03 May Licensed Veterinary Technicians Respected – Yet Misunderstood
By Steve Dale, CABC
A survey by the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) confirms in short, clients have a high regard for credentialed veterinary technicians/nurses but really don’t know exactly what you do.
Most people (63 percent), according to the NAVC survey, indicated they don’t know that veterinary nurses and technicians are the animal equivalent of human registered nurses. I suggest the reality is that most credentialed technicians/nurses do lots more than most nurses. After all, nurses are rarely also dental technicians, administer anesthesia, work as X-Ray technicians, offer behavior or psychiatric advice and consult family members at end of life, obviously not to mention administering euthanasia.
Few respondents were aware of the national exam needed to attain license and/or the requirements of continuing education. Only 22 percent correctly identified two qualifications veterinary nurses/technicians must have to be credentialed. The survey didn’t ask if pet parents are even aware that technicians may – with further education – be specialized. One might suspect that number would fall way under 22 percent.
The vast majority (84 percent) of those questioned either somewhat agree or strongly agree that they trust of a veterinary nurse/technician is equivalent to a veterinarian. I wonder how many may even trust the nurse/technician more than the vet? That question wasn’t asked.
Just over half of the respondents (55 percent) feel better knowing that veterinary clinics include highly trained technicians/nurses. The problem is that in the real world this too often doesn’t happen, which clearly isn’t in the best interest of clients, their pets or the profession overall. The bottom line is that credentialed nurses/technicians are not only underpaid they are under-utilized. And for many individuals, the latter is more of an issue. As I’ve yet to meet a nurse/technician who joined the profession to get rich.
In December 2021 the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported, Preliminary results from a survey of veterinary technicians revealing that job satisfaction correlated with working directly with clients, feeling appreciated by their boss and co-workers, and years spent as a technician.
When it came to retention, veterinary technicians who planned to remain as a technician were more likely to have graduated from a four-year AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities–accredited program; to be accredited in more states; to have children at home; and to be overused. Veterinary technicians who did not plan to remain as a technician were more likely to have worked more places as a technician, to work more hours per week, to work at practices with more employees, and to be underused.
According to this AVMA survey, when it comes to veterinary technician utilization, 37 percent of survey respondents said they were sometimes or frequently asked to perform medical tasks by their supervisor that they were not qualified or trained to do. However, 59 percent said they were sometimes or frequently asked to perform tasks that a lower-level person could do, and 57 percent said there are medical tasks they are qualified or trained to do but are sometimes or frequently not asked to perform by their supervisor.
Simply put under-utilization is an issue and correlated not only with job satisfaction, but according to the NAVC study also correlates with best serving clients.
Confusing matters further regarding public perception and to some extent even within the industry is the recent NAVTA report which notes various technician titles are simply not understood.
Only 10 states have a clear definition of the title “veterinary technician” and restrict its use to people who have formal credentials in that state, according to a new report by the NAVTA.
“The veterinary technician profession has long been challenged by a lack of cohesion and standards in the United States,” says the NAVTA study. “As a result, the title of ‘Veterinary Technician’ is used inconsistently and, often times, incorrectly, and suffers from a lack of clarity and understanding, both within the veterinary world and among consumers.”
The report, entitled Title Protection for Veterinary Technicians is Needed and Desired, But Absent and Misunderstood in Most States, says veterinary practice acts in 29 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico lack restrictions on use of the title “veterinary technician.” Another 10 states limit who can use titles of “certified veterinary technician,” “licensed veterinary technician,” “licensed veterinary medical technician” or “registered veterinary technician,” but do not restrict use of the more general title of “veterinary technician.” You can see how even professionals are confused by the mash up of terminology and titles.
Going back to the NAVC survey, 82 percent of pet parents somewhat or strongly agree they feel better knowing that veterinary clinics include highly trained and experience veterinary nurses and technicians. Given what they know or think they know, clients do appreciate your efforts.
DVM 360, Survey Findings Striking Misconceptions Regarding Veterinary Technicians, March 29, 2022, https://www.dvm360.com/view/survey-finds-striking-misconceptions-surrounding-veterinary-technicians
Journal American Veterinary Medical Association, Survey finds underuse related to retention for veterinary technicians, December 8, 2021
NAVTA Survey and Report Confirm: Title Protection for “Veterinary Technician” Is Needed and Desired, But Absent and Misunderstood in Most States, published by National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, 2022. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/viewer.html?pdfurl=https%3A%2F%2Fd2vjg8vjbfxfu1.cloudfront.net%2Fapp%2Fuploads%2F20220222135054%2FNAVTA_Title-Protection_Whitepaper_final-1.pdf&clen=1072111&chunk=true