Friday, December 31, 2010

It's a Brand New Day

Veterinary technology, as a profession, is growing rapidly and there have been some remarkable strides made in a relatively short period of time. Yet I still hear some of the same old, tired complaints about being overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated, etc. I am not saying that there aren't some unpleasant working situations out there but don't you think other professionals feel the same way from time to time? Enough already!

Complaints without action are useless. Are you part of the solution or adding to the problem? Do you keep yourself informed? Sometimes what you perceive as a problem is much more a result of not knowing the whole story. What sort of maturity level do we demonstrate to our colleagues when we do not invest the effort to continue with our own academic or professional education? This brings me to the subject of this blog: titles and professional identity.

There is quite the discussion in our industry about titles. Who should be called what, why and when. Folks, in case you haven't been paying attention the discussion is over. We have veterinary assistants, veterinary technicians and veterinarians. We are not nurses; this is a protected title restricted to the human medical profession. So...if you are a veterinary assistant you should be proud of your contribution to the health care team. Please do not pretend to be a technician but, instead, find your niche within your practice setting and excel!

If you are a credentialed technician then you should be proud of your license--you worked hard for it. You know a lot but you are not a junior veterinarian so be cognizant of the limits of your license. Choose to be a leader and mentor within your practice and remember to appreciate the veterinary assistants who make your life easier each and every day. And both technicians and assistants need to pay a lot more respect to the intense amount of work and financial burden required to become a veterinarian. Ultimately the responsibility for all that happens in the clinic rests on their them!

If you are a veterinarian reading this then, please, make sure you are up-to-date on what your practice act states regarding permissible tasks for assistants and technicians. It isn't cool to look the other way no matter how much confidence you have in your staff. We are, all of us, on the same team and our clients depend upon us to work together.

We must, regardless of where we fit within the veterinary health care team, learn to proudly articulate what it is that we contribute to our profession and to the communities within which we work. We must demonstrate the maturity of those who know who they are, what they can do and where they fit within the big picture.

In California this just got a little easier. Effective January 1, 2011, the title of veterinary technician will be the title of nurse has been for years. AB1980 states, among other things, that any person is prohibited from using the title "registered veterinary technician" or "veterinary technician" or any other "words, letters, or symbols" with the intent to represent that person as authorized to act as a registered veterinary technician, having met specific requirements established by California state law. Additionally, this new law places a credentialed veterinary technician on the veterinary medical board, making California the 17th state to have an RVT serving in a regulatory capacity.

This is such a huge step forward for the veterinary profession. The legislation to which I have referred did not just appear out of nowhere; it certainly did not make it through the legislative process without the hard work of technicians and veterinarians who cared enough to get involved. Change does not happen in a vacuum. Those who see a need and then do the work will be the ones who determine the future you find yourself in. At the dawn of this new year, will you make a commitment to yourself and to your profession? Imagine a better tomorrow and then get to work on it today.

May 2011 bring all those who work in veterinary medicine the great joy and fulfillment that this career promises. Happy New Year!

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Ripple in The Pond

“The goal is Veterinary Technology as a strong, united and proud profession which serves humanity through the care of animal populations worldwide” (Loghry, 2010). When you embarked on this career path were you thinking about serving humanity? Probably not. Most of us, myself included, just wanted to be close to the animals so off to school we went to learn what we thought we needed to get us to where we thought we wanted to go. Notice how I phrased that last sentence…yes, I did choose my words deliberately.

Veterinary medicine is constantly evolving. Veterinary technicians have come a long way in a very short time. We didn’t used to exist and now we are a force to be reckoned with. We have the capacity to use our knowledge, skills and abilities to change lives in ways both simple and profound. Hopefully, by now, you have started to realize that Veterinary Technology is a living entity. This profession to which some of us have devoted a lifetime and to which others of us only aspire, is made up of living, breathing human beings.

All those that went before us saw possibilities and then worked within productive teams to turn those possibilities into realities. It is these opportunities that so many take for granted today. Don't fall into that trap--take nothing for granted!What kind of possibilities can you envision? What kind of contribution will you make?

I just finished reading an article summarizing the results of research linking flea bites with chronic infections and possible birth defects in humans. Yes, I said humans. “But Bonnie”, you say incredulously…“our profession is about animal health. Why are you interested in what makes people sick?” Glad you asked!

