They are highly trained, skilled, compassionate and hardworking, so how did veterinary technicians get stuck with such a lousy job title?
Car mechanics, electronics geeks and other savvy fixer-uppers-of-machines are true technicians. So-called veterinary technicians help heal and nurture living creatures. Everywhere in the English-speaking world outside of North America, they are referred to as veterinary nurses and that’s how I prefer to think of them.
National Veterinary Technician Week starts this Sunday, providing a great opportunity to praise this dedicated group of people – mostly women – who make it possible for vets to do their jobs. More than just helping us, registered vet techs (RVTs) run our laboratories, perform important dental procedures, take xrays, administer anesthetics, and carry out dozens of diagnostic procedures using complex equipment.
Like veterinarians, they have to study a long list of topics including anatomy, physiology, genetics, pharmacology and much more. The course of study takes at least two years after high school. To be registered, technicians also have to pass a national exam. Further education can lead to specialist designations in many fields such as surgery, zoo medicine and critical care.
And, just like veterinarians, RVTs in Ontario have a governing body that oversees licensing, continuing education and discipline to protect the public along with their animals. North America boasts some of the best trained paraveterinary workers in the world.
Paraveterinary – there’s another functional, but frigid term. It basically means any position that provides support to a veterinarian. Along with RVTs, in Ontario it includes those with one-year veterinary assistant diplomas and the legions of treasured animal health care workers trained on the job over many years. However they were trained, “paraveterinarians” are the main providers of patient care in animal hospitals — monitoring vital signs, checking for pain, administering medications and doing whatever it takes to give comfort.
Although it is officially their celebration, promoted by their own organizations, the RVTs I know would want to share National Veterinary Technician Week with all of their colleagues caring for animals across the country. We could call it National Paraveterinarian Week or, politics aside, National Veterinary Nurse Week. Thank you all for all you do.
To learn more about RVTs and animal care visit the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians’ website at OAVT.org.
Just three of our amazing RVTs, please feel free to browse to our team page to see all of our paraveterinary staff and read about each of them (ed.)
Dr. Fiona Gilchrist,
Hillcrest Animal Hospital,
Trenton, Ontario – October 2012