional financial burden?

Currently, the term veterinary nurse is used by every person working in veterinary clinics where this is practiced, except the receptionist and the veterinarian, in my area. It is a transparent effort to try to improve the public's perception of the training and capabilities of often undereducated and undertrained veterinary assistants. It is just an attempt to look better than they are to clients. If veterinary staff want to put nurse in their title, they should be prepared to get training equivalent to human nurses with that title, otherwise it will soon become apparent to the public that they are being fooled. We don't need any more claims of misconduct aimed at our profession. Sowe should tread carefully here before deciding on how to handle this issue.