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.


  1. Wow this is incredible!! "In less than 40 years the number of accredited schools has gone from 2 to 169 and in just 30 years NAVTA has experienced a 500% increase in membership".... This shows the continued importance of the profession. One important factor in the educational training is the depth and breadth of knowledge veterinary technicians possess. It goes way beyond fields like human nursing and medical technology!! Great blog Bonnie!!

  2. It's true, the licensed veterinary technician has experience in so many different areas than other professions such as anesthesia, radiology, nursing, surgical nursing, emergency medicine, parasitology, disease processes and prevention to name just a few. This diversity of knowledge opens up so many possiblities for contributions to society than most other professions. We are advancing at such a fast pace that all technicians must pursue professional development or run the risk of being left behind. There is no time for "technician burnout"...there is too much to do!

  3. Hey Bonnie,

    WOW, I had no idea that this profession has sooo much history. It is crazy that the first veterinary assistant program began in 1908. They never tell you that in the history books. It is so sad that they did not even want Assistant or Technician taged on to Veterinary, because of confusion! That is just plain weird.

    Thank you for all that information. It makes me aware of just some of the amazing things that this career has gone through, and all the amazing things to come. I for sure will do tons of research!

    Sincerely, Devlynn Hooker

  4. Ms. Loghry,

    I had no idea that Veterinary Technicians had such a long illustrious past. Thanks for shedding light on some of the struggles that those before us had to contend with. Judging by the program offered at Yuba College we, the students are reaping the benefits of some insightful stubborn people that wouldn't take no for an answer. Bravo!

    Grateful to those before us,

  5. Ms. Loghry,
    This post was very interesting to me and to know that vet techs have been around for that long and to see the improvements being made to the field it just makes me want to learn about it twice as much! I'm enthralled by how many options there are available to people pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. Nice job on opening our eyes to such opportunities!
    Great Post,

  6. I had no idea about any of the history of Veterinary Technology. It was very interesting to read about that. I find it interesting that the AVMA did not want to deem the title Vetrinary Technicians from the beginning and originally called Vet Techs Animal Technicians. But, it is good that they eventually came around. The growth of the Vet Tech programs across the United States amazes me. To go from 2 to 169 programs in such a small time frame is great. I believe that many great things are still yet to come from Vet Techs and the programs that teach these individuals.
    Thank you so much for your knowledge and research.
    Alyssa McGriff

  7. Professor Loghry,

    I never really knew or understood that veterinary technicians had a history, such as the points that you stated. I mean I didn’t think that we all came from thin air, but maybe something more simple like a girl once had a love of horses and her father was a doctor and taught her everything he knew, making her his assistant. I know that it is farfetched, but for some reason I thought of it like that.
    To know that so many people fought in our times to make this profession known, and to label it the way that it deserves, makes me feel more proud that I too will be doing the same thing. It does make me nervous to think that the profession is growing so rapidly making it easily accessible to all. With the economic times that we are in and might face in the future, I am not sure that I want so many people following in the same path as I. Making it where the veterinary field could stop at a standstill financially as well.

    What are your thoughts?

    Jaclyn Pierce

  8. Bonnie!

    This is another interesting and educational post. I realize that the public isn't aware of veterinary technology as a profession; I know I wasn't for many years. However, I did not know that the profession itself was so new. It is great that we have people like you who can pass along the history of veterinary technology to all of us newbies!

    Becky Mundy

  9. Bonnie,
    I truly never thought to look into the history of how veterinary technology all began. I appreciate you introducing this information to us because it is very interesting to learn about the long road it has taken for this profession to boom. It is fascinating that accredited programs have jumped from 2 to 169 in such a short period of time! I look forward to seeing what this profession will lead to next, I still can’t comprehend just how many different paths a RVT can take in their life. When I had my first flicker of interest in this field I immediately thought of working in a small animal clinic. Now I have seen just how vast this profession has become and the possibilities of what you can do with your education seem endless!


  10. Dear Ms. Loghry,
    Your insight on every matter that you write about seem so accurate. I agree with you and Dr. Gloyd who changed the CVTEA name from what it was to what it is now. Training isn't necessarily a good name! I like the new name with "Education" as the main focus. It not only sounds politically correct, but sounds more formal and respectful.
    I definitely was shocked at how recent a lot of the work has been for the veterinary technicians. I had no idea and I am proud of those explorers who made it possible for us to be learning in the manner that we are in today. Thinking back forty years, veterinary technicians (or care takers, as they might have been called) were very motivated and driven individuals! I hope that I can bring something to this profession just as the early veterinary technicians did!
    Thanks again for sharing!
    Chelsea Bauman

  11. Bonnie,
    I never knew that the issue occured of obtaining the title vetrinary technician, and even more interesting was that it took 24 years if I recall! I am proud to say those people faught for a great profession name, eventhough it sounds so simple, i think it was a tough task to do and i respect that. I would like to get my Bachlors in Vet. Tech. too, I have been undecided previously, but the background and the work put into this profession has definatly caught my attention. Credit to you!

    Regan Maraviov (HAB)

  12. That small bit if Veterinarian History really is so interesting. It is funny cause there are two ways to look at: Gosh, Veterinarians have been around along time, or wow, Vet med. has only been around for 90 years. It is just amazing what has been learned, and even more what has been accomplished when people put their heads together and want to do something spectacular. 500% in a few decades that is so impressive, and going from 2-169 programs that really is awsome. People did that, people like us! What can we all do over the next 50 years, really the sky is the limit. So lets get to it. Wonderful blogs Bonnie (RVT).

  13. That is just mind blowing. I had no idea that they numbers were that low just 40 years ago. I didn't even know that this is somewhat a "new" profession. It's really refreshing to know that we, as a community, have come such a long way. I give that nod to those who have fought to get this far!

  14. I had always thought that the veterinary technician profession was a fairly new one, but I had no idea that it had such deep roots! I'm surprised that the first formal training for technicians was as far back as 1908, since the idea of certified technicians is quite a modern one. Thanks for the great information and background.

  15. This is a great blog posting and very useful. I really appreciate the research you put into it...
    I like this concept. I visited your blog for the first time and became your fan. Keep posting as I am going to read it everyday.
    Vet Tech Ohio

  16. With less than eight years experience the average veterinary technician salary is less than $25,000 while a veterinary technician with closer to 15 years of experience can expect to see upwards of $45,000 per year. Click here

  17. I agree with much of what you state in this article. Thanks for sharing Bonnie.
    Check this out too:
    Medisoft Medical Software

  18. You know your projects stand out of the herd.
    check this out