Bartonella henselae is a bacteria transmitted to cats by fleas. Recently Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of internal medicine in the Department of Clinical Sciences at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has discovered cases of children and adults with chronic, blood-borne Bartonella infections–from strains of this same bacteria transmitted to cats and dogs by fleas and other insects (Breitschwerdt, 2010). Flea prevention just entered a whole different realm of importance didn't it?

People interact with animals on a daily basis in so many different ways. Dr. Breitschwerdt’s work is just one example of a connection you may not have thought of; there are hundreds more. This is some pretty heady stuff, don’t you think?

So here is one possibility I see: using my knowledge, skills and ability as a Veterinary Technician to promote and protect the health of my animal patients AND the health of my fellow human beings as well. And what do I need to do to accomplish this? Simply keep learning and go to work every day, never forgetting that even in the smallest veterinary hospital in the tiniest town there are people that need veterinary technicians.

Yes, indeed, veterinary technology IS a profession dedicated to serving humanity through the care of animal populations. I recommend you access the Veterinary Technicians Code of Ethics and read it carefully as we begin to discuss more about future trends in Veterinary Technology and the power we all have within us to be a force for positive change.

Breitschwerdt, E. (2010) Research Links Flea Bites with Possible Bacterially Induced Birth Defects. Retrieved from 9/5/2010
Loghry, B. (2010) Teamwork. Retrieved from 9/5/2010
Veterinary Technicians Code of Ethics, 2007. National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America. Retrieved from 9/5/2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I would like to diverge, for a moment, from my discussion on the history of veterinary technology and discuss the concept of teamwork. What is teamwork, really, and why is it important? And, in keeping with the focus of this blog, what does it have to do with veterinary technology in the 21st century?

The following is an excerpt from the NDT Resource Center :

Teamwork is defined in Webster’s New World Dictionary as “a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group.” This does not mean that the individual is no longer important; however, it does mean that effective and efficient teamwork goes beyond individual accomplishments. The most effective teamwork is produced when all the individuals involved harmonize their contributions and work towards a common goal. (“Teamwork”, para.1)

Sometimes my students don’t understand when I harp on the concept of teamwork. Sometimes I see confusion in their eyes when they hear me tell them that just showing up is not enough. I know they drive a long way, rearrange their schedules, do their homework…I know how hard they work but more is still required. Teamwork requires a lot of heart; it requires accepting that you may not always see the results of your actions right away and it requires belief in the common goal. In reading about the history of veterinary technology it is easy to see we would not even have this profession without that kind of faith in what could be.

Where ever you see a veterinary technician you are actually seeing the hundreds of people who had a hand in getting that individual to their goal. The educators, the association members, the classmates, the family members, the mentors, the textbook authors…those who may have helped process some random piece of paperwork or somebody who bought lunch after a long day of field work. All these people, and more, worked in some way, on that person’s behalf, toward the common goal of creating a licensed technician. Each one of those people set aside their own personal needs of the day to unite with others and “harmonize their contributions”.

Being part of team is NOT the same as being a member of a group. The key to the difference lies in the ability to recognize and support a clear, common goal. Team members are unified, behave collaboratively (as opposed to individually), have high standards and support their leaders. It takes time and effort to turn a group into a team. Team members care about and support each other even when they don’t like each other. Team members do not hold themselves as superior to anyone, rather each recognizes the strengths and weaknesses present in the team and then seek to weave those strengths and weaknesses together to form a strong fabric of excellence.

So what is the common goal, the excellence that all veterinary team members should strive for? That goal is Veterinary Technology as a strong, united and proud profession which serves humanity through the care of animal populations worldwide.

I was asked recently what stimulated my interest in so many of the new career trends of the 21st century. My answer is simply this: I see nothing but possibilities for veterinary technicians. I see the possibility through shelter medicine, food safety, education, research and public health, to name just a few, that technicians can make this world a better place.

I will end by quoting one of the greatest individuals who ever graced the planet because I think that maybe Mahatma Gandhi actually defined teamwork better than anyone ever could when he urged us to “be the change we want to see in the world”.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Short History of Veterinary Technology

I spoke last time about the need to understand where we have been before we can chart a true course for where we want to go. Learning the evolution of veterinary technology helps us to get a more realistic perspective on the issues we face today.

