Veterinarians save the lives of pets every day in our BluePearl pet hospitals. Their wisdom and expertise is essential. But they are not the only heroes saving your pets. It may surprise you to learn that veterinary technicians are often directly involved in providing life-saving treatments for pets in veterinary hospitals.
Amy Newfield, BluePearl’s national technician training manager and an experienced veterinary technician, explains just how critical veterinary technicians are in the process of saving pets.
Veterinary technicians are often the first professionals to greet you and your pet when you enter the hospital. They are typically the first ones to touch your pet, prepare her for exam and draw blood for diagnostic tests. Technicians are trained to assess your pet’s condition and communicate with you about her progress. They also administer medicines.
The role of a veterinary technician is similar to the role of registered nurses in human medicine. They assist doctors, provide medical care and rely on their extensive knowledge of medicine.
Veterinary technicians have an almost endless list of responsibilities. Because they manage so many tasks, Newfield says it’s easier to explain what technicians can’t do. They can’t diagnose patients, perform surgeries or prescribe medications. These three tasks are exclusive to veterinarians. Almost every other task in a veterinary hospital can be completed by a technician, including:
- Client communication – A veterinary technician is usually the first professional to assess your pet. Your technician will alert you if life-saving care is needed (and oftentimes perform the life-saving care,) provide cost information, answer your questions and communicate with you directly on behalf of your clinician.
- Diagnostic tests – From drawing blood to taking complex diagnostic images, your veterinary technician will often perform diagnostic tests on your pet. The clinician cannot make an official diagnosis without the evaluation of the necessary diagnostics.
- Surgery Assist – Technicians scrub in for almost all veterinary surgeries. They prepare your pet for surgery, disinfect the surgery suite, monitor anesthesia and assist the surgeons with their instruments. They also provide the follow-up care, such as overnight monitoring and giving medications.
- Triage – Simply defined, triage is assessing the urgency of a pet’s condition. Your technician will help the veterinarian make this assessment by examining your pet and providing important information.
- Providing treatments – From giving medications to providing chemotherapy, veterinary technicians often administer treatments in a veterinary hospital.
Because technicians play such an important role in veterinary medicine, their education and training are extensive and strictly supervised. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) accredits many college programs throughout the country. These programs provide hands-on learning across a variety of topics in veterinary medicine. It is also mandatory to pass the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Examination), a rigorous exam that tests problem-solving skills, medical knowledge, communication skills and more. Technicians learn alongside doctors in a hospital environment every day, but technicians in certain states must also complete continuing education courses from an accredited organization to maintain their licenses. Technicians can take additional training to become veterinary technician specialists, a distinction which shows they have a high level of expertise in a medical specialty. To become a veterinary technician specialist, your technician must work with national academies to receive board-certification, similar to the process of board-certification for veterinary doctors.
Technicians have different titles depending on the state in which they received their license. The four most common are RVT (registered veterinary technician), LVT (licensed veterinary technician), CVT (certified veterinary technician) and LVMT (licensed veterinary medical technician). Professionals by any of these titles are all veterinary technicians, and their titles only vary because of state requirements. Technicians that continue on to become board-certified in their area of specialty are given the title VTS.
Technicians work long shifts ranging from 8-12 hours. Because most BluePearl hospitals operate 24/7, many of these shifts are overnight or on-call shifts. They work tirelessly to ensure the hospitals run smoothly, the doctors are well-informed, and most importantly, all pets receive the most remarkable care possible.
Veterinary technicians are often asked, “Why would you rather be a technician than a veterinarian?” Echoing the thoughts of many veterinary technicians, Newfield provides the simple answer:
“I chose to be a veterinary technician because I love the nursing aspect of my career. While the doctor focuses on diagnosing and creating a treatment plan for a pet, I can provide hands-on care for the animals and help nurse them back to health.”
BluePearl Veterinary Partners understands the importance of veterinary technicians and upholds the highest levels of respect and admiration for their work in our hospitals. Emergency clinician Dr. Sonja Olson says, “We as clinicians cannot do what we do without the expertise and compassion of our fantastic nursing staff. They are our ancillary eyes, ears, hands and brains that make remarkable patient and client care possible. Having a team that is passionate about what we do collectively makes all of the difference in what we do at BluePearl!”
If your pet experienced a medical emergency and needs the help of our veterinarians and veterinary technicians, please contact your local BluePearl hospital immediately.