As a pet guardian, undoubtedly you’ve seen many different types of professionals busy at work in your veterinarian’s office or emergency hospital. Although the jobs of these remarkable people vary in scope, all of them have a single underlying purpose: to help your veterinarian provide the best possible care for your pet.
A veterinarian’s staff may include receptionists, office workers, kennel attendants, groomers, and a variety of assistants and technicians. Although the job functions of these talented folks sometimes overlap, their roles are very different when it comes to the specific type of care they are able to provide for your pet.
Therefore, it’s important to know about Registered Veterinary Technicians – who they are, and why they are so important to your vet’s practice.
What Exactly is an RVT?
Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVT’s) are formally educated, licensed, highly trained professionals who are able to do so many things, it’s often easier to define them by what they CANNOT do.
An RVT can do everything a veterinarian can do, EXCEPT:
- Prescribe medication
- Perform surgery
To become a Registered Veterinary Technician (also called a “Certified” or “Licensed” Veterinary Technician), one must earn an Associate’s Degree or higher from a school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Training consists of both traditional classes and exams, along with hands-on clinical experience with live animals.
In the United States, RVT’s must also pass a national exam, and go on to maintain their licensing through formal continuing education credits (similar to Registered Nurses in human medicine).
A Day in the Life of an RVT
Although each state regulates which medical tasks Registered Veterinary Technicians are permitted to perform within that state, below is a sample of job duties performed by most RVT’s:
- Obtaining the patient’s medical history and vital sign information.
- Drawing blood and preparing it for testing.
- Taking and preparing x-rays.
- Treating and medicating hospitalized patients.
- Placing IV and urinary catheters and calculating drip rates for IV fluid administration.
- Surgical assisting.
- Performing dental cleaning (in some states, like my home state of Ohio, RVT’s can also perform tooth extractions under the supervision of a veterinarian, as long as the extraction does not involve removal of any part of the jaw bone).
- Properly restraining animals for vaccination, treatments, procedures, and exams.
- Changing bandages and dressing wounds.
- Performing in-house laboratory procedures, including fecal analysis, heartworm testing, Feline Leukemia/FIV testing, and urinalysis.
- Providing client education, including care instructions, training tips, and animal behavior and nutrition information.
- Preparing animals for surgery.
- Suturing skin incisions.
- Administering vaccinations.
- Releasing pets to caregivers with detailed instructions for aftercare.
- Providing emergency care in the absence of a veterinarian.
RVT’s work in private practices, emergency centers, university teaching hospitals, research labs, animal shelters, wildlife management programs, and zoos. It’s very common for Registered Veterinary Technicians to have more hands-on experience than new veterinarians.
Why Are RVT’s So Important?
Registered Veterinary Technicians possess a thorough understanding of veterinary anatomy and physiology that allows them to make accurate and informed decisions in emergency situations. RVT’s are able to quickly recognize what is happening medically and what immediate action needs to be taken to correct a decline in a patient’s health status.
When situations arise where there is no veterinarian available (either the vet is not onsite, is in surgery, or is busy attending to another critical patient), the actions of an informed RVT can literally make the difference between life and death.
The specialized education of RVT’s is also invaluable when it comes to:
- Monitoring and adjusting anesthetic levels during surgery.
- Treating trauma (including hit-by-car injuries, severe bleeding, or shock).
- Assessing and rectifying labor/ birthing emergencies.
- Performing dental extractions.
- Reading and interpreting lab test results.
- Calculating medication dosages.
- Assisting in surgery.
Registered Veterinary Technicians play a crucial role in providing the highest quality of care possible for your pet. The next time you visit your veterinarian’s office, feel free to say hello to these caring, dedicated professionals and express your appreciation for all the amazing things they do every day!
Were you aware of all the things Registered Veterinary Technicians can do to help care for your pet? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!