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Evolution of the Veterinary Technician

Robin Sturtz, DVM, Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, New York

November / December 2013

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In honor of veterinary technicians nationwide, and in celebration of the 21st National Veterinary Technician Week this past October, Veterinary Team Brief presents an historical snapshot to recognize all that veterinary technicians do. Although veterinary technology is a relatively new profession in  the U.S., today’s technicians have the expertise and client skills that are at the frontiers of veterinary medicine and an integral part of  practice success.


The Canine Nurses Institute opens in England; veterinary technicians and technologists are referred to as nurses in Europe to this day.


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The first American woman graduates with a DVM in the U.S.


The American Association of Laboratory Animal Science certifies research technicians who received on-the-job training


The first class of animal technicians graduates in the U.S. from the  State University of  New York at Delhi


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) urges state veterinary medical associations to consider establishing animal technician training


The AVMA votes to accredit animal technician training programs


The AVMA accredits the first 2 animal technician programs at Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan) and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (Curtis, Nebraska)


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The North American Veterinary Technician Association (NAVTA) is established


The first national examination for animal technicians is held in Maine


The AVMA approves changing terminology from animal technician to veterinary technician


NAVTA forms a  specialty certification committee; emergency and critical care is the first approved specialty 2 years later

The first National Veterinary Technician Week (3rd week of October) is celebrated


The AVMA issues its definitions of veterinary technician and veterinary assistant as part of the model practice act


Two distance-learning programs are accredited for veterinary technician education, along with 84 brick-and-mortar schools


NAVTA changes its name to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America


More than 80,000 veterinary technicians practice in the U.S.


Today, 217 veterinary technology programs are accredited2; accreditation is handled by the Committee on Veterinary Technology Education and Activities (CVTEA). Specialty certifications, which earn the appellation VTS, are now available in anesthesia, behavior, clinical practice, clinical pathology, dentistry, emergency and critical care, equine medicine, exotics, internal medicine, nutrition, surgical nursing, and zoological medicine.

The profession may be relatively new, but it has grown fast. As Dr. Doug Aspros, 2012–2013 AVMA president, said recently: “Many of the advances we’ve made in clinical practice would have been unthinkable without veterinary technicians.” 


For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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