Bovine, equine groups create veterinary technician utilization guidelines

Documents developed to improve staff retention and utilization as well as patient care

The American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) and the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians and Assistants (AAEVT) have developed their own guidelines for leveraging veterinary technicians. Both documents, released this spring, outline specific responsibilities and different levels of veterinary supervision for credentialed veterinary technicians (CrVTs) in their areas of practice.

“There is a lack of knowledge of what a trained, credentialed veterinary technician actually is, as well as what they are educated to do in school,” said Travis Otremba, president of AAEVT and a certified veterinary technician at Ocala Equine Hospital in Ocala, Florida. “These guidelines shed some light and educate doctors and practice owners and managers how to utilize their technicians more effectively and thus potentially increase production significantly.”

Female veterinarian examines a cow using a stethoscope
The AABP Guidelines for Credentialed Veterinary Technicians in Bovine Practice provide guidance on how veterinarians can broaden the delegation of tasks to veterinary technicians while also helping retention and providing better care to beef and dairy farm clients.

Similarly, the AABP noted that CrVTs were underutilized compared to those in companion animal practice.

“If we’re only using veterinary technicians to perform procedures, or they’re just riding along in your truck, they’re not improving your efficiency and revenue,” explained Dr. K. Fred Gingrich II, executive director of the AABP.

Cattle veterinary technicians

AABP logo

The association created the AABP Guidelines for Credentialed Veterinary Technicians in Bovine Practice to assist its members in effectively using CrVTs in bovine practice.

Included in the new guidelines is a task list, which lays out common tasks and procedures in bovine medicine and the supervision level involved for each procedure, whether it is veterinarian only, direct supervision by a veterinarian, or indirect supervision by a veterinarian.

For example, a CrVT can perform general anesthesia under direct supervision, while castration can be done under indirect supervision. Only veterinarians can do intra-articular drug administration or a joint flush.

“If we can utilize technicians and delegate tasks to them so that the speed of animal care is improved, then that helps everyone from the veterinarian to the technician to the animal owner,” Dr. Gingrich said.

Additionally, he said veterinary technician retention will improve if they are recognized as veterinary professionals and given tasks or procedures within their scope of practice. Fully leveraging veterinary technicians can generate more revenue per doctor, in part by freeing up the veterinarian to perform more lucrative procedures, so practices can pay veterinary technicians a higher wage.

Also, in an effort to recognize the importance of CrVTs in bovine medicine, AABP changed its bylaws to allow veterinary technicians to join the association.

AAEVT guidelines for equine CrVTs

AAEVT logo

Equine veterinary practice also has a need for more credentialed veterinary technicians.

According to the 2022 National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America’s (NAVTA) 2022 Demographic Survey results, only 4% of respondents were in equine practice.

The AAEVT recognizes the issue of CrVTs leaving or not entering the profession because of a lack of proper utilization, acceptable pay, recognition, standardization in state laws, and public awareness.

In March, AAEVT created The Guidelines for Utilization of EQ CrVT in collaboration with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). The document was based on the 2023 American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Technician Utilization Guidelines.

Deborah Reeder, a licensed veterinary technician and AAEVT founder and president emeritus, spearheaded the task force in late summer 2023 to create a document that was equine-focused.

These guidelines from AAEVT offer clarity and education for veterinarians and practice owners about how to leverage veterinary technicians more effectively. It includes a list of procdures that can be performed by a CrVT that can be adjusted according to the veterinarian’s preference or with state laws.

The skills are separated into three levels, each relating to the training and capabilities that CrVTs have as they advance in their career.

For example, a CrVT can administer vaccines at Level 1. Or they can perform metabolic patient monitoring at Level 3. At Level 2, a CrVT can collect samples, perform laboratory tests, and put together and submit laboratory paperwork.

The AAEVT also created a downloadable assessment tool that serves as a resource to enhance how equine practices can better leverage their CrVTs.

AAEVT President Travis Otremba explained that in equine medicine, veterinarians may feel a need to perform all aspects of care in the ambulatory setting. This desire for control can make it hard for veterinarians to allow CrVTs to perform tasks or procedures, helping to ease the load of responsibility for the veterinarian.

“If a technician or assistant is not used to their fullest extent, satisfaction in their job can wane,” Otremba said. “If a tech is not being utilized effectively and their skillsets are not taken into account, there is no competition and no need to increase wages or benefits.”

This creates a vicious cycle where the veterinary technician may be forced to leave the profession to find better financial stability and more satisfaction with their career, he added.

“I think that if a practice is to utilize their technicians or assistants to the top of their education and offer competitive wages or benefits, we may see an increase in retention across equine veterinary medicine,” Otremba said.

Guiding the next generation

J. David Sessum is a licensed veterinary technician and program manager for the Veterinary Science Certificate Program (VSCP) at Texas A&M University’s Agrilife Extension in the Department of Animal Science. He served on the task force that created the AABP’s veterinary technician guidelines.

From an educator's perspective, he says another benefit of the guidelines is that they will allow veterinary technology programs to see exactly what bovine practitioners want their CrVTs to learn. Then educators can incorporate these concepts into the curriculum.

That way, these programs can produce graduates who are better able to fill that the needs in these sectors of the profession.

A horse receives a foreleg ultrasound while two veterinarians view the scans
Credentialed veterinary technicians (CrVTs) can be fully leveraged to help overworked equine veterinarians, where allowed by state law. The American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians and Assistants created its Guidelines for Utilization of EQ CrVT to help practitioners better understand the tasks they can delegate to their CrVTs.

“I think this is going to show veterinary technology programs that large animal veterinarians are interested in their students upon graduation, and if they focus their efforts on preparing students for careers in other species, such as bovine and equine, that they’ll have a better pool of graduates or employees to choose from,” Sessum said.

He suggests that CrVTs who are seeking employment find veterinarians who not only know about these guidelines but are also implementing them.

Sessum has been a CrVT for 24 years, and he says he’s excited for the younger generations coming into the industry, because, “Finally, here’s something that we’ve been asking for for a long time–to be valued and recognized, and it’s happening.”

A version of this story appears in the July 2024 print issue of JAVMA

AAEVT session at AVMA Convention 2024

Reeder will present the new guidelines during the session, “Harmony in Equine Healthcare: The AAEVT Guidelines for Optimal Utilization of the Credentialed Equine Veterinary Technician” on June 23 at AVMA Convention 2024 in Austin. To see a full listing of sessions, go to the AVMA Convention website.

The AVMA also has resources dedicated to empowering veterinary technicians to support practice success.