It was in England in 1908 that the first organized effort to train veterinary assistants was made by the Canine Nurses Institute. Fifty-two years later the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) instituted certification of three different levels of animal technicians working in research institution. During the 60s the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the US Army, Ralston Purina and the State University of New York (SUNY) all established training programs for animal technicians.

In 1967 the AVMA began the process of establishing the criteria for acceptable animal technician training programs and in 1972 the first accreditation procedures for animal technician programs was instituted under a standing committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Sadly, in 1965, the AVMA had decided that the term “veterinary” should not be used alongside the terms technician or assistant. It was felt at the time that there might be potential client confusion or competition from disreputable people. This decision definitely slowed the acceptance and utilization of technicians. Happily, the decision was reversed, although it took twenty-four years before the AVMA officially adopted the term veterinary technician.

The Committee on Accreditation for Training of Animal Technicians (CATAT) underwent a couple of name changes, the most significant being as result of the urging of Dr. Joe Gloyd who emphatically stated that you “train monkeys and EDUCATE people”. Thanks, Dr. Gloyd, for recognizing that words do matter. The committee is now titled: Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) and it is through their work that there is such a standard for veterinary education today.

In 1973 Michigan State University and Nebraska Technical colleges were the first two animal technician educational programs to receive accreditation by the AVMA. Today, 37 years later there are 169 AVMA accredited programs in veterinary technology, including 9 distance learning programs. Twenty programs offer bachelor degrees.

In 1981 the North American Veterinary Technician Association was formed; this organization represents all veterinary technicians and has grown into a powerful force in our profession. The name has been changed to National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and NAVTA works works closely with AVMA to protect, support and promote the profession of veterinary technology. Members of NAVTA serve on many AVMA committees including the CVTEA. NAVTA is also responsible for the development and credentialing of veterinary technician specialties.

This is just a short, VERY short, synopsis of some of the highlights of our profession. Stop and think for a minute…in less than 40 years the number of accredited schools has gone from 2 to 169. In just 30 years NAVTA has experienced a 500% increase in membership and has created a growing list of specialties in which the technician may find career advancement. It is now possible to obtain a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. The fearful stance of the AVMA has changed and technicians are now a vital part of veterinary medicine. We have gone from being animal care takers to credentialed specialists and the 21st century promises even greater strides.

There is so much more to report but I am going to stop now and urge you to do your own research. Learn about your chosen profession. Better yet, get involved! Join your local or state association and join NAVTA. Find your voice. Most of all, on those days when you feel “under-appreciated” think about the hard work and sacrifice of those veterinarians and technicians who pioneered the path you are now walking and remember to give them a silent nod of thanks. They earned it…now it’s your turn.

Next time: Some trends on the horizon…

The Dynamic History of Veterinary Technology and Nursing, Lukens, R., Walsh, D.
Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians, 6th Edition. McCurnin, D., Bassert, J.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Creating a Plan

As a vet tech educator I see so many students arriving on my doorstep wanting nothing else other than to "work with animals". They have stars in their eyes and want desperately to be pointed to the nearest veterinary hospital NOW! If you have worked in the profession for any length of time you know how much more to it there is.

To cultivate a long and meaningful career in any facet of veterinary technology you have to dig in, hang on and push yourself beyond your preconceived ideas--not to mention your comfort zone! I have listened to so many who had the dream of this career but not the drive or the stamina. I believe that veterinary technology is big enough for whatever you dream but no one is going to plan your career for you. And the first step is to educate yourself on the career itself.

You see, as a veterinary technician YOU are the one who will determine what your path is. YOU are the one who needs to be aware enough to recognize what makes you happy (or unhappy) in your work. YOU are the one who needs to continue to honestly assess your own skill level and knowledge base. YOU are the one who needs to continue to learn about the different aspects of the profession and the laws that govern it. In teaching my students the skills necessary to safely administer anesthesia I always tell them they need to formulate their plan before they ever even touch the animal . What is your plan for your career?

First things first order to know where we are going we ought to have a pretty decent understanding of where we have been. Next time I will be writing about the history of veterinary technology. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Welcome to my blog! I am a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) with thirty years (and counting) of experience. I hope to use this blog to enlighten, astound you but most importantly, to advance the profession that I love so much.