The Vet Tech Licensing Debate

Posted: Jul 11, 2013
Views: 32929 - Comments: 47

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I’m a little fired up.

DISCLAIMER: Some of you might be offended by this blog. That is not my intention, but this is a touchy subject. I’m apologizing in advance. Please do not threaten my pets, my home, or anyone crazy enough to call me their friend. My family is tough though, they can take it.

Recently NAVTA posted this on their Facebook page

Many of us reside in a state that does not require mandatory credentialing. This can be very frustrating when we see the care of our patients diminishing or not what they should be because the roles of the veterinary healthcare team being utilized correctly or to their fullest potential. Sometimes this is due to the lack of awareness of how truly efficient a team can be if utilized correctly. Not hiring the individuals who are educated and credentialed for each specific role or position in the hospital can be a sore spot amongst team members of the hospital and can lower the quality of care each animal and client receive. Do the states with mandatory credentialing and recognition of the specific roles in the practice acts have more efficient teams? What are the thoughts of all of you in the various roles?

In less than 24 hours there are 86 comments and it has been shared and commented on outside of the NAVTA page. Whoa Nelly, there are some passionate comments. Here’s how I feel.

Our profession is at a critical junction. We have a certain number of old-guard veterinarians who are looking at salary costs over skill and education, and would rather constantly train off-the-street employees to restrain animals and administer vaccines. We will not change their minds. Then we have a large amount of middle-of-the-road veterinarians who have seen the studies on skilled veterinary technicians adding value and increasing efficiency. They want skilled technicians, but are still okay with hiring non-licensed veterinary assistants and putting them into the role of veterinary technician. Then we have a small group of veterinarians who understand the value of an AVMA-accredited veterinary technician program and the benefit of having educated, licensed/registered/ certified veterinary technicians fulfilling their role in hospitals. We need everyone in that last group. Everyone.

In my opinion, the biggest problem we face is within our own group. We are so mired in fighting amongst ourselves about the value of experience over education that we cannot focus on anything else. Let me say it right here. EXPERIENCE IS IMPORTANT. But experience is not everything. Education is vital, and it cannot be replaced by experience. Even years of experience. On-the-job training teaches the “how.” Education teaches the “why.” The why is what allows us as technicians to interpret clinical signs, understand disease processes, and anticipate changes in patients. Education is required, in many states, to obtain a license. I support that. Until we as a profession can support that, we will not move forward.

When I became the technician manager at DoveLewis we had a mixture of licensed technicians and unlicensed veterinary assistants performing the technician role in the hospital. I made it a goal of mine to only have licensed technicians filling those roles. Some of those unlicensed people were very, very talented, but I set the expectation (and thankfully had the full support of the management and DVMs) that they needed to get licensed. At that time Oregon had a grandfather clause and those talented people had to study and pass the VTNE to keep working in that role. When the recession hit and we needed to do forced layoffs (a terrible, terrible time that I hated every second of) the decision of who to lay off was made by CVT vs. not. When someone had to leave, for any reason, they were only replaced by a licensed/certified/registered technician. I mentored a couple people through the VTNE study process and they had time limits set. If they could not get licensed by a certain date, they knew they would not be able to work as a technician at DoveLewis. Harsh? You might think so, but now we have a technician staff of over 20. All of them CVTs. I am immensely proud of that, and of our commitment to education and to patient care.

This needs to happen everywhere. DVMs need to see the value of licensing technicians, and until we can see that ourselves it’s not going to happen. We want our pay to equal our talent and our work. That is not going to happen if doctors are allowed to hire off-the-street and train entirely on-the-job. We want respect from doctors and clients. That isn’t going to happen until we can agree what a technician is and what they are allowed to do. And then educate the public about it.

Every experienced technician who looks down on a new grad because they have education and no experience is pushing our profession backwards. Every on-the-job-trained technician who refuses to admit the benefit of mandated licensing is pushing our profession backwards. We need to stop fighting with each other and start fighting the state laws that don’t care about our knowledge.

We can do this by joining state and national organizations and start looking to standardizing what we are called (CVT, LVT, RVT, what?), what is required for us to get there (AVMA accredited program, grandfather clause, VTNE, state exam?) and what is required for us to keep that title (mandatory continuing education, standard in all medical professions). While doing this, we educate the public on the difference between a veterinary technician and a veterinary assistant and give them the knowledge to ask which one will be monitoring anesthesia on their pet. Is this going to be tough on all of those technicians with experience but who are not licensed? You bet. But it has to be done. No one is saying your experience doesn’t mean anything. I’m saying that for the progression of veterinary technicians your experience can’t mean as much as state certification. You can, and probably do, hate me for that. But we’ve got to think big picture here.

