Veterinary technicians are trained caregivers who fill a role in veterinary medicine similar to the role of nurses in human medicine. National Veterinary Technician Week (October 14-20, 2018) is a good time to talk about what veterinary technicians do.
Veterinary technicians don’t just hold animals during examinations. In fact, holding is usually the job of another group of staff, the veterinary assistants. Veterinary technicians collect samples (like blood and urine) for testing, perform laboratory procedures, obtain radiographs, prepare patients and equipment for surgery, and monitor patients under anesthesia. They place intravenous catheters, administer medication, provide nursing care, and educate pet owners. Veterinarians diagnose disease and prescribe treatment; technicians (like nurses in human hospitals) implement the treatment plan.
I asked the Mallard Creek technicians what they consider the best part of their job. They said they really like seeing sick patients they’ve been nursing get well, ready to go home to their owners. Watching family pets grow up is definitely a perk of primary care practice, but they all mentioned that the job is more than playing with puppies and kittens!
Caring for sick and injured animals is tough work, often emotionally draining. Technicians are on the front lines taking care of ill animals that would usually rather be anywhere else.
Most veterinary technicians in the United States work in private animal hospitals. Some specialize in certain types of practice, such as equine or emergency medicine. Veterinary technicians also work for research institutions, veterinary schools, zoos, diagnostic laboratories, animal shelters, pharmaceutical companies, feed companies, veterinary supply companies, government agencies, and the military.
Veterinary technicians go through a 2- or 4-year course of study after high school, taking classes in subjects such as anatomy, animal diseases, dental procedures, nutrition, parasitology, and laboratory techniques. Their training covers multiple animal species. North Carolina has 4 accredited veterinary technician programs: Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (Asheville), Central Carolina Community College (Sanford), Gaston College (Dallas), and Miller-Motte College (Raleigh).
To earn licensure, veterinary technicians must pass a national licensing examination. Technicians licensed in North Carolina must also pass a state examination based on the NC Veterinary Practice Act. To maintain licensure, veterinary technicians attend continuing education classes. North Carolina requires 12 hours of continuing education every 2 years for veterinary technicians.
If you’d like to learn more about veterinary technicians, see the AVMA web page about veterinary technicians and assistants and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America website.
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM