Colorado technicians move away from online CE trend

With so many online classes available for veterinary technicians, it is no wonder that many boards and associations are accepting these courses as part of their continuing education (CE) requirements for re-licensure, re-certification or re-registration.

For example, Louisiana this year decided that half of the total required CE for technicians (10 hours per fiscal year) can be online or self-help courses. North Carolina allows three hours (out of a required 12) of on online training each two-year renewal period.

However, one state is actually moving away from online CE in an effort to increase the quality of technician education.

Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians (CACVT) Executive Director Denise Mikita, MS, CVT, said CACVT’s certification committee meets every two years to evaluate the CE options in the state, and to decide what qualifies as CE.

In Colorado, technicians must complete 16 hours of CE every two years. Half of those hours must be "technical" and half must be either technical or "supportive." "Supportive" CE is defined as classes that elevate the technician professionally. This has not changed. However, the definition of "technical" has changed. Previously, both technical and supportive CE classes could be taken online, but now "technical" means "medically based and in-person."

"There have been a lot of questions about CE online, about whether it qualifies for technical or not," Mikita said. "This is just one way that we could simplify the process. The goal is to make it easier."

Mikita said CACVT is not suggesting that medically based online CE is not worthwhile, rather that technicians can benefit from face-to-face instruction when it comes to medical classes.

"A lot of people are going to Internet CE because of costs," she said. "It’s getting better and better, but right now I have done enough CE online by myself to understand it’s still not quite the same as in person."

This year, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) will be offering a new conference on communications and career development, said spokeswoman Sandy Sponaugle. But the conference will not feature any medically based classes.

"We will not be offering traditional technical CE at this conference because we feel our members can get that from many other sources," Sponaugle said. "I personally do believe you need a mix of face-to-face and print/online CE. NAVTA has maintained the position of continuing to offer print and online CE because it is the most cost-effective way for a veterinary technician to remain credentialed. Many technicians have to pay for their own continuing education and we want to make sure they have cost effective options. 

Cost is a factor

Mikita admitted that requiring in-person CE credits would be more expensive for technicians, and she said the association has heard some complaints. However, CACVT is willing to work with technicians and be creative, she said.

"There’s really good CE in our backyards, including representatives from the industry who come into clinics," she said.

In the association’s newsletter, she writes: "if an industry partner presents a one-hour seminar in your clinic on their latest product, it is technical in nature (goes into the physiology and pharmacology of the product, reactions, contraindications, etc.), and in depth, this would be considered 1 technical CE."

NAVTA’s Sponaugle said she did not think there was a trend in the technician field of completely moving away from online or distance learning.

"I dont think the industry can afford to move away from print or online CE," Sponaugle said. "Technicians need cost-effective ways to stay on top of their education."

Different requirements for different states

States have different requirements for technician CE, and these requirements are determined by either the veterinary state board or the state technicians’ association. Not all states have a policy on distance learning or online CE, but many do.

In Nebraska, technicians are required to complete 16 hours of CE every two years, but no more than one-quarter of the total number of hours required can be "home study" classes.

On the other hand, the Massachusetts Veterinary Technicians Association allows technicians to obtain all of their CE credits online if they want. However, the CE courses for Massachusetts technicians must be approved by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) Registry of Approved Continuing Education (RACE).

Most states and several provinces acknowledge RACE standards, providers and program approval. Only two states – Louisiana and North Carolina – do not automatically acknowledge RACE-approved courses, and technicians must submit CE applications to the state licensing board for approval. Colorado recognizes RACE-approved CE, but also recognizes some classes that are not RACE-approved.

According to the AAVSB, some states do not require any CE at all for re-licensure, namely Michigan, Connecticut, New York, and Hawaii.