Before you judge me too harshly, I went to a four-year Veterinary Technology program. I put in the time. But I know and work with some amazingly smarty-pants technicians who worked for years, and then put in the work at an online program in order to get licensed. I know techs who studied and took the VTNE many years after starting in practice. We all need to do what we can to get licensed, or demand that the states we live and work in require licensing. That’s when we can start demanding respect and the pay to match. I love what I do and the people who work so hard to provide amazing patient care and want to see the best for the future of our profession. Who’s with me?



Liz Hughston's picture

I am 100% with you Megan! And thank you for stating the argument for licensure more eloquently than I ever could. We need to unite as a profession, stop fighting with each other, and start fighting FOR each other. Experience is crucial: every specialty academy requires YEARS of on-the-job experience before a technician can even apply. And I'm the first to admit that there are assistants where I work whose skills far surpass mine. But the education and license has to be there to back up the experience.

Let's put the example in the pediatrics unit at a human hospital. Imagine Susie, right out of high school, gets a job there cleaning the floors, emptying the garbage, doing laundry, etc. because "she loves kids". After 6 months or so of hard work, the head nurse of the unit asks Susie to start restraining babies for procedures, taking temperatures, recording vital signs, etc. Susie does a good job at that, so after another 6 months, the head nurse says, "Wow Susie, you've really improved and we value your skills. We're going to make you a nurse. Here's your new nametag."

Crazy, right? Would you trust your baby to an unregistered, unlicensed, uneducated individual? Why should our pets receive a lower standard of care.

Just my two cents. Thanks for opening up the discussion.

Sara Gowan's picture

I am in total agreement with you. I think Liz summed it up nicely. The statement you said, "We want our pay to equal our talent and our work. That is not going to happen if doctors are allowed to hire off-the-street and train entirely on-the-job." is probably the top reason why I am so passionate about everyone on equal ground. It is embarrassing how much less (1/2 or more than half) what we get paid than an RN.

Chantal Faraudo's picture

Megan, you are my hero. Well written, I couldn't agree more with you. Having been an RN, I watched the nursing profession struggle through similar growing pains. I think that until we have our own governing body and board who oversees our profession, not veterinarians, there will always be this struggle. RN's are not governed by Doctors, they have their own Registered Nursing Board. We as Technicians, need our own Registered Technician Board to set the standards and requirements to meet, just like the Specialty Academies have done. Thank you for writing this. I too am very passionate about this subject and have seen people get in hot debates over this. But it only makes sense, that the education has to back up the title or the title starts to mean less. I am very proud to be a CVT and feel that the general public has no idea of the scope of skills and practice that we do in our jobs. And at he risk of making RN's angry, our scope of knowledge and skills goes way beyond the RN, yet they get paid so much more and their title is respected more. People just don't understand all we do and the knowledge we have. Let's change that!

Elise  Ritter's picture

Very well stated, Megan. I worked as a veterinary assistant for 3 years after completing a 1 year veterinary assisting program at a local community college. The reason I chose to go back to school to gain my technician degree is that my employer wished to promote me to that role. I agreed that I would like to someday take on that role, but disagreed that I was ready for it simply based on job experience. I personally proposed the condition that I would take on the job title of technician only if the practice would support my decision to gain my degree and credentials. I learned so many of those little (and big) "why?" things that I would never have imagined existed! Throughout the process, I can only hope that I have helped the practice owner and manager to understand the value of having only credentialed technicians filling the role of veterinary technicians.

Morgan VanFleet's picture

I have to say that I agree fully, especially after working with vets in group number two. I've had frank conversations with those vets, and they agree that if they had a well educated, well trained LVT/CVT/RVT they would be much happier, and probably also providing better care, and thus generating more revenue. Some of those vets are pushing for licensure for their OTJ trained staff, which is progress!
It goes beyond that for me, though. We need unity and cohesion in our profession if we want the respect that so many of us demand. We need to push others, gently and with compassion, to demand licensed technical staff for their practices and patients. Only then will we see our profession progress. Clients must be able to trust technicians, and licensure helps validate that trust to some degree. While experience is crucial for a strong technician, licensure bands us all together as an identifiable group for clients. And like Megan says-we have to stop the infighting and make sure we work together. If a person wants to function solely in the role of an assistant-more power to them! Give them clear boundaries for their scope of practice, and utilize them to the fullest degree (Dove does a GREAT job of this!) without putting pressure on them to operate outside of that scope. If an individual truly wants to work as a technician, we need to make sure we do everything in our power to support our coworkers pursing a license.

