By: Cyndi Ballard
Imagine a melting-pot job that includes all the duties of a Registered Nurse, Nurse Anesthetist, Physician’s Assistant, Radiology Technician, Laboratory Technician and Dental Hygienist. Now imagine performing those duties for a multitude of animal species instead of humans. That’s precisely the role of a Registered Veterinary Technician (or RVT).
RVTs are essential members of the veterinary medical team and work side by side with the veterinarian. They are the peanut butter to the vet’s jelly and the yin to their yang. An RVT is often the first and last face a client sees at the clinic, acting as the client educator and patient advocate. Whereas the veterinarian diagnoses a patient’s condition, offers prognoses, prescribes medication and performs surgery, the RVT assists in those tasks and actually carries out most of the medical treatment. The RVT practices under the direct supervision of a licensed vet, but must have a very high competency in animal behavior, anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology to provide quality, hands-on nursing care.
At OVS, our RVTs carry out the vast majority of patient care including placement of IVs, blood draws, administration of medications, anesthesia, bandaging, obtaining radiographs (x-rays), and intensive nursing care. Our technicians also perform the less glamorous tasks – they feed pets by hand, walk (or often carry) dogs outside to eliminate, give baths, and clean up the never-ending supply of vomit, urine, and diarrhea. Simple TLC is truly at the heart of it all.
Though most RVT’s have a passion for animals, that isn’t nearly enough to succeed in this career. RVT’s must have the wherewithal to handle high stress and difficult situations including euthanasia of patients, grieving pet owners, and high-tension emergency scenarios.
To earn the RVT credential in Oklahoma, candidates must first graduate from a veterinary technology scholastic program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which can be either an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree. The programs include a clinical practicum experience in which students spend a summer working hands-on in a hospital that volunteers to host them. The recent graduate must then pass both the Oklahoma State board exam and the grueling Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). In our neck of the woods, RVT’s are regulated by the Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and practice under the Oklahoma Veterinary Practice Act. Similar to veterinarians, they must complete 10 hours of continuing education per year to maintain their credential.
If an RVT wishes to attain advanced knowledge and skill in a particular discipline, they can pursue a specialist credential in a variety of specialties including Emergency & Critical Care, Internal Medicine, Anesthesia, or Zoological Medicine. RVTs are always in high demand and are listed as one of the top 20 fastest growing careers requiring a degree. Not all clinics fully utilize RVTs yet, but the wise ones know they add much value to the practice.
So the next time you see a clinic employee proudly displaying their RVT credential, know that they’ve worked very hard for that merit badge. They are not only the veterinarian’s wing man/woman, but they take great pleasure in providing tender loving nursing care for your furry friends.