Change is in the air, Veterinary Nurse

June 29, 2017

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) has stepped into a number of conversations that spurs great debate in the community: Veterinary Technician or Veterinary Nurse. I have had the distinct pleasure to be on the NAVTA Board for the past two and half years, supporting the leaders and incredible task force spearheading this initiative.

I am beyond proud of both Ken Yagi, RVT, VTS (ECC & SAIM) and Heather Prendergast, RVT, CVPM, SPHR! They have poured countless hours in research, meetings and travel on behalf of  NAVTA’s initiative. My hat is off to them in gratitude and with the utmost respect. Their task force has worked diligently over the past two years and their dedication is paying off!

“Change is in the air, it always is! The only thing constant throughout life is change. As shifts occur in management and the focus becomes the client, away from the doctor centered practice, technicians with solid communication skills will excel and succeed.

Nomenclature will certainly see a shift in the future. Nurse vs Technician; there may need to be a universal understanding of the title. I personally prefer veterinary nurse. I know the argument, technicians do more than a nurse, however the word nurse is more comforting to a pet owner and instantly conjures up pictures of caring and nurturing. Yes, I understand our education includes laboratory procedures, surgical assisting, in-patient and out-patient care. I also understand we care to the pet’s needs in a very comforting and nurturing way, at all times,” was written in the first edition of Career Choices for Veterinary Technicians, AAHA Press 2009, in the last chapter, “What does the future hold? Opportunities and Challenges.

Please take a few moments to follow a timeline, attempting to capture (from my perspective) what has transpired in the conversation about veterinary nurse and national standardization. You are encouraged to continue to follow the conversation by becoming a member of NAVTA (technicians, assistants, veterinarians, managers, receptionists and industry partners, there is a membership for everyone!).

I became the President-Elect of NAVTA in January 2015. During my first Town Hall meeting I sat next to Dr. Ted Cohn (dear friend and respected colleague), and at the time, President of the AVMA. We listened to the first roll-out, open forum and consideration for the title change and standardization. Our interest was peaked, to say the least, and we were both eager to hear more of the details and be included in the conversations. I thought, “OMG, this is going to be a GREAT year!” Little did I know it was just the beginning of a serious campaign with NAVTA Leaders at the helm.

Ken and Heather were appointed as Task Force Chairs the middle of 2015. The NAVTA leaders then crafted a position statement and released it to the members and veterinary community.


The current credentialing systems, which vary state to state, have led to confusion for the veterinary consumer and within the veterinary profession. Establishing a single and standard title is the first step in the process to clarify the important role of the profession and provide enhanced patient care. Pets and pet owners are best protected and cared for by formally trained and credentialed veterinary technicians/nurses.

For Credentialed Veterinary Technicians and Veterinary Technician Specialists looking to advance their careers, the unified title will create a national and global standard. NAVTA aims to create an alignment within the veterinary field, provide education for veterinarians, paraprofessionals, and consumers to elevate the understanding of roles and responsibilities as they relate to patient care by veterinary technicians/nurses.

NAVTA has initiated conversations with global, national, and state organizations in regards to consumer protection and patient care by implementing the use of a single term. In addition, NAVTA’s goal is to work hand in hand with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), professional veterinary organizations, and legislators to create common terminology, practice acts, policies, and procedures to ease the burden that could be placed on individual states and associations in credential governance.


National Credentialing and Title Protection will not happen overnight. In fact, it is proposed to occur over the next 5-10 years. NAVTA will spend 2016 researching the best options, consulting with attorney’s, professional organizations, global, national and state veterinary medical associations, and legislatures.

In addition, NAVTA realizes the importance of veterinary assistants in the success of the credentialed veterinary technician/nurse and the veterinary hospital. This initiative takes into consideration their important role, and how to further elevate through the Approved Veterinary Assistant Programs.

NAVTA is working closely with state veterinary technician associations to educate and develop consistent messaging.


Boy howdy, there was aggressive outreach in 2016 to various organizations. Surveys were created and tabulated. Unsuspected leaders came together and had wonderfully unanticipated and encouraging conversations. The Task Force did an amazing job of staying on task, communicating their findings, reporting on their meetings and moving the initiative forward.

You are encouraged to view an impressive list of resources housed on NAVTA’s Veterinary Nurse Initiative page! You will find articles, a slide show, video chats with clients, the human nurses’ perspective, FAQs, survey results and much more!

After due consideration of the research findings, gathered throughout the year, the NAVTA Board approved moving the initiative forwarding. NAVTA’s board accepted the action to unite the profession under a single title, credentialing requirements and scope of practice. Read the entire News Release; “NAVTA Moves Forward with Veterinary Nurse Credential Change; Veterinary Nurse Initiative Coalition will now pursue legislative amendments in 50 states.

Now, the middle of 2017, NAVTA directs a Coalition to take the initiative to the next step. Mr. Mark Cushing, JD, Government Relations Counselor, is assisting in outreach and research.

To learn more, listen to a recent PodCast by NAVTA’s Executive Director, Julie Legred, CVT, hosted by Dr. Ernie Ward and Beckie Mossor, RVT: Changing to Veterinary Nurses with Julie Legred.


Another reason I am excited about the initiative is the national standardization for veterinary technicians. Right now, veterinary technicians may have a difficult time moving across state lines and maintaining their credentialing.

In general, a person is credentialed after 1) graduating from an AVMA-accredited program in veterinary technology, 2) passing the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) and 3) becoming credentialed through their individual state. States vary greatly in their oversight, requirements and name (being either certified, registered or licensed depending on the state).  However, it generally means credentialed veterinary technicians pay dues/fees and may be required to obtain Continuing Education (CE) to maintain credentialing (amount and type is unique to each state).

Through standardization (possibly registration), veterinary technicians could have an easier time transferring their valuable credentials. I hear horror stories on a regular basis of veterinary technicians leaving the field because they are unable to keep their credentials (for multiple reasons). Know that the Coalition is working diligently on determining how to roll-out the standardization, maintaining the integrity of current government and private entity oversight.

It tickles me pink to know the prediction written in 2009 is coming to fruition! Change is in the air… It always is, but this change has been coming for a LONG TIME!


Veterinary technicians are encouraged to learn more about the professional organizations which hold their credentials as well as legislation affairs.

I recognize how state government works (I have attended State Board meetings, Legislative sessions, tracked laws, spoken with Senators and State Representatives, and have established classes for Colorado technicians where they met with the Lieutenant Governor and lawyers to learn more about the creation of and changes to laws). This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it FEELS like we are on the right track, with the right support, with a plan that has grit and teeth.

Technicians are reminded to pay attention to the laws within their state. Please continue to follow the conversations with NAVTA through the journal, website and outreach. When you have questions, direct them directly to NAVTA’s Task Force and Coalition. Get the most accurate, up-to-date information straight from the horse’s mouth. Now is the time to get the facts, engage and work together to bring National Standardization and the title “Veterinary Nurse” to fruition!

Yours in anticipation, Rebecca Rose, CVT