Ron  Morgan's picture

Great job Megan on this post! I am really proud of you and of course of all of what you have done to advance this aspect of Dove. It is something I believe strongly in and you've been the champion of this all along.

Monica Maxwell's picture

You are absolutely correct Megan - education and credentialing is critical to the long term professional growth of the technician position. It is the natural progression of any profession - one that human nurses went through many, many years ago. If we want to advance the profession (including advancing pay) mandating credentialing is the path to follow. It is a long road, but it is important to so many aspects of the veterinary profession.

Pamela Maurer RVT, MBA, MSc IHRM's picture

Nicely put Megan. I have one thing to add. Not only do we need to educate the public as to the difference between a technician and an assistant, we need to educate the veterinary community itself. You rightly say, "DVMs need to see the value of licensing technicians, and until we can see that ourselves it's not going to happen." In some ways, it is even more important we educate those within our own community, as it is ourselves that is blocking our ability to grow into a very awesome industry, well respected by everyone.

Jessie Merritt's picture

This is an incredibly complex topic nationally and locally here in Portland. Megan, I couldn't agree more that there is a lack of focus and cohesion among technicians that works against the profession and there is a lack of appreciation for the value a CVT can bring to a practice. I talk to fellow managers across the country and one common theme we all share is a lack of licensed technicians to choose from when hiring and that helps perpetuate the dynamic of placing an assistant in way over their head. I also see excellent CVT's leaving the profession for positions with higher compensation or less stress. There is a shift coming in the profession and it is riding in on young DVM's who demand to be leveraged with skilled licensed technicians and who won't accept the traditions of the past (that statement should take some of the heat off of you and put it on me).
This profession is filled with amazing, talented, compassionate and dedicated people, but organizing "ourselves" has never been our strong suite.
We also cannot overlook what the market will tolerate in fees (especially for the private practice owner with less purchasing power)because that is also a direct factor in team compensation.
There is nothing simple about this topic but dialogue is an excellent start.

Christina Tran's picture

Well said, Megan. I couldn't agree with you more. I've shared this with my colleagues at Purdue and Portland Community College.

Jennifer Atkinson's picture

Texas is a state that has just passed a bill to try to move this forward, and I agree with your points, however I think that fighting for each other in the profession includes not holding ourselves above anyone else for having education behind our experience. There are a lot of comparisons happening, not necessarily in this comment thread, but amongst new RVTs in Texas that are presenting a lack of education with a decrease in care standards. This fires me up, and is an insult to non-certified technicians that love what they do, and care about knowing the why behind things. If we are fighting for each other, this should stop. Credentials don't make the person, so be mindful of the judgment. I work with incredible and extremely passionate, compassionate, intelligent technicians that are not all registered, and I have seen and worked with registered technicians that frighten me. I just ask that while pushing for respect those with credentials don't get so busy talking themselves up that they end up putting others down.

Megan Brashear's picture

I am so happy to see so much passion, and thank you all for your comments. This issue is multifactorial and does include lots of different elements, teams, opportunity, public education, development of more tech schools, it gets overwhelming to think about it. Education is more than just tech school and is ongoing throughout our careers. Again, I don't want this to be tech school vs. not, but is is licensed/certified/registered vs. not. We need to work to get standardized laws for licensing and push the profession forward that way. As Monica said, education is a vital part of that. We are ALL a team of technicians and need to work together; this is going to be a long battle.

Amanda McCray's picture

I am curious about what you think of people who have completed school from an AVMA program, but have not passed the VTNE. Can they still call them self a technician, or are they still an assistant? Should they be allowed to perform the same tasks as someone who is credentialed?

Megan Brashear's picture

Amanda, it's the license that needs to happen. I am a HUGE advocate of education but the profession moves forward with states requiring the same steps to get a nationally recognized license to practice as a veterinary technician. Until someone does that, they are not a technician. If someone goes to law school but doesn't pass the bar exam they are not allowed to practice as a lawyer. Nurses have a national exam, nursing school isn't enough. DVMs go through the same channels. We should expect the same of our profession.

