Posted: Jul 18, 2014
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“I don’t get no respect”

-Rodney Dangerfield

I value respect very highly. In order to get it from me it has to be earned, and in turn I feel that if I work hard I should be able to earn your respect. That’s how the world should work (at least in my head). If I had to pick one area of my life where I work hard to earn respect, it’s my career. I chose the career of veterinary technician. I am not here because I’m waiting to become something else; I’m here and I work hard because I believe in what technicians do and the important skills a technician brings to the medical team. I’m currently experiencing some professional disrespect, and I’m ready to enact some change.

A couple months ago, my friend (and current Oregon Veterinary Technician and Assistant Association board member) Becky informed me that the state of Oregon was considering some changes to the grandfather clause (which allows veterinary assistants, with enough on the job training, to sit for the VTNE and become CVTs). It’s only been a year since Oregon went away from the grandfather clause and required graduation from an AVMA accredited veterinary technician program in order to take the VTNE. Now, I’m not here to reengage in the licensing debate (already done), but those who know me know that I firmly believe that education is important to our profession. Period. As a professional technician, to be told that a state veterinary board thinks it is okay to license technicians without a degree from an accredited school is insulting to me and shows a lack of respect for the job we do every day. The Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board met last weekend and I stood with my OVTAA colleagues and we stated our opinion on the importance of accredited education for technicians in Oregon. The meeting went very well, and we learned that we definitely have the respect and support of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board. I look forward to seeing other states adopt the same position.

I was buoyed by the experience with my state board, but what continues to disappoint me is RACE; the Registry of Approved Continuing Education. This group, part of the AAVSB (American Association of Veterinary State Boards), reviews and grants CE credit to lectures and articles for veterinarians and technicians. Each state has also their own review process, and RACE is the national (at least for the US, but I believe Canada accepts RACE credits) governing group. We have CE lectures here at the On The Floor @Dove, and they are approved by RACE so that all of you can earn credits towards keeping your licenses; all of which I agree with. Someone needs to legitimize learning opportunities and accredit what is being taught. But, in the last 6 months, RACE has been INCREASINGLY more difficult to work with; lectures and speakers previously approved have been held back and we at On the Floor @Dove are having trouble gaining RACE approval for new lectures.

About a year ago I gave a lecture to the Portland community technicians about Leptospirosis. Lepto is on the rise, not only here in Oregon but across the US.

We are seeing many more lepto positive cases at DoveLewis so I thought it a good time to speak to technicians about this zoonotic disease. We record these CE lectures when they are given, submit them for RACE approval, and then put them on the On the Floor @Dove website. As of right now, RACE will not approve this lecture. They started by requiring a resume from the speaker (which meant all of the DoveLewis speakers). It was annoying to gather that info from the speakers here, but an understandable request. Now the disheartening part: If you are a DVM specialist (like our criticalists, surgeons, and radiologist here at DoveLewis) your lectures sail through the approval process without a problem. Because these doctors have earned that specialty status they have earned the right to RACE approval. Makes perfect sense. I am a Veterinary Technician Specialist. According to RACE, I should have earned the right to swift approval of my lectures for technicians. What I am getting is, wait for it, a "request for letters of recommendation". My VTS (ECC) apparently means so little to RACE that I have to request three letters of recommendation from veterinarian specialists who I currently do not work with (their rule), to speak to my knowledge and experience. My VTS, with its rigorous application process, incredibly hard test, and required CE credits to maintain, means nothing to the RACE lecture approval process. I am not awarded the same professional treatment as our specialist veterinarians. Disappointing to say the least.

Back to lepto. I sent in my resume and the letters of recommendation, and it's still not approved. Word came back from RACE questioning my experience and knowledge. Questioning if I am qualified to give a lecture to technicians about Leptospirosis. I am saddened that with the vital role technicians play in medical and nursing care, that having a CVT, VTS (ECC) is not considered experienced or knowledgeable enough to speak to technicians about nursing a patient through this disease. One of my biggest inspirations as a young technician were the For Technicians, By Technicians lectures at IVECCS. The experience of learning nursing care from brilliant people who are veterinary technicians is the reason I specialized and one of the main reasons I am passionate about teaching. This lepto lecture I did is for technicians. It is not meant for, nor is it advertised for veterinarians. We’re only trying to get a lecture, given by a VTS (ECC), approved for technician credit.

Does this mean RACE believes that only veterinarians, and specialty veterinarians at that, are knowledgeable enough to have a lecture sail through the approval process? I am not trying to replace the knowledge and experience of a veterinarian. I have learned an enormous amount from veterinarians. They are smart people who went to a lot of school to do what they do. But they don’t do what I do. I provide nursing care. I need to understand disease processes in a slightly different way, and how that disease actually looks in the patient in front of me. I need to understand not only the drug I’m giving and what it does, but how to give that drug. And side effects to watch for. And what to immediately do if something happens. I am a veterinary technician and my job is different than a veterinarian and I want to learn from other veterinary technicians.

I will continue to attend and view lectures given by veterinarians. I will continue to ask questions and learn from veterinarians. It is a medical team and I cannot do my job without them. But my job is different. Why doesn’t a national continuing education accrediting body, run by veterinarians, see that? Why, in 2014 with specialties and licensing and awesome technicians in the world do I have to prove myself above and beyond what a veterinary specialist has to do in order to educate my peers?

This is the reason I am fighting so hard to require school for licensing technicians. Because this is a profession. And in order to get the respect that we all deserve, we need to prove that we’ve earned it. We prove that with education, with licensing, with continuing education, and with the tenacity required to fight against those who don’t think we deserve it. RESPECT.

UPDATE: Hey everyone, it's Monday morning, three days after this blog was posted, and we just received an email from RACE that my Leptospirosis talk was approved! Hooray! Coincidence? I don't know, but it sure feels good to hear so much support from all of you on this issue. I have been in touch with Julie Legred, the Executive Director of NAVTA, and Charlotte Waack, VSPN Director and VSPN CE Interim Director (VSPN is experiencing similar inconsistencies with RACE approval for anyone who is not a specialist veterinarian, just like us) and we have plans to meet up soon and talk about our next steps. Technicians working together to move our profession forward! This further highlights how important it is to GET INVOLVED. Join your state technician association and join NAVTA. It's going to take technicians and veterinary professionals working together to make change happen.