Examining the role of veterinary technicians - DVM
News Center
DVM Featuring Information from:


Examining the role of veterinary technicians


Teri Raffel, CVT, president, National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America
Dr. Johnson: With the public, and I'm talking about the consumer, part of the problem is that nobody knows who you are. The veterinarians are saying, "This is my nurse, this is my assistant, this is my technician." They don't know whether you're trained or not. In California, you could be a veterinary assistant working next to a technician, and they wouldn't know the difference. The public is going to help generate at least some interest in the profession. We've got two board members who were shocked that their veterinarians didn't have licensed technicians in their practice. They just had assistants. The only term we have is "nurse." People do know what a veterinary nurse would be. We've looked at it and the CVMA looked at it. Their legal opinion was that we could not use the term. I don't understand how you can say that somebody owns the word.

Mr. Dennis: Let's move to an area related to this: supervision. This changes dramatically across the country. Some states are highly detailed in what scope of supervision a veterinarian must exercise over a veterinary technician, even over lay employees. How about direct supervision versus indirect supervision? Some states refer to immediate supervision, some refer to intermediate supervision.

I practice law in two states – Missouri and Kansas. To give an example of the difference: In Missouri, we have detailed regulations that tell what's permitted and what's not permitted. In Kansas, we have a statute in the veterinary-practice act that says the board has authority to promulgate regulatory actions on the supervision of veterinary technicians. But there are no regulations. So in Kansas no one knows what is permissible and not permissible conduct until disciplinary action is brought.

A classic example of a disciplinary case where a veterinarian was sanctioned is where he or she permitted a veterinary technician to perform surgery. That, at the minimum, from what I've seen in disciplinary cases, results in at least suspension, sometimes revocation of licensure. Other cases involve X-rays, and administration and dispensing of medications. I'd like to open up discussion of dispensing or administration of medications and what type of supervision a veterinarian should exercise, or whether he or she should have to supervise that.

Ms. Raffel: What is really important to remember when we talk about supervision is that veterinarians shouldn't be delegating anything they don't feel comfortable having their technician do. On the reverse side, technicians need to be comfortable saying, "I would love to learn how to do that, but I'm just not comfortable. However, I saw a notice for a meeting. Will you send me?"

Dr. Sherbyn Ostrich, DVM, past president of AVMA
I do think that, with the ever-expanding list that we get from the AVMA regarding the skills that our graduates need, there is a gradual decrease in level of supervision from graduation as you progress through the profession. But new graduates may need a little more handholding. That's true in any profession. There's always that learning curve. We have to gain stability and confidence in our profession and in our career. That doesn't mean it stays that way after you're an 18-year veteran. There has to be some kind of compromise growing with this level of supervision.

There are things we all agree as technicians we shouldn't do. That's why we're technicians. If we wanted to do surgery, we'd be veterinarians. But there's no reason I should be restricted from doing tasks allowed by AVMA.

Another issue that is important to remember is that, in interviewing, we talk about retaining people who are unfit technicians.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
Click here