June 2019

What's in a Name?

Why some RVT's seek a new title of veterinary nurse

By Katie Huyer BS, RVT

In May 2017, the National Association for Veterinary Technicians (NAVTA) outlined a plan to seek a unified national title and eventually a national credentialing standard for veterinary technicians. NAVTA estimated that within a five to ten-year timeframe veterinary technicians will be known in 50 states as registered veterinary nurses (RVN).

Why do veterinary technicians seek title change?

Public perception of what veterinary technicians can do is unclear. Technician is defined as a person employed to look after technical equipment. While equipment use and maintenance is indeed part of most veterinary technician’s duties, the term technician leaves out arguably the most important part of the job…patient care. When it comes down to it, nursing care is what makes patients, and patient’s families, feel good. It might be an extra blanket to keep them warm or being a grumpy patient’s favorite caregiver. Veterinary technician just doesn’t describe the job anymore. Veterinary nursing is a much more comprehensive title.

Can this title change provide title protection?

Alone, unfortunately no. When title change becomes official and veterinary practice acts are rewritten to define the roles of RVNs, title protection can be achieved. Some states currently have strict penalties for those who call themselves veterinary technicians without being licensed to do so. In the future, veterinary staff members may see more descriptive practice acts describing what can and cannot be done by both licensed and unlicensed staff.

Why do some use the term veterinary nurse already?

While no states have officially changed state licensing credentials to RVN, there are some in the process. It takes time, lawyers and a lot of discussion with the public to make legislative change! In Kansas, training programs at Colby Community College and WSU Tech use the term veterinary nursing. At Kansas State University’s Veterinary Health Center, the staff sought title change and were awarded the job titles of veterinary nurse in October 2018. Many use the terms interchangeably currently as registered veterinary technician refers to their license and veterinary nurse refers to their job title.

Is there opposition to title change?

Yes. Simply put, changing the title of veterinary technicians to veterinary nurses can have impact on numerous groups. There are veterinary practitioners that oppose the changes because it may impact their ability to utilize on the job trained staff members to perform advanced skills such as induction and maintenance of general anesthesia, performing dental prophylaxis and administering resuscitative drugs. Additionally, in states actively working toward title change, nursing associations have provided opposition to proposed changes insisting that the public will become confused by another entity identifying as a nurse. For supporters of the change, the distinction between being a nurse and a veterinary nurse is plain. It lies in one single word- veterinary.

For now, using the terms veterinary technician and veterinary nurse interchangeably is a good choice as the industry transitions to a new title.

For more information, visit www.veterinarynurse.org

Katie Huyer is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. She is a registered veterinary technician (RVT) and has been employed by the Veterinary Heath Center at Kansas State University as a veterinary nurse for five years. Katie currently works with the ophthalmology service.

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