Kyrie Smith's picture

I agree that all clinics should be encouraging their techs to get licensed. Working in Alaska, we have no physical school that offers a Vet Tech program - if you want to go to school you either leave state or take an online program. I took the time to study and passed the VTNE on my own, but no clinics up here require you be licensed to perform the roles of a "veterinary technician". I would love to enroll in an actual program to get the education side of things, but being someone who doesn't do great with online classes...I'm kind of in a frustrating spot. But I'm glad to see other people who feel the same way as I do :)

Amy Lacey's picture

Hey Megan, I agree! I was one of those kids trying to become a tech though OTJ training in Washington state. Being 17 at the time with no money for college, I thought it was a pretty cool thing. Well, just under the required amount of hours I moved to Oregon and it all went to the wayside. However, I am now in my undergrad for vet school and finally see that the WHY really does matter! You never could have convinced me before (because teenage girls know everything), but a decade later I am wishing I would have just gone to school in the first place. However, all of the knowledge I have absorbed through observation over the years is irreplaceable and will help me immensely in vet school so I can't say I regret anything. Also, being the one at the other end of the patient (ie, placing the IVC or drawing blood) made me that much better at restraining and knowing that a good assistant is the glue to good technical staff. If you have an assistant with attitude or that doesn't understand what needs to be done with the procedure your job is that much harder! I think it is always helpful to walk in another's shoes to help understand what needs to be done. It is very easy to feel like a glorified custodian when your an assistant, but I think assistants may very well have the most important job in the hospital. So if you are in the same boat as me, hang in there, even if they don't always show it your techs and doctors love you and would be lost without you.

Joelene  Morris's picture

I am with you 100%. I am always trying to make sure there are things done to differentiate between me...a RVT...and the assistants. I dont know where I would be without there help, but there needs to be some rules and regulations in my state (NM)that specify exactly what the RVT can do and assistats can not do. I have put in my time and hard work to go through school, not counting the time it took away from my family and pets,to take my national exam and state exam to be licensed...and held responsible for my actions. One good thing about NM is you DO have to go through school amd past your test, but then there is no backing for our hard work because assistants can do everyting a RVT can do. I think i may have just repeated myself and rambled a bit, but I got fired up and on my soapbox.

Christine Rincon's picture

Here here! Coming from a state (Florida) where my license pretty much means nothing. It is great to see this discussion is still alive!

Laura Harvey's picture

Can someone in the US please clarify things for me. Do you have to be registered (or licensed or certified) to call yourself a vet tech? Can you be uneducated and still be a vet tech, just not an RVT? It is all rather confusing and the NAVTA site and AAVSB site don't really clarify things unless you look at specific state requirements.

Lisa suski's picture

Laura it depends on the state, if credentials are required then no you can not call yourself a technician without them, they go by the assistant title. If you're in a state that doesn't required credentials they can call themselves technicians but not certified, registered or licensed. I think one of the movements should be all states get on the same page for our titles, I prefer LVT, but think RVT is better than CVT I feel like the certified just conveys I took a couple of classes rather than obtaining a degree (I'm a CVT, former LVT)

Debbie Bennett's picture

I am 100% behind you. I was fortunate to have an employer that believed in veterinary technicians (in the '70's). When I explained that I was going to tech school, the response was, "Great, when you graduate you have a job!". And when I did graduate, my pay started out close to minimum wage. Disappointing? Yes, but then that is where the hands-on experience (which I didn't have)came in. I knew the "why" behind what I was doing, and just beginning to learn the "how", so I understood that an increase in pay would come as I progressed into the RVT I am today. I too object to the person that calls themselves a "tech", and when I ask if they are an RVT, they respond with, "Well,no." I watch the techniques that are being performed and can quite honestly say that I am horrified with the lack of understanding in the procedures that they are doing.The so called "techs" are just following orders, and THAT is what is scarey! I can only imagine a doctor, after a long, difficult, overnight shift, telling one of the "techs" to give a dog 5ml of valium if they seizure, when they meant 5mg, and the "tech" saying "ok", without questioning the order. I have seen this too many times to mention. We do need to organize better as a unit, so we can be the professionals we were trained to be and do the job we love. I have been an RVT for over 35 years now and am still as passionate as I was when I started. Continuing education is needed!!

Sarah Attwaters's picture

I'm a little lost, is a Vet tech the same as an AHT?? Or our terms a little different up in Canada?

Debbie Bennett's picture

I am located in California. I started out as an AHT in the 70's and then the law was changed to Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT).

