Vet tech guinea pig and child
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Credentialed veterinary technicians (depending on the state, referred to as CVR, LVT, RVT or AHT) can influence a clinic's success; many of the nuances of good medical practice and customer service rest with these women and men. They are often the front line of communication between you and the veterinarian.
If you thought all they do is restrain animals, you'll be cheered to understand how much they do beyond that. Technically, their work approximates what a nurse does in a physician's office, but nurses generally are assigned a specific task and don't do other work beyond that. Credentialed technicians get to talk to clients, do lab work, take x-rays, place IVs, handle animals, assist in surgery, and so on. Like nurses, they free up the doctor's time for medical work they cannot do. Using credentialed technicians wisely is a financial boon to a clinic, meaning the client saves money and the clinic is more likely to stay in business.
While veterinary assistants aren't required to have any education, technicians are. A credentialed technician has either an associate's degree or a four-year degree from a college program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and must pass a written examination given by the state in order to become certified. There are 22 universities that offer a four-year degree for veterinary technicians. Like veterinarians and nurses, credentialed technicians must take continuing education for as long as they wish to work in their field.
Credentialed technicians can specialize in one of 17 areas, which requires additional training and certification:
- clinical practice
- clinical practice (canine/feline; avian/exotic; production animal)
- diagnostic imaging
- emergency/critical care
- internal med (cardiology, neurology, oncology, large animal, small animal)
- laboratory animal
- physical rehabilitation
The most common specialties are anesthesia, emergency/critical care, and dentistry.
Although the details of what credentialed technicians can do differ by state, they cannot make a diagnosis or prognosis; prescribe medication; change a prescribed order of a licensed veterinarian; or practice surgery.
In some clinics, technicians talk to clients more than the veterinarian, and can help improve communication between the veterinarian and client by translating medicalese into laymen's terms. They can conduct physical examinations and notify the doctor of something ahead of time. They can place IVs and take radiographs. By doing so, they make work more efficient and save money for everyone. Some credentialed technicians also do scheduling, inventory management, and training; some make follow up calls the day after surgery and determine if the pet needs to be seen again that day. Some move into office management. Whatever it is they choose to do at work, it benefits you.
National Veterinary Technician Week is the third week of October. If you happen to be going to the clinic during that week, or even driving by it, it's a good time to bring notes of appreciation or baked goods to your favorite technicians.