Technicians Cite Specialties, Larger Role in Practices as Achievements over Last 25 Years

Veterinary technicians, professionals who are certified, registered, or licensed depending on the state where they practice, have experienced many changes to their jobs in the last 25 years. From terminology – animal technician to veterinary technician – and equipment changes to increased utilization and the creation of four specialties, technicians have much to celebrate in August when the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) celebrates its 25-year anniversary.

Describing the association as the standard-bearer for technicians, Michael Andrews, DVM, AAHA president, who began his career as a technician, lauded NAVTA’s continued efforts to promote technicians. “Had it not been for their efforts, technicians wouldn’t be where they are today,” Andrews said. “They have pushed the concept that the work technicians do is valuable. My respect [for the group] is great.”

Looking forward, the U.S. Department of Labor expects rapid and unsurpassed growth in the veterinary technician field, a projection that is already proving to be true as evidenced by the growing number of students.

Business models that suggest partnering three technicians with a veterinarian will be easier to support now that schools are graduating twice as many technicians as they are veterinarians, said Patrick Navarre, BS, RVT, executive director of NAVTA. When Navarre started in the field 31 years ago, the reverse was true, but the number of AVMA-accredited technician programs has grown from 65 to 125 along with at least five online programs to help support the profession, he said.

Technicians who excel in one area of medicine can now specialize in emergency and critical care, anesthesia, dentistry, and internal medicine. Navarre believes that the specialty groups, the first of which hit the 10-year mark, will ultimately boost salaries and may entice technicians to stay in the field longer but it is too soon to tell, he said.

“As the veterinary profession moves into specialty areas it opens doors for technicians,” said Navarre, who pointed to new employment venues such as industry, research, and pharmaceutical companies that actively seek veterinary technicians.

“You name it, and veterinary technicians are now employed in those areas,” he added. “I think that’s exciting.”

Inside the clinic, technicians have assumed larger medical roles and adopted new titles such as patient advocate and at one hospital an increasing number of technicians act as wellness care technicians. Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, DC, created the wellness category for technicians last year, and Jennifer Trujillo, hospital manager, says the group is already paying for itself. More detail on wellness care and other roles for technicians will be included in the August 9th issue of NEWStat. Stay tuned!