California Veterinary Medical Board Approves RVT-Exclusive Job Tasks, Contemplates Others

One change and several proposed amendments to California’s Veterinary Practice Act bring the number of exclusive registered veterinary technician (RVTs) duties to five, but opponents plan to continue their fight against the additional duties. The California VMA opposed many of the proposed changes and at least 500 veterinary professionals submitted letters of concern to the California Veterinary Medical Board before an April 26, 2006, hearing where one change – allowing technicians to make a relief hole in the skin to facilitate IV catheter placement – was approved. That change will become effective at the end of this year or beginning of 2007, said Susan Geranen, executive officer for the medical board, if the CVMA is not successful in reversing the board’s decision.

The following three proposed changes, which would have gone into effect in 2012, were pulled for future consideration: the administration and monitoring of anesthesia; the administration of intravenous cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs; and the injection of controlled drugs when a veterinarian is not present that would be restricted to RVTs and veterinarians.

Current law allows unregistered assistants to be alone with anesthetized patients, said Nancy Ehrlich, RVT, vice chair of the state’s RVT Committee. “If there is an emergency, the only person in the room is an unregistered assistant, and we felt that was an untenable position.”

The three proposals may be discussed at the next board meeting on July 19, 2006, but would require a new round of discussion, public comment, and a public hearing in order to pass, Geranen said.

Changes were prompted by a request from the Veterinary Medical Board to review job tasks, Ehrlich said. She said that the changes enable veterinarians to better utilize RVTs, as well as protect untrained professionals and the public. Eric Weigand, DVM, CVMA president, argued that RVT-restricted tasks could hurt the industry because of RVT shortages, and he added that veterinary assistants are well trained by veterinarians. He also cited concerns about what he described as inconsistent RVT education when it comes to the administration of chemotherapy drugs, which is why he believes that the task “should be delegated only at the discretion of the licensed veterinarian.”

Weigand added, “We are supportive of RVTs and RVT education but as it relates to this particular task (chemotherapy), education in RVT programs is lacking. He added that the ability to make a skin incision “should be a legislative change, not a regulatory change,” which is why the CVMA will continue to oppose the change to the Practice Act, which Weigand described as surgery. The group will also fight reintroduction of the three amendments that were pulled from the existing language in April. Changes approved by the medical board go to the Office of Consumer Affairs legal department and then to the Office of Administrative Law for adoption, Geranen said.


Explanation of Changes

Technicians suggested the catheter placement change because of larger equipment that necessitates a hole in the skin for placement, Ehrlich explained. In the past, technicians used needles to facilitate catheters but the new equipment is too large to do that, she said. “It’s a hole, not a cut-down or dissecting a vein,” she added, arguing that it is not surgery.

Several technicians told NEWStat that catheter placement is common practice for technicians, but said it is not commonly specified in practice acts, nor has it been restricted to RVTs.

Ehrlich explained that the committee requested an effective date of 2012 for the three RVT-specific job tasks changes to accommodate assistants who wanted to become registered. She said that assistants with three years of hands-on training and 300 hours of specific coursework can take the certification exam, and that 70 percent of the assistants who take this “alternate route” pass the test.

“Five years is plenty of time for these professionals, who veterinarians believe are competent, to get registered,” Ehrlich said.

In recent weeks, changes to the practice act in Georgia were made to specify that only RVTs would perform certain job tasks, and technicians in Ontario, Canada, just finalized a self-governing clause in their practice act. Other provinces in Canada are working on similar legislation, according to sources. In the United States, practice acts vary on their reference to veterinary technicians.

NEWStat Legislation & regulation