Tanya Crocker's picture

Sarah, yes a Vet Tech is the same an an Animal Health Technician (AHT), which is a Veterinary Technician (VT), which is a Veterinary Nurse ...add the Registered if you've passed the VTNE so RAHT, RVT. I'm also from Canada and in Ontario I became an RVT, in BC they call themselves RAHT's, although I keep the RVT as I like it better :). personally I think the best is Veterinary Nurse (British/Australian term) as people are more familiar with the nursing term. Either way I agree with Megan. I think schooling is extremely important. Not only are RVT's expected to be schooled but we must also show evidence of continuing education which non licensed people do not have to have.

Dana Musser's picture

I agree with Jennifer Atkinson. I'm noticing a theme in this discussion that is implying that technicians who are not registered are, therefore, uneducated. I have a B.S in Animal Science and have been a technician for almost 8 years, 5 of those years in an ER setting. I have not taken the VTNE yet, because in MD they make anybody who did not attend a vet tech program jump through hoops just to take the test. I am not registered so does this mean that I also do not know what I am doing with my patients, or WHY I am doing it? That's a ridiculous assessment. I've seen registered technicians who cannot even place a urinary catheter, but since they have RVT behind their name I'm supposed to trust them with my pet? On the flip side I've worked with technicians who have no formal education, but have enough experience that they are training doctors fresh out of veterinary school on how to place intracaths or how a code blue should run. Yet these people are unable to take the VTNE because they did not go to school for being a vet tech. I agree that licensing should become mandatory. However, I believe that the requirements to take the VTNE in order to get licensed are prohibitive to a lot of people and should be changed. Luckily in MD, I can take the VTNE without having attended a vet tech program because I have a bachelors. However, in a lot of states a bachelors is not enough. If I were to live in New York, for example, I would have to go back to school and get an associates in veterinary technology just to take the test. It shouldn't matter how the education is obtained, be that through a vet tech program, a bachelors degree in a related field, or through work experience. It should only matter that the education is, in fact, there.

Shawn Wilkes's picture

Dana, I am with y0u 100% in your comment. I have worked in ER veterinary medicine for 20+ years. I recently moved back to TN where my experience was just dismissed and I was demoted to a "Veterinary Assistant". I have a 4 year degree in Criminal Justice and actually work full time in that field. However, I have consistently worked in veterinary medicine all these years as well because of my love and dedication to the field. I am insulted often by others who look down on me just because RVT is beside their name. I have experience but with all these years of experience, I have obtain the education/knowledge to match.

Henry Struzik's picture

Thank you Jennifer Atkinson and Dana Musser! I have been working as an assistant for the past 8 years. I completely agree that in order for the profession to progress, there has to be some standardization which is why 8 years later, I am back in school to get my degree and earn my credentials. I feel like the main argument is often lost with "You need to know why" or stories about fatal errors "Assitants" made, etc. The real focus needs to be on moving our profession forward with the public being made aware of the critical role a technician plays in their pets care, pay that matches the professional level of our careers, and more recognition! Some of the examples I see in this debate can go either direction, I have seen the same critical errors made by assistants, LVT's, CVT's, and RVT's. I have always felt that a small part of the problem lies in the variety of credentials that are awarded by state. RN's are RN's across the board... they sit for the NCLEX, and then go through state licensing, but they are still an RN. Keep the VTNE the national standard of testing, let each state keep their credntialing processes, and give ONE title for credentialed technicians. I think Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) has a nice ring to it. ;-)

Christopher Newcomb's picture

I couldn't agree more with your position and I respect the dedication and passion you have to keep asking for more. Ironically I am not a certified vet tech and yet practice as one at our specialty hospital. My degree is in architecture as oppose to medicine but as many others I worked at my office while pursuing my degree. As an educated individual the value of a degree or license is critical. I have worked in veterinary medicine for well over 10 years and have experienced the benefits of hiring trained vs off-the-street. Unfortunately here in Miami, FL the value of trained CVT's in respect to hiring is still low. Veterinarians are often concerned with a budget and prefer to train in-house. Christine Rincon, who previously posted a comment for this blog, is one of our finest and understands my position. Again, it may be hypocritical to comment given I am not licensed, but I hope and wait for the CVT revolution to truly take flight and change the perception of the opposition.

