AAVSB: On-the-job experience not enough to take veterinary technician exam

The American Association of Veterinary State Boards has officially changed its policy on who can sit for the national licensing exam for veterinary technicians, but the decision doesn’t sit well with everyone.

The AAVSB board in April issued an announcement on its website relating to eligibility of applicants for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE).

“After December 31, 2010, a VTNE candidate must be a graduate of a veterinary technology program accredited by the AVMA or the CVMA [Canadian Veterinary Medical Association] or a program approved by the regulatory board of the jurisdiction where the examination is given,” the announcement says.

The AAVSB owns the VTNE, and reports national licensing examination scores for veterinarians and veterinarian technicians to the jurisdictions in which they apply to be licensed. Its membership is comprised of 57 jurisdictions, including all 50 states, three territories and four Canadian provinces. The association reviews and updates the exam questions every year to reflect the most current knowledge and skills needed by technicians in the workplace.

The announcement says the AAVSB board approved the policy “to ensure continuous quality improvement to our programs.”

Cate Daniels, who handles veterinary technician inquiries for AAVSB, said the plan for changing the rules on exam candidate eligibility was widely known among state veterinary boards, but the announcement makes the change official.

“We are just now letting states and provinces know that this deadline is going to be put into place,” Daniels said. “It’s been well-publicized.”

A few states, including Washington, Georgia, Alaska, Arizona and Wisconsin, allow technician candidates to take the exam after several years of on-the-job experience, but those state boards will be required to change their policies as of the Dec. 31, 2010 deadline.

Washington State Veterinary Medial Association Executive Vice President Candace Joy said the decision could be detrimental to the veterinary industry in her state.

“That’s going to create a barrier to people entering the profession,” she said of the new rules.

Joy said that because there are only two public veterinary technician programs in the state, people who want to become technicians will have much harder time after the new rule takes effect. She said the state is suffering from a shortage of technicians anyway, and the new requirement will only make the problem worse.

“As a state association, our official position is that we don’t support it,” Joy said.  “Our members feel like they need technicians, and the problem of the shortage is going to be exacerbated by that.”

Joy acknowledged that requiring education for technicians was a good idea overall, but said it wasn’t a good decision for Washington.

“It’s creating a barrier and difficulty in people trying to get a job,” she said. “In a perfect world that is where we would like to go, but in our state it is just not a workable solution.”

Vicki Smith, executive director for the Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska VMAs, said Alaska would feel the effects of the 2010 deadline – since Alaska has no veterinary technician education programs anywhere in the state.

“It’s going to tie both the hands of the potential technician and the veterinarian,” Smith said.

She said Idaho already requires candidates to go through an educational program, and Wyoming does not license veterinary technicians, so the change will not affect those two states.

Smith pointed out that accredited online programs do exist, which could be one way for technicians in Alaska and other states with no programs to become certified. One such program is the AAHA Distance Education Veterinary Technician Program (DEVTP).

Daniels, of the AAVSB, said the policy change would likely not affect the number of qualified veterinary technicians overall.

She said that last year the pass rate of VTNE test-takers who have gone through accredited educational programs was in the 70-percent range, and the rate was about 30 percent for those who had only on-the-job training.

In the announcement, the AAVSB said: “Based on ongoing conversations with the membership, it is evident that many of the affected regulatory boards have been preparing for the change, and we will gladly continue to assist you in any way possible.”

Daniels said the AAVSB would work with states that have legislation pending or already existing regarding the change. For example, Delaware has legislation in place that would end on-the-job-only qualifications for exam candidates in 2013, according to Daniels. She said the AAVSB will let that regulation stand, since changing the law now would push the date back even further.

While the AAVSB has received a few complaints about the new requirements, most people have been supportive, Daniels said.

“We really feel like we’ve given everybody enough time to complete their on-the-job training or to go ahead and go to school,” she said.

The AAVSB reported that the number of test candidates sitting for the exam increased by 22 percent from January 2007 to January 2008, and Daniels said there are about 17,000 veterinary technician students in school right now.