Happy National Veterinary Technician Week!

Today begins National Veterinary Technician Week.  The special people who choose to dedicate their lives to animal nursing deserve special recognition every day.  Once each year the veterinary profession commemorates the special contributions veterinary technicians make to animal and human health in a more formal way.

A licensed veterinary technician, or LVT, has a college degree in veterinary technology and has passed a national board examination demonstrating specific knowledge and competencies.  These individuals are licensed by the state and renewal of the license requires annual fulfillment of continuing education requirements.  Some states refer to these individuals as certified veterinary technicians (CVT) or registered veterinary technicians (RVT).  By education and responsibilities, licensed technicians are similar to registered nurses in human medicine and registered dental hygienists in the dental profession.

By Virginia law, certain tasks require a formal education and a license to perform.  Some restricted tasks include complete scaling of teeth, injection of controlled substances, administration of anesthesia, suturing of skin incisions, adjusting of x-ray machine settings, and administration of rabies vaccines.  Each of these clinical skills requires a breadth of medical understanding that can only be achieved through a carefully organized medical curriculum.  The Commonwealth of Virginia has determined there to be public health and consumer protection interests in regulating these practices.

Technically, the title of “technician” should be reserved for these educated professionals.  Many practices, especially those without LVTs on staff, use the generic word “technician” to refer to unlicensed veterinary assistants.  This is really a disservice to the dedicated professionals who have earned the title.  (Just ask any Registered Nurse how they feel about any non-doctor who works in a medical facility being called a nurse.)  How can you tell?  Licensed technicians are required to prominently display their state licensed near the posted licenses for veterinarians.  They will also usually display the letters LVT after their names on their name tags and business cards.  If in doubt, ask if your family veterinary practices hires Licensed Veterinary Technicians.

LVTs may work in small animal, equine, and agricultural practices.  They also work in research facilities for pharmaceutical companies, government laboratories, and universities.  Some choose to teach in veterinary colleges or other schools.  More and more technicians are pursuing advanced certification in specialty fields including veterinary surgery, dentistry, or emergency medicine.

In Virginia, veterinary technician programs are found at Northern Virginia Community College and Blue Ridge Community College.  Quality online programs are offered through Northern Virginia Community College, Cedar Valley College in Texas, and several other schools.  Blue Ridge Community College offers a distance program at several community colleges throughout the state.  Typically, the online and distance programs require affiliation with an approved local veterinary practice that can provide the hands-on experienced usually afforded in a campus laboratory setting.

For more information about this fascinating profession, please visit the web site for the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America at www.navta.net.  If you are interested in going to college to become a Licensed Veterinary Technician, please visit the Blue Ridge Community College web site at brcc.edu/academics/programs/vettech/ or the Northern Virginia Community College page at nvcc.edu/Loudoun/divisions/natural/vettech.