by Victoria DeMeo, LVT, ALAT
The alphabet soup of veterinary credentials, especially in the technician world, can be confusing for newbies to the field and the laypeople they serve. While veterinarians, the doctors, have a straight forward designation (DVM or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) with the exception of grads from the University of Pennsylvania who still study as the first veterinarians in pre Victorian Era Europe when medicine was simply medicine and the human and animal branches did not diverge. These doctors earn their Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris or VMD designations.
While the nurse equivalents are veterinary technicians, and are recognized as veterinary nurses in countries outside of North America there is no unifying terminology across the states and Canada. Even more confusing are the state requirements for credentialing, the title protections, credentialing transfers, and duties expected of these technicians. While the base title is veterinary technician it can have the licensed, registered, or certified designation before it depending on the state. For the most part the credentialing process is the same: practical learning as an apprenticeship of sorts or graduation from an AVMA accredited program, sitting for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (the VTNE or “the boards”), continued education and renewal of licensure/registration/certification. Some states vary the years between renewals, or the amounts of CE required, while others will waive the need for brick and mortar schooling if an adequate amount of on the job training is provided. Only two states do not require any hoops to become a veterinary technician (Utah and Connecticut) while Tennessee uses the LVMT credential (adding the word ‘medical’). However, only twelve states offer title protection after these professional goals are met. In Canada the designation is registered veterinary technicians but again credentialing depends on the province and is not compulsory. Veterinary Assistants are not legally regulated in the Americas although the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers a voluntary training so hiring managers can find vetted (haha) individuals.
While there are some legal variations to the duties of a veterinary technician, what they are not, are just nurses. In human medicine there are many roles that are split amongst trained individuals, possibly to avoid litigation should something go wrong because there is a clear figure for finger pointing. However, despite the availability of specialties for both veterinarians and veterinary technicians, there is not one type of patient being seen by both or one discipline. Yes, a vet can be more comfortable with oncology in swine, but there are also bovine, canine, feline, avian, and other types of patients. And for technicians while they might specialize in laboratory animal medicine, zoological medicine, or (hopefully soon) shelter medicine, they are still expected to act as pharmacy technicians, laboratory technicians, radiology technicians, surgical technicians, anesthesiologists, phlebotomists, midwives, morticians, dental hygienists, and more. What veterinary technicians are, undoubtedly, are individuals with multiple competencies and the ability to fluidly shift between sets of physiologies, anatomies, and behaviors to deliver quality care to their populations across a spectrum of human-animal bond understandings.