Sarah Attwaters's picture

I do want to add my two cents. I agree fully that educated staff is far better then training off the street. In my position I took the TA course in Alberta several, several years ago. Being the first class in the province, no clinic had any idea what to do with me. Moving to BC I was thrust into a tech position with little more training then the seat of my pants. Knowing I hadn't really a clue what I was to do, I set my nose to the grindstone and went about learning everything I could, on my own. Everything from Idexx online seminars to buying books and learning my butt off. Eventually we ended up getting a "tech" and I use that term loosely because she didn't know a boy dog from a girl dog (You think I'm joking. She also though euthanasia was a country.) The Dr recognized what I could do and that I wasn't afraid to spend my time off learning, more then could be said for our "Tech". I mean I couldn't afford to leave work to go to school, so I brought training to myself. I think that if you aren't a tech but have the will to learn and to actually spend the time and energy to better yourself and your position you shouldn't be poo poo'd on because of it. But maybe that's just me, but I'm sure there's other people out there who have done the same.

Elizabeth  Row's picture

I agree completely with you Megan! It is depressing that we do the job of 20+ positions in human medicine (x-ray tech, surgical assistant, anesthesiologist, phlebotomist.. the list goes on and on), yet, paid like we are cheap labor most of the time :/ I work with many VERY skilled unlicensed vet "techs" with plenty of OTJ training, but again, they know the basics of why they are doing things or giving a medicine, but not the pathophysiology behind it. Our essential role of anticipation & being one step ahead of our doctors and patients is lost when someone doesn't truly understand a disease process. Even in CA, we have laws in place, but in smaller practices that I've worked in, unlicensed "techs" still do everything; from tooth extractions to inducing anesthesia. Not that they can't effectively perform those tasks, but it pretty much makes all the time/money/effort I put into acquiring my RVT license worthless. We made the same hourly rate, and it made me wonder why I even wasted my time? (I have since moved on to a much larger 24 hour ER clinic that actually abides by the law). If I was not so passionate about my profession, I would have moved on to something much less stressful with much higher pay already!! But we do need recognition, clients have no idea what an RVT/CVT/LVT is, and still would like to discuss (insert basic topic here) with a doctor.. even though we have gone over it until we are blue in the face, because they think we have no idea what we are talking about.

Juanita Good's picture

This is an old and on-going debate. I have worked in VA, CO and now NV as an LVT and CVT. I have worked in specialty medicine for the past 12 years. VA and NV have very structured systems for licensing and laws that govern the tasks performed. CO CVT's are governed by the CVT association, not the state. I really think to have more clout nationwide, we need to work on standardizing the requirements in each state. The human nursing profession went through this transition also. Maybe we can take some lessons from their process. I recently saw a bumper sticker that said the person was a member of the computer programers union....would unionizing help or hinder our profession? It may be a way to standardize everything. I am also mentoring one of my assistants on her pursuit of an LVT license. In NV, the student must first go through a VA program to be accepted in the LVT program. She is very capable and knowledgeable so I asked the head of the program if she could test out of the VA. He said she could. She reviewed the courses she would have to test out of and decide she should take the classes because there were a lot of details we never talk about at work (the gestation cycle of a pig for example). She will make a great technician and I am proud of her for accepting the challenge of the academic side of what we do. I will continue to promote licensing and help the staff around me respect and value what that can do for us as professionals.

Lisa suski's picture

Juanita not sure what part of NV you're in but they're not required to take a VA program before the LVT program, the for profit schools require that. CSN doesn't require much other than some pre-reqs & it's a great program

Megan Brashear's picture

I'm so excited to see so much continued discussion about this, and with so much support for each other and how we individually got to where we all are. There are many different paths to CVT/LVT/RVT and each of us has something to offer to others on their path. It's a new year, how many of you are members of NAVTA now? State associations? Get involved, keep talking, keep working hard, keep learning!

Peggy Heersema's picture

I work in a large (9 Veterinarian/10 technician) practice. All but one of our techs are LVTs. The unlicensed tech is very talented, we promoted and trained her over 10 years ago when LVTs were hard to come by. She does almost everything except anesthesia and dentals.
Another unlicensed tech we hired about 8 years ago had worked in 2 other practices where she has been allowed to do all the duties of a technician. She was a bit resentful at first because we did not let her do anesthesia or dentals. After a couple of years she decided to go to school and get her tech degree and become licensed. One day while she was in school she called me and thanked me for not letting her do anesthesia. She was learning it in school and was shocked at how much she didn't know. Now she is a very successful tech. I think if we had let her continue to do everything without a license she would not have gone to school.

