PORTLAND, ORE. — As many areas face shortages of veterinary assistants and technicians, more state boards are debating how far they can go
to extend care.
When an animal can't breathe and a veterinarian is not accessbile, how much can a technician or veterinary assistant do? What
kinds of procedures are they capable of performing or permitted to do under state law?
The Oregon Veterinary Medical Board (OVMB) is examining the roles of assistants for possible expansion.
In December, the OVMB will consider allowing non-certified veterinary assistants to intubate in emergency situations to establish
an airway. Under existing rules, non-certified assistants can't induce anesthesia.
The impending rule change came about during an investigation into how anesthesia induction and intubation are defined, says
OVMB Executive Director Lori Makinen.
Under the existing rule, it is unclear whether intubation is considered the start of inducing anesthesia, so until now veterinary
assistants have done nothing in situations that would have warranted an emergency airway. The board voted unanimously in favor
of the new rule in June, but left it open for public comment until the December OVMB meeting.
Final adoption will depend on public feedback.
The board also is considering expanding the role of certified veterinary technicians in dental-care duties.
Simple extractions can be performed by CVTs under existing regulations, but additional training opportunities are making the
expertise necessary to perform more complex procedures more accessible.
The OVMB will review the training programs and discuss CVT performance of complex tooth extractions under immediate supervision.
Increasing the responsibility of CVTs and assistants has been welcomed by the Oregon veterinary community, Makinen says. "It
probably is a trend, given that we have a shortage of techs in the state and most vets I've talked to want their quality techs
to be able to do more," she says.
Every time technicians' and assistants' duties are increased, it helps them enjoy their jobs more and motivates some to seek
additional certification, she adds.