Ontario Technician Association Becomes First in World to Self-Regulate

The Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT) is the world’s first technician group to be self-regulated. An association vote tallied Feb. 17, 2006, made the self-regulation official with endorsements from the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), and the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, said Kim Hilborn, OAVT registrar. It has been a 13-year process that will result in formal, legal recognition of registered veterinary technicians (RVTs) and an unprecedented professional autonomy.

“The idea is to make things easier,” Hilborn explained. “This was not meant to be a power trip. It’s meant to produce good working relations.”

OAVT efforts to self-regulate date back to 1993 when the legislature passed a bill to endorse the group’s right to control standards for entry into the profession, practice standards, and disciplinary procedures. Early in 1994 the OAVT formed a task force with the CVO, OVMA, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to discuss self-regulation and “we agreed that it was in everybody’s best interests to self-regulate,” Hilborn said. As part of the agreement, the CVO will amend regulations and policies, and eventually the OVMA will revise legislation under a public bill to acknowledge RVTs and a standard of practice for those working in the profession, Hilborn said.

Previously, RVTs were not recognized in veterinary practice acts, she said. “That was a big accomplishment for us right there,” Hilborn explained.

Self-regulation raised OAVT dues from $95 to $295 annually to cover liability insurance, Hilborn said. Increased dues along with industry concerns delayed implementation of the 1993 law, she said. “It’s been a long time coming,” she added.

In the United States, veterinary technicians are regulated by state practice acts that differ by region, said Patrick Navarre, RVT, executive director of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA.) “It’s like comparing apples to oranges when you think about NAVTA and Ontario,” he said.

And while the concept of self-regulation is appealing, it could have negative repercussions, Navarre explained. “It may create more fear in the veterinary profession,” he added, citing current debates between California technicians and veterinarians over expanded technician roles in the clinic.

“Sometimes there are more issues than what is laid out on the table,” Navarre said. “It has the possibility of creating lots of dissention and debate.”

Hilborn said the task force identified those types of fears. “We got around those concerns by having an Essential Competencies List [that enumerates roles based on training] that is included in the bylaws,” she said. The bylaws state clearly that RVTs will assist with procedures. “We were right up front and said exactly what we wanted,” Hilborn explained. “We want to be team players. These are our employers and we’re the first ones to realize that you have to have good relationships.”

Lisa Gibbons, manager of communications and public relations for the OVMA, said it was too early to assess how the vote would affect members, but told NEWStat, “By previous agreement between [the] OVMA, OAVT, and CVO, RVT self-regulation will not impact a veterinarian’s ability to delegate a task to any auxiliary that the veterinarian believes has the necessary skills and knowledge to safely and successfully carry out the task.”

NEWStat Legislation & regulation