Christine Fortin's picture

I agree!!! I'm looking forward to taking your class and learning as much as I can. I am with you!!

Joy Rhodes's picture

100% Behind your statement! If someone who is not licensed is working as a tech, there should be no issue in just getting licensed. If for anything, for yourself! Prove to yourself you are worth it!

Carolyn Loick's picture

A good article. You are more gracious with words than I. I tell the uncredendialed "there is a train coming down the track....complaining isn't going to stop the will either get on the train (credentialed) or you will be UNDER the train." We will legally regulate you so that all you are allowed to do is clean kennels & mop floors. If you want more....go to school! There are NO free rides in life. Want to be a doctor? Do you know of any doctprs who got their job simply by experience? No, they had to go to school first. It isn't only about experience. Like military bootcamp, school will weed out the less-qualified. I've met a few "grandfathered" credentialed techs & I am no longer in favor of grandfathering. Ir, it needs to be a more expansive process for them. My hope is that they will retire soon. (sorry, but some are illiterate but still were grandfathered). I'd like to see AAHA require an LVT in any clinic that wants to be accredited by them. And, like Dove, I will NEVER hire an uncredentialed as a "tech". They are legally assistants and need to work together to better themselves rather than to hijack my title. Also on my wish list is to vigorously prosecute Vets who all these assts to call themselves techs and perform "tech" tasks. Once Vets know they will be fined for consumer fraud (because essentially, that is what it is) I think honesty and ethics will increase. Sorry for the rant.

Ashley Wallace's picture

I would like to point out something I have not seen anyone discuss which is the veterinary schools.

Most vet schools require a certain number of hours working in a clinic and a letter of recommendation from a doctor. They do not specify if this role should be active or passive but most people take on a active role in a clinic in a technician position. As opposed to say just shadowing. Some schools will reject your application outright for not meeting minimum requirements.

I 100% believe we need certified veterinary technicians with schooling and experience. I say this as an uncertified person working under the title veterinary technician. I have no formal technician education.

I say this because I love the practice I work at and my bosses. I also know they have a huge technician turnover rate and I'm contributing to it.

I came to them for the experience I need to apply to vet school.

I'm a hard worker, compassionate, dedicated to learning but I'm leaving. They are happy for me and so supportive but I know they need someone just like me who is just as passionate about technician work and sees it as a profession not a stepping stone to elsewhere.

I obviously wasn't going to spend the time and money to become a CVT, get experience and leave again for vet school. Student debt is high enough! So I was very happy to find a clinic that would hire me without being a CVT, with only my experience in wildlife rehabilitation and knowing I had plans to leave. It's actually very hard to do these days as more and more clinics want the CVT.

So in my opinion the schools are placing an unfair burden on applicants if the field is not going to leave a space for them to gain experience. Most clinics are compassionate but many now have to look out for the clinic's needs and can't accomodate the needs of a student who has no intention of staying. They want qualified, long term employees and there's nothing wrong with that.

I believe the schools are a large part of holding the CVT profession back. I want dedicated CVT's there for my bosses. They shouldn't have to have this awful constant need for good people to work in the clinic. But the schools are having us use clinics as stop offs.

I agree the technicians need a board of their own to set national standards and provide a place for this role in the field to grow as a profession and for CVT's to get the compensation they deserve.

But I think if vet schools are going to continue to ask for active experience before applying, a role needs to be left open for those without certification in the clinic even if it means they have a different title and there are things they won't be able to do.

This would also be beneficial for those thinking of getting their CVT. Some people think this would be a great job for them but come to the clinic and realize its not for them at all. I think we need a place for those people as well.

I personally worried about going to school, learning from the books (I know there's simulation and hands on learning in school) and putting it all into practice later. I'm so happy to have been able to start in the clinic first and get a bird's eye view of everyone's role and hands on experience. I feel so much more confident in my decision to enter this field but also in my ability to become a doctor. I also think having been in this role I can better understand the needs and concerns of technicians when I become a doctor.

I would say to both parties certified and not, be kind to each other. We are all here for the same purpose to provide exemplary veterinary care. Education and experience go hand in hand. Neither is better or more important than the other. You'll find duds on both sides of the field, experienced techs who go through the motions and educated techs who can't put what they learned into practice.

I've seen both and one of the reasons I love this site is so I don't become that person. We should all be open to learning, asking questions or creating discussions and seeing other ways to think or do something and improving ourselves.

