Veterinary technologists (sometimes referred to as veterinary nurses) perform many of the same duties that a nurse provides to a doctor in terms of performing medical tests and patient care. This is a career with excellent growth potential as increasing numbers of pet view their pets as members of their families and want them to receive the best care possible. Before you find out what Veterinary Nurse education requirements and training involve, let me first show you what the career entails.
To ensure excellence in care, many veterinarians employ veterinary technologists to assume an important support role. Most veterinary technologists work in private practice offices, although some may work within research facilities.
Specific Duties of Veterinary Technicians/Technologists:
- Take patient medical case histories and discuss pet’s condition with owners.
- Perform laboratory tests (taking blood samples and collecting urine specimens), as well as diagnose and treat various medical conditions in animals.
- Sterilize laboratory instruments and equipment.
- Assist veterinarians during surgery by handing needing instruments and monitoring the animal’s vital signs during the procedure.
- Handle and calm the animal during routine physical examinations.
- Assist in providing dental care (cleaning and extracting teeth)
- Take and develop X-rays and provide specialized nursing care (monitoring intravenous fluids, administering medication, applying bandages and dressing to wounded areas, etc.)
- Administer routine vaccinations. Veterinary Technologists may also have to euthanize seriously ill or injured animals.
- May supervise animal care technicians and office support staff.
- Work with pets of all types: cats, dogs, fish, birds, sheep, pigs, cattle, etc. Most veterinary technologists specialize in either small or large animal care.
- Veterinary technologists working in research facilities help researcher develop and implement such research projects as gene therapy and cloning.
Employment prospects for veterinary technologists are excellent with a growth rate anticipated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to be 36 percent through 2018. This represents a much faster than average rate of growth as compared with most other occupations. This growth can be attributed to the affluence of many pet owners who are willing to pay veterinary costs to ensure their continuing health. As the number of veterinarians grow to meet the rising demand from pet owners, so will the number of veterinary technologists that play an important supportive role.
Another factor attributing to growth of the veterinary technology field is the availability of surgical procedures for a wide variety of medical conditions, along with such veterinary services as preventative dental and chiropractic care. The increase in the number of boarding facilities, doggie day care, and animal shelters will also provide employment opportunities for veterinary technologists. The growing popularity of cats as pets for busy urban-ites will foster the growth of feline veterinary medicine.
Veterinary Nurse Education Requirements and Training
The majority of entrants to the field of veterinary technology possess a bachelor’s degree from a college that has been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Coursework includes biology, chemistry, pharmacology, and animal behavior. Courses are taught in both the laboratory and clinical settings using live animals.
There are currently about 172 veterinary technology programs located throughout the country that have received accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA). Graduation from an AMVA accredited school allows students to sit for the credentialing exam recognized in all states.
Visit the Web site of the AMVA to identify an accredited veterinary technology program in your area.
Upon graduation from an accredited program, most veterinary technologists participate in a period of on-the-job training under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian. This “apprenticeship” will include extensive hands-on training with diagnostic and medical equipment, along with client relations.
Most states require veterinary technologists to pass a credentialing exam upon graduating from an accredited program. Passing this exam provides assurance to both the veterinarian and clients that the technologist has the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the job successfully. The exam consists of an oral, written and practical component and is regulated b the State Board of Veterinary Examiners or relevant State agency. However, the majority of states utilize the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AASVB).
The exam is reciprocal in nature in that all states that utilize the test will accept the results.
Eligibility to sit for the VTNE:
1. Graduation from a veterinary technician or technology program that has been accredited by the AMVA.
2. Official transcript showing date of graduation from program to be sent directly by the school to the AASVB.
3. Government-issued photo ID (e.g. driver’s license or passport)
4. Four states (Alaska Delaware, Washington, and Wisconsin) may accept experience in lieu of education in determining eligibility to sit for the exam.
Applying to take the VTNE
1. Read the candidate handbook available on the AASVB Web site.
2. Complete the online application and pay the exam fee of $300. The fee is payable by certified check, money order or credit/debit card. You will need to create a “MyAASVB” account when first logging onto the site.
3. After completing the online application, you will then select your state to obtain further instructions and confirm your eligibility to sit for the VTNE.
4. Once your eligibility has been approved you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) email from Professional Examination Service (PES) which will explain how to schedule the date and time of your test with a Prometric test center.
Credentialing for research-jobs
Most employers prefer credentialing for those interested in working within a research facility. Credentialing may be obtained through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The AALAS focuses on three areas: animal husbandry; animal health and welfare and facility management.
Those wishing to receive certification through the AALS must first satisfy a combination of education and practical work experience before being eligible to sit for the exam. Work experience must have involved the health and well being, as well as maintenance of animals within a laboratory setting as defined by AALAS.
The lowest level of certification is the Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT). This certification is most appropriate for Veterinary Technicians with a high school diploma and one year experience or an associate’s degree and 6 months experience. Veterinary Technologists with a Bachelor’s degree may sit for the Level- 2 exam Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT). The highest level is the Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG). The AALAS exam increases in difficulty with each succeeding level, ranging from 2 hours with 120 multiple choice questions for the ALAT to 3 hours and 180 multiple choice questions or the LATG.
Eligibility to site for the LAT /LATG exam:
1. Bachelor’s degree along with one year experience for the LAT; bachelor’s degree with 3 years experience for the LATG exam.
2. Photocopy/fax of diploma; copy of school transcript; or official letter from program director that states your date of graduation and degree (associate’s or bachelor’s)
3. As per the AALAS, acceptable experience includes:
“The procurement, care, use, handling, and/or treatment of laboratory animals, surgical or necropsy activities, cage wash operations, clinical pathology laboratory duties, quality assurance and IACUC functions that relate to laboratory animal science, or the, direct supervision or training of personnel engaged in these same activities. Experience gained as part of an externship, internship, preceptorship, and fellowship in a “laboratory animal facility” will be counted hour for hour against experience requirements. However, experience gained as a volunteer or as a student in a classroom or laboratory course setting does not count as work experience.”
Applying to take the certification exams
1. Complete the online application available
2. Obtain signatures from each facility supervisor you claim to have worked for to date.
3. Copies all required documentation as noted above.
4. Exam fee payment which includes a $75. processing fee if you are not a member of AAALAS. Payment may be made by bank check, money order or credit/debit card. Exam fees:
Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT) $155
Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT) $205
Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG) $255
5. Mail or fax the completed application with exam fee and all appropriate documentation to the AALAS national office for processing:
Attention: Marti White
9190 Crestwyn Hills Dr
Memphis, TN 38125-8538
6. It will take approximately 40 to 6 week for your application to be processed by AALAS. If you are deemed eligible you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) email providing instructions in how to register for the test with a Prometric Test Center.
Median Veterinary Nurse salary ranges in select regional areas.
Los Angeles, CA
Boca Raton, FL
New York, NY
Figures as per Salary.com