Veterinary Surgical Technician

Q. Is there such a thing as a surgical nurse in veterinary medicine? My daughter doesn’t want to spend years in veterinary school (or nursing school, for that matter), but she loves surgery.

A. Yes, there is! They are called veterinary technicians. And even better, the job outlook for registered veterinary technicians, especially those with advanced training, is very strong. A skilled veterinary technician is unlikely to have to look all that hard for a good job, and the potential for advancement to management in large practices is very strong.

I cannot say enough great things about veterinary technicians (although I certainly have tried), and the overwhelming majority of my veterinarian colleagues feel the same way. While I think some old-school veterinarians maybe didn’t always give credit where credit is due, a smart veterinarian today knows that it’s always a great idea to turn to your technician in the examination room and say, “What are you seeing? What are your thoughts?” I know I always do.

How to Become a Veterinary Technician

In recent years we've seen an expansion of programs to advance the skills of registered veterinary technicians, or RVTs (the title may vary by state, but the job is the same). Smart veterinary practices invest in the continuing education of their technicians, sending them to conferences right alongside the veterinarians. While many RVTs are highly competent Jacks (actually, mostly “Jills”) of all trades within a veterinary practice, there has been a trend toward increased specialization, including a surgical specialty.

Your daughter will first need to become a RVT through a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. She’ll then need to pass a test to get her state license (some states have their own test, while others use results from nationwide testing).

The next step will be to connect with the Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians for additional training and certification. Certification comes after on-the-job experience (three years as a licensed technician), coursework and the passing of an examination. The group is new, and the first test was given this year, but this specialty area has a great future. Your daughter will too, if she goes in this direction.