Sarah Allred's picture

This! I began working in a clinic for the exact same reason, and I agree with everything you've said. My application review following my rejection last cycle specifically stated that they wanted me to have more than the (hands on!) 600 hours clinical experience that I had when I applied. I think working in a hospital for a year and a half has really opened my eyes to the realities of small practice medicine, and for that I am extremely grateful and I know that it will make me a better vet, but I worry that my lack of schooling (I was trained OTJ) and desire to leave as soon as I can get into vet school is detrimental long-term to the hospitals where I've worked.

Deb Heisler's picture

I am an "older " "vet tech" that was trained many moons ago in practice, at that point and time, hospitals all around would hire non- certified "techs" ....yes I agree education is important, and while you can have many years of experience, I must do learn "education" on the job also...maybe not exactly the 2 year education that is required to get your license, but I must say the techs out of school turn to me frequently . I feel I have learned a lot in the 20 years that I have been a "tech".
I do my job well, and I work hard.
I have never thought about taking the test ( when you could- now you can't without the 2 year requirement) only because where I worked did not require me to be licensed.
I have only worked at 3 hospitals in those 20 years.
I am not sure that veterinary technicians will ever be on the same pay scale as human nurses, at least at this time in this world....don't get me wrong, our job of taking care of everyone's "Fur Babies" is as important as taking care of humans.... I do not want to offend anyone , I guess if I were to be pushed out of the "tech" world into the "assistant" or " other " .... I am not sure at this point what I would do...
This is just my opinion that I have accumulated in the last 20 years that I have spent in this profession.

Sarah Harris's picture

Thank you for your comments Deb. This is such an important and relevant topic. I agree with you that it is hard to imagine our field progressing to be at the same pay scale as human nursing, but it is certainly worth fighting for. I'm sure you have been witness to significant change over the last 20 years, and fully believe that the field will continue evolving. With that being said, we couldn't even dream of having this conversation if it wasn't for the hard work that employees like you have been doing over the years. You have shown the value and need for qualified individuals. Many of us who are passionate about this conversation do so to fight for things like a livable wage, better benefits, and more respect in the future. Those changes will help future veterinary nurses to find a way to have longevity in the field like you, but very few others, have been able to find. While we advocate for the future, I'm sure it is hard to be the non-credentialed voice in this conversation. I applaud your bravery and respect your hard earned knowledge and talent. It's important to know when advocating for change that it is not about who is better than the other but to advocate for stricter standards in the future for a job that we all know deserves the most trained, dedicated and talented workers.

Yaritza Gainsbrugh's picture

I am also an older "vet tech" and I see that no one is bringing the issue of money to the discussion. The reason why I have decided not to go to school to do a job I am already doing is thusly: Pay vs student debt. Who in their right mind would take on over 60k in student debt just to make LESS money than when they started because of loan payments? Even if it's only temporary. That is preposterous! I don't have the luxury of family or spouse to pay for my bills/tuition while I go to school. Thats called privilege. I don't believe the veterinary field will ever get anywhere near the pay human med gets so this will continue for sometime. If you are lucky enough to go to school debt free than great. I fear that this is where it's heading. Soon the only ppl that can get in this field will be people that can afford the student debt. I understand knowing the why is very important but please get off your high horse. Alot of you have a doctor complex. I still cant do anything without the doctors consent, direction and guidance. I see alot of privilege in these comments.

David White's picture

Hello all, I am hearing rumors that Florida may be requiring all technicians to be CVT by 2020. Has anyone else heard this and have thoughts on it? If they do implement that rule change, they would allow all non-CVT techs to take the VTNE like other states most likely, right? Thanks for reading and letting me know.

Sarah Harris's picture

Hi David. I’m sorry to say I’m not able to give you a clear answer. I tried to find information on what you are hearing, but didn’t have any luck. What I can tell you is that you are inquiring about a very hot topic in vet med and I suspect we could see some big changes in the next 3-5 years. As for your inquiry about a grandfather clause, it really depends on your licensing board. In Oregon, we did allow veterinary assistants to grandfather in, but only up to a certain date. I recommend joining your state technician association to inquire more information and stay informed on what lies ahead for Florida specifically.

Currently, there is a movement for national accreditation that has been started by NAVTA. This movement is called the Veterinary Nurse Initiative. Each state has their own guidelines on scope of practice, title protection, and requirements for obtaining licenses. The movement by NAVTA is to make this uniformed from state to state. You can find more information here:

Thanks for the great questions. Keep your eyes open for a upcoming blog discussing this further!