When you take your pet to a veterinary clinic have you ever paid attention to the titles of the staff who are helping you? If you are like the majority of clients I have experienced you haven’t. Most of the time, you barely remember our names, unless you think we did something amazing, or wrong, and that’s ok too. We don’t work with animals to earn recognition and accolades (although that would be nice). That nametag is important though, and I’m about to explain why.
First, lets go over the classifications of Veterinary Staff, and what the titles mean. We’ll start at the front of the house.
- Receptionist: This person is usually only trained to work up front in an office capacity. They can answer some basic questions, but probably don’t have the experience that people in the back of the clinic do. There are exceptions, some receptionists are also cross trained for the back, some are technicians who can’t work in the back anymore, but they aren’t usually people with a lot of clinical experience.
- Office Manager: This person is in charge of running the office activities usually to include hiring and firing, scheduling, ordering, and handling client concerns. This person ideally has been a veterinary technician, and can perform all the functions of the clinic if needed. Usually, in my experience, that is not the case.
- Assistant: There are now all kinds of assistants thanks to online programs and vocational schools. An assistant usually has limited experience and training. They may have been professionally trained to perform blood draws, husbandry, and minor nursing procedures. Many clinics hires assistants as people who have applied with no experience.
- Veterinary Technician: This is where it gets hairy. Veterinary Technicians should have extensive training and experience in handling and care of all types of patients. Technicians perform all aspects of clinic work, including dental procedures, anesthesia induction and monitoring, bandage care, surgical assisting, and whatever else may be asked of them. The title Veterinary Technician does not mean that they have completed any kind of education and are not required to fulfill any further education requirements, although many of them do attend seminars and educational classes. They also have no regulatory board and cannot be penalized for their actions by a Veterinary Board unless they cross the line of pretending to be a Veterinarian.
- CVT, RVT, LVT, AHT – These titles, Certified Veterinary Technician, Registered Veterinary Technician, Licensed Veterinary Technician, and Animal Health Technician are people who have completed an American Veterinary Medical Association 2 or 4 year course of study in Veterinary Technology (in the case of AHT, military training). These people have had at least two years of college level education in medical care of animals. This education includes ethical care of animals, proper and humane methods of handling animals, behavior, Advanced Nursing skills, Anesthesia management, pain management, phlebotomy, dentistry, anatomy, and office skills. These people are licensed through a national agency and state agencies with their respective Veterinary Boards. Not all states have licensure programs, and some are moving towards licensing similar to Registered Nurses. These people are required to maintain professional standards and can be stripped of titles and penalized legally where allowed. There are even specialties in the field of Veterinary Technology and many technicians are extremely knowledgeable in clinical procedures and ailments of pets. Any person who is not a Doctor of Veterinary of Medicine is not allowed to prescribe prescription medications without Veterinarian approval, they cannot perform surgery (ever. Not even in the presence of a Veterinarian), and cannot diagnose or prognose without a licensed Veterinarian directing these actions.
- Kennel Tech: Cares for pets in the kennels. May give medications, may assist in the clinic. Usually this is a limited and part time job.
The importance of these titles is that your pet’s well being is at stake, and you are trusting that the people caring for your pets are professionals. This is not always true. Veterinarians, especially in Florida where there are no laws about who can care for your pets often hire new assistants and train them. Some of those assistants turn into amazing technicians, but there is a steep and short learning curve that often involves your pets health and the person quitting in the first year.
Recently, here in Central Florida, there was a news report that showed an employee in a Veterinary Clinic beat a small dog against a wall repeatedly by swinging it from a leash. That is never acceptable, and shouldn’t be happening, ever. I’ve wanted to throw little dogs across the room before, but I didn’t. I’ve been bit, but I didn’t knock the animal into tomorrow though I felt like I wanted to, I’ve handled a thousand little bad dogs, and NEVER have I helicoptered and beat one against a wall. Nor would I, nor would anyone with any kind of professional experience. Many times vet techs have to handle aggressive little dogs, and there are plenty of ways to do it, some take longer than others, and all put the employees and pets safety first. I don’t know if this was a certified tech that did this, and I don’t really care. It should have never happened, and it is never acceptable. Had i lost my temper and done this I would have quit immediately and found a new profession.
You can see that report here: Be warned it’s graphic. WFTV NEWS
Next time you make a visit to your Veterinarian take a look at who is performing your procedures. Ask about credentials, ask to have things done in the room, and if you don’t like how things have gone don’t go back. There are plenty of great clinics out there with educated and caring staff. In my mind, a Veterinarian who has hired licensed Techs is more committed to providing excellent care for your pets by investing in educated and committed staff.
For further information on Veterinary Technicians and why they are important:
- American Veterinary Medical Association: AVMA Position on Veterinary Technicians
- North American Veterinary Technician Association
For information on restraint and handling of aggressive dogs:
- Pointers In The Selection Of Your Veterinary Clinic (animalvetclinics.wordpress.com)
- Choosing The Best Veterinary Clinic Boarding For Your Most Loved Pets (animalvetclinics.wordpress.com)