Nurses are essential members of the medical community. While it is easy to think of nurses in the traditional health care setting – administering to adults and children in need – nursing disciplines extend beyond human health care. Veterinary technicians, who are petitioning to change their title to veterinary nurses, care for animals in much the same way that nurses care for people.
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America has initiated a conversation about changing the title of veterinary technicians to ‘veterinary nurse’ and establishing a national licensure process similar to that used for registered nurses. As of 2018, 12 states did not specify duties that veterinary technicians can perform. Many states certify, register or license vet techs, while others do not recognize them at all. This can make it challenging for veterinary technicians, who are highly educated, credentialed and skilled, to find consistent work and earn the recognition they deserve. According to Ginny Nystrom, president of the Tennessee Veterinary Technicians Association, vet techs “dedicate themselves to assisting animals and society by providing care and service for animals, alleviating suffering, and promoting public health.” Nystrom attests that vet techs are to animals what traditional nurses are to people.
The animal welfare resource Vetstreet says that vet techs play a vital role in the well-being of pets. Vet techs’ responsibilities vary, and their responsibilities require dedication and compassion. Vet techs can draw blood, place catheters, assist in surgery, manage anesthesia, and administer medications. Vet techs are not allowed to prescribe medications, make diagnoses or perform surgeries.
Vet techs work in private veterinary offices, animal hospitals, zoos, and labs. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for veterinary nurses was expected to increase by 52 percent between the years 2010 and 2020.
Vet techs require the right educational background and credentials. Credentials vary depending on where a person lives, but generally speaking a candidate must be 18 years of age or older. One typically enrolls in an accredited veterinary technology training program recognized and approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Vet techs may be required to pass an exam before they can work. On-the-job volunteer hours can additionally provide a potential vet tech with invaluable experience and also may be a component of licensure.