Roles and Duties of a Veterinary Technician

What are the roles and duties of a veterinary technician? Below, that is exactly what we will be looking into. We will be looking into what role a vet tech plays in a vet office after they have gained the required education and earned their state license.

Pet owners have an extremely high expectation about what veterinary practices should and can do to keep their pets healthy. Even with the recent economic hard times, there has been a growing demand for vet services in past years. In response to this growing demand, many practices are employing more and more skilled, experienced vet techs to provide professional support.

90% of veterinary technicians work for private vet offices. Because this is the primary place of employment, the assigned duties within a vet office are the ones we will be talking about primarily those duties.

A quick summary of a duties are performing routine tasks such as laboratory, clinical procedures and after care. All tasks are always performed under the supervision of the vet, who is ultimately responsible for everything the technician does. The easiest way to explain to anyone what a vet tech does is that they play the role of what a nurse plays to a doctor.

Every veterinary practice is different with the technician’s duties being varied and many. Here is a brief list of what a vet tech’s responsibilities could be:

  • Cutting the hair of the animals
  • Clipping nails and claws of the animals.
  • Training and mentoring new members of the vet tech team
  • Providing the ongoing care for any animals recovering from surgery and/or treatment.
  • Prescribing and administering medicines, vaccines, and treatments.
  • Maintaining a sterile and safe environment. This involves, but is not limited to cleaning out the mess left by animals in kennels, examination rooms and animal holding areas.
  • Providing advice to pet owners on their pet’s health or nutrition
  • Providing emergency first aid.
  • Vet techs also conduct a lot of lab work. This can include conducting blood tests, urine tests and feces tests. These tests enable the vet to diagnose animal illnesses.
  • Ensuring that all equipment in the office is properly maintained and sterilized.
  • Undertaking dental work such as cleaning, or extracting teeth.
  • Providing anesthesia to animals before surgery.
  • Using x-ray and other radiological equipment
  • Assisting the vet in physical examinations of animals. Such as: restraining animals when necessary, taking the temperature of animals, and providing vet with supplies.
  • Maintaining current and organized laboratory, research, and treatment records.
  • Prepping the animals ready for surgery, such as by shaving parts of the animal in preparation for treatment.
  • Preparing and labeling samples for laboratory testing.
  • Ensuring that instruments are sterilized and the examination rooms are clean and ready for use

As a veterinary technician, you’re not just limited to working in a veterinary office. For individuals who have completed the four year Bachelor of Science qualification, they can also work in colleges, universities and professional schools. These positions focus more on laboratory work and scientific analysis. This work involves, but is not limited to; taking blood and urine samples, cross checking records of animal histories, analyzing samples in laboratories by using microscopic equipment.

Private industries, such as pet food companies or pharmaceutical companies, frequently hire vet techs to do consultant work for them when developing new products.

There are also positions in scientific and research establishments, zoos and circuses, or animal welfare organizations.

There is an ever growing demand for veterinarians and veterinary technicians. The definition of what a vet tech does is a varied one that is guaranteed to grow in the coming years.

Distinction Between a Veterinary Assistant and a Veterinary Technician

Many people hear the terms veterinary assistant and veterinary technician and assume that they are interchangeable. This is incorrect. The two jobs are quite different, with different responsibilities and pay scales. This is because they require different levels of training and education.

A veterinary technician has much more schooling. Specifically, he or she has graduated from a two-year program of study that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

That’s not all. A vet tech is also licensed. You can’t get licensed without passing a state board examination. So not only have they graduated from an accredited program, they’ve demonstrated via licensing exam that they have mastered the material.

Veterinary assistants have a lot less training. Sometimes they have had some training in high school, or have completed a certificate program, but generally they only have on-the-job training from their employers. They don’t have any license, nor have they completed an accredited degree program.

Because of this, vet assistants’ job responsibilities are a lot more basic. They hold the animals during checkups, and also clean instruments and clinic areas like kennels and exam rooms. They also do some clerical work like filing or answering phones.

The veterinary technician, on the other hand, will complete much more complex tasks like giving x-rays to animals, administering vaccinations, assisting vets in surgery, collecting and analyzing samples, to name just a few.

You have probably correctly surmised that the two positions don’t have the same pay scale. Vet technicians make a good bit more money and have better job prospects. They can earn $15 or more per hour with a few years experience, whereas your average vet assistant only earns around $9-10 per hour.

If you want to work with animals as a long-range career path, you are far better off spending time becoming a veterinary technician. For those who just want perhaps part time or short term employment with little need for schooling, veterinary assistant is the better choice.

Your Career As a Veterinary Technician

A veterinary technician, also called an animal health technician, is trained to assist veterinarians. In some countries outside North America, vet technicians are called Veterinary Nurses, and there is ongoing controversy over the use of the term “nurse” in the veterinary sense. Nonetheless, the term “veterinary nurses” has grown unofficial acceptance among veterinary clientele because it is a description that they can relate to.

Vet techs need formal training and accreditation for the job due to the many technical demands of this profession. Technical skills needed by the veterinary technician include, among others, venipuncture, performing skin scrapings, doing radiology procedures, hematology, microbiology, urinalysis and serology.

Veterinary techs perform a variety of tasks, both clinical and technical, in veterinary clinics, research laboratories, animal shelters, and zoos. They assist veterinarians in doing physical examinations and help in determining causes of illness or injury. Tasks related to patient care include recording of temperature, pulse and respiration, dressing wounds, applying splints and other protective devices, and cleaning animals’ teeth. Administrative tasks include maintaining treatment records and conducting inventories of all pharmaceuticals, equipment and supplies.

Vet technicians also do minor procedures such as catheterizations, ear flushes, intravenous feedings and tube feedings. In surgery, they assist the veterinarian by providing anesthesia, providing the correct surgical equipment and instruments, and ensuring that the monitoring and support equipment are in good working condition.

Vet techs need to have the proper training and certification for the job. They need to complete a degree in veterinary technology, which can either be a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree. These degrees are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA also accredits schools that offer online or distance education. An important requirement for accreditation of these learning programs is the provision of on-the-job or volunteer hours at an animal clinic or similar facility.

After obtaining a degree in veterinary technology, the aspiring veterinary technicians need to pass credentialing examinations given by the state. In the United States, the credentialing examination, called the Veterinary Technical National Exam of VTNE, is administered either by a US licensing board, the state veterinary medical association, or by the state veterinary technical association. The title of the credential that a successful examinee gets will depend on the state and the type of organization granting the credential. Thus the veterinary technician may be described as licensed (LVT or Licensed Veterinary Technician), registered (RVT), or certified (CVT). Only those who have been properly certified may represent themselves as veterinary technicians and perform their required tasks in assisting the licensed veterinarian.

Aside from the initial mandatory credentialing, veterinary technicians may also enroll in advanced courses to further enhance their skills. These courses may be in the areas of emergency and critical care, anesthesiology, dentistry, small animal internal medicine, large animal internal medicine, cardiology, oncology, neurology, zoological medicine, equine veterinary nursing, surgery, behavior, and clinical practice. They become Veterinary Technician Specialists (VTS) upon completion of such courses.

Veterinary technology is a fairly young profession, having officially started only in the mid-20th century. It is still struggling to gain recognition in many parts of the world. In the United States, career opportunities continue to increase, with a projected rise by more than 36 percent up to 2012.