What Do Veterinary Technicians Do?

What Do Veterinary Technicians Do?
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  • 0:00 What Is A Veterinary…
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  • 2:35 A Veterinary…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will explain the roles and education of a veterinarian's best friend, the veterinary nurse. You'll learn the difference between a veterinary technician and technologist, along with the various tasks they perform at a veterinary hospital.

What is a Veterinary Technician?

Just like every Batman needs a Robin, every veterinarian needs a good veterinary technician, or veterinary nurse. A veterinary technician is a person skilled in veterinary technology, the art and science of providing medical support to veterinarians and patients. In this lesson, we'll get to know and follow Olga, a veterinary nurse. We'll find out what it took for her to get properly educated and learn about some of the important roles she performs on a daily basis.


Olga had wanted to provide nursing care for animals since she was a little girl. She knew that in order to become a fully licensed veterinary nurse in the U.S., she'd have to get a good education. She could've chosen one of two paths after finishing high school in order to become a veterinary nurse.

To become a veterinary technician, she'd need to be a graduate of a 2- or 3-year certificate or associate degree program in veterinary technology accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA. Now, if Olga went to school for a bit longer (4 years), she could graduate with a bachelor's degree and become a veterinary technologist.

After finishing her education, Olga would then need to pass a credentialing exam, called the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) in order to become one of the following:

  • Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT)
  • Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT)
  • Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT)

While the names are different, that is simply a result of each state's own quirky way of regulating their veterinary technicians. The bottom line is that all of these designations represent credentialed veterinary technicians, or technologists, who are formally trained to perform the role of a veterinary nurse. No matter the title, each is expected to complete ongoing continuing education to keep his or her skills up to date.

Olga could also pursue advanced training in order to become a veterinary technician specialist (VTS), a veterinary nurse with advanced training in any number of disciplines recognized by NAVTA, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, including emergency and critical care, surgery, and many more. A group that's recognized as a specialty by NAVTA is called an academy, such as the Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians (AVST).

In actuality, Olga became a veterinary technologist and is thinking of pursuing specialization in the near future, probably in surgery.

A Veterinary Technician's Role

Olga sometimes comes across individuals working in veterinary medicine who have no formal training or credentialing in veterinary technology but are informally addressed by the staff and the public as veterinary technicians because they perform similar roles. These individuals are actually veterinary assistants, not veterinary technicians, and should be addressed as such to ensure the public is not misled as to their formal education and licensing. But Olga won't stand on the podium for too long. She has a ton of important stuff to do as a veterinary nurse today.

First, she has to start chemotherapy on a dog early in the morning. Then, Dr. Owidhertz tells her a lethargic dog is coming in for x-rays. Olga and her friend Will, another vet tech, will need to properly position the dog to get the best possible x-rays for the doctor. After reviewing the x-rays, Dr. Owidhertz decides the dog needs immediate surgery. Olga runs off to double check that the surgical suite is clean, all the surgical instruments are ready to go, and all the anesthetic equipment is functioning properly. She also gets Will to help her prepare a recovery area for the dog to be used after surgery.

She then helps Dr. Owidhertz sedate, shave, clean, and intubate the dog so surgery can begin. While Dr. Owidhertz is performing the surgery, she gets him any instruments he needs, adjusts the gas anesthetic as necessary, and monitors the patient's vital signs if the veterinarian cannot. After surgery is over, Olga makes sure to keep a close eye on the patient as he recovers from surgery, alerts the veterinarian to any problems that may arise, and thoroughly cleans the bloody surgical suite so that the next patient can be wheeled into a clean surgical environment.

And her day isn't half done yet! She needs to thoroughly clean and sterilize all of the surgical instruments and equipment and dispose of any biomedical hazards into their proper containers. She takes a very quick lunch break and is back to work in almost no time.

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