Vet Techs Owe Existence to the Blue Yonder

Although techniques caring for animals pre-date history, organized veterinary medicine did not include a position of technician until quite recently. A person assisting a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) normally was a family member – wife, mother and even sister – typically trained by the physician to assist him with many daily chores. As the practice of veterinary medicine grew beyond farm needs, more on-the-job trained people gained entry to the world of veterinary medicine without formal training.

Vet Tech from the Sky
The actual profession of a veterinary technician did not appear until the 1950s when the United States Air Force created the first organized and official animal technician training program for enlisted Air force members. The State University of New York at Delhi in 1961 was the first college to offer a formal program training civilians as animal technicians. The first recognized class of veterinary technicians – eight in all – received associate degrees in applied science.

Father of Veterinary Technology
Walter Collins, DVM, is considered the “Father of Veterinary Technology” in the US. In the 1960s, he developed the model curricula for training veterinary technicians becoming a faculty member at SUNY Delhi and eventual the program director. During this same decade, Ralston Purina Company offered a correspondence course training animal technicians. The American Veterinary Medical Association established an advisory committee on Animal Technicians in 1968. This advisory committee evolved into the Committee on Accreditation of Training for Animal Technicians (CATAT) in 1972. In 1976, the U.S. Office of Education recognized the CATAT as the accrediting body for animal technician training programs. The judicial program of the AVMA began developing the moral, ethical, and legal guidelines associated with the training of these technicians. Still, they would not refer to the trainees and workers by the name “veterinary technicians.” It finally came into use in the early 1980s.

Accredited Programs get Credentialed
The first two programs to be accredited by the AVMA were Michigan State University and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in 1973. Still, there was no formal registration or licensing procedures for graduates of these programs. The regulation of knowledge learned and proof that it could be applied was non-existent. In 1977, the first written state examination for licensure as an animal technician was administered in New York State. Today the AVMA has accredited more than 140 veterinary technology programs including four distance learning programs across North America. These programs grant either associate or bachelor degrees in veterinary or applied science.

Vet Techs Do More than Human Nurses
Veterinary Technicians are involved with far more areas of practice than their human nursing counterparts. In addition to patient care the Veterinary Technician performs laboratory tests, takes radiographs, assists in surgery, administers and monitors anesthesia, and assists in many aspects of hospital management. Accredited programs of Veterinary Technology must expose the students to all aspects of the Veterinary Technician’s job. In addition the basic science and humanity courses round out the educational experience. The laboratory classes provide a foundation of hands-on skills. The accreditation process assures uniform educational curricula and positive outcomes with graduates meeting minimum basic skills and knowledge in all aspects of the veterinary technician’s job.