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Role of the Technician and Assistant

Hosted by Nanette Walker Smith, RVT (Nsmithrvt)
April 14, 1998

Log of the VSPN online chat of Tuesday, April 14, 1998.
This was the Tuesday late night chat for West Coasters, and was hosted by Nanette Walker Smith, RVT (Nsmithrvt). Tonight's discussion involved differing job tasks for technicians and assistants. What should assistants be allowed to do? What type of supervision should be given? What is being done, and what should be done on the state and national level to emphasize the role and importance of the graduate veterinary technician?

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Participants included:
Nsmithrvt, HappyGiirl

Nsmithrvt: This is the place for the late night chat. Welcome. I am your host
Nsmithrvt: Nanette Walker Smith, RVT
Nsmithrvt: Tonight, I'd like to start the discussion regarding job tasks.
HappyGiirl: job tasks...such as....
HappyGiirl: who is supposed to do what at our work?
Nsmithrvt: What should an RVT be allowed to do, what should an unreg. asst. be
Nsmithrvt: allowed to do and what kind of supervision should each receiveHappyGiirl: ah...
HappyGiirl: doesn't that vary from state to state?
Nsmithrvt: Yes it does vary, but what we'd like to do is continue to work
Nsmithrvt: to get everyone on the same level so VTs are understood and respected
Nsmithrvt: state to state and it is understood what an unregistered asst.Nsmithrvt: can do. It would also create a veterinary asst. category for the states that
Nsmithrvt: don't have it, hopefully.HappyGiirl: who has the power to make the regulations nationwide...kinda like the DVM's have it?
HappyGiirl: ...that is..if DVM's are set up that way
HappyGiirl: i was reading about that UA thing in CA
Nsmithrvt: Actually regulation is a state thing, but the AVMA can use itsNsmithrvt: connections to try and persuade the states to do something.
HappyGiirl: UA.....urine analysis?...ughchk..i wouldn't wanna be named that :( heehee
Nsmithrvt: UA is the only other term in CA besides RVT, we have no VA's legally.
HappyGiirl: but the avma is run by what is the benefit for them to limiting the assistants
HappyGiirl: duties
HappyGiirl: it ends up "limiting" their practice in their minds
HappyGiirl: how are we to get the DVM's attention that VA's aren't RVTs' and that RVT's are actuallyHappyGiirl: better for their practice
Nsmithrvt: The idea is that if RVT duties are delineated and VA's/UA's are a sub set of thoseNsmithrvt: with appropriate regulations, DVMs will be forced to follow these regulations.
HappyGiirl: ?
HappyGiirl: i agree, it should be...but
HappyGiirl: there are so many vets out there that really don't give a rat's behind
HappyGiirl: but aren't DVM's in charge of placing those regulations?
Nsmithrvt: I know, the apathy and concern that RVTs will try to take over DVMs orHappyGiirl: in turn wouldn't they be putting "limiting" regulations upon themselves in essence?
HappyGiirl: in their minds anyway.
Nsmithrvt: open their own clinics has the old fogees furious.
HappyGiirl: what do human RN's do?
HappyGiirl: don't they have unions?
HappyGiirl: how do they get the respect?
Nsmithrvt: Regulations are actually governed by the the state. Regulations/practice acts must goNsmithrvt: through the house of representatives and senate and be approved by the governor
HappyGiirl: no one would ever mistake a "candy striper" for an RN, right?
HappyGiirl: it's because vets themselves call assistants
HappyGiirl: "techs",..
HappyGiirl: because it makes their practice sound better i think
Nsmithrvt: RNs get some respect, but are often at odds with the MDs due to unions.
HappyGiirl: so what is the answer?
Nsmithrvt: Unfortunately, with human medicine, I think the big problem is
Nsmithrvt: insurance. They run the medical profession, not the MD or RN, etc.
Nsmithrvt: The answer, boy I wish it were as simple as just stating the obvious.
HappyGiirl: :)
HappyGiirl: there is so much tension between the OJT's and the RVT's.
Nsmithrvt: DVMs that call their help techs are sometimes trying to make those non RVTs
Nsmithrvt: feel better, but often it's a convenience thing.HappyGiirl: how do we keep that from getting in our way?
HappyGiirl: if enough RVT's banded together in each state, and approached the ...what...
HappyGiirl: board of govenors?..
Nsmithrvt: As far as OJTs vs. RVTs. I would love to publish the comments from the current
Nsmithrvt: distance program students, as well as those attending techNsmithrvt: school that thought they were learning and doing well as an OJTNsmithrvt: then they started school! Most have said school is so important.
HappyGiirl: would enough pressure from the state organizations "
HappyGiirl: "make"
HappyGiirl: the DVM's on the board change the regs?
HappyGiirl: i know. ignorance is bliss.
HappyGiirl: so how do we get the state regs changed?HappyGiirl: and what about those really backward states that don't even barely acknowldge techs?
Nsmithrvt: Yes, a push from the Veterinary Medical Boards in each state would
Nsmithrvt: help, they are the state board (not usually synonymous with the VMA).Nsmithrvt: Try the state I'm moving to, Wyoming. The VMA is in Boise Idaho
HappyGiirl: there has to be some sort of consistency in order for this to work, otherwise, the states
HappyGiirl: that get the nod from the board, will become saturated with
HappyGiirl: techs looking for respect
Nsmithrvt: Techs are voluntarily registered with the VMA. The VMB doesn't know and doesn't care!
HappyGiirl: we need a nationwide change
HappyGiirl: ah...
HappyGiirl: i see
Nsmithrvt: Thank you. Now can you get a DVM to do that?
HappyGiirl: :)
Nsmithrvt: So, back to job tasks.
HappyGiirl: kHappyGiirl: i think assistants should restrain...clean....and assist the tech and dr when needed.HappyGiirl: not go off and do stuff on their own. that sounds harsh, i know, but it's how i feel.
HappyGiirl: when i worked at the AMC in manhattan, they had "ward aides"..which were essentially VA's.HappyGiirl: they only hired LVT's .
HappyGiirl: the ward aids..restrained...and let me tell you...they took pride in their restraint techniq
Nsmithrvt: The reason this is important is that by delineating what each respective
Nsmithrvt: member of the team (DVM on down) can do, allows for
Nsmithrvt: several things: supervision, career challenges, goals, etc.
Nsmithrvt: Okay, you stated assist. What about placing IV catheters?
HappyGiirl: techniques...
HappyGiirl: nope
HappyGiirl: not catheters
Nsmithrvt: What about dentals?
HappyGiirl: setting up for catheters, yes.
HappyGiirl: nope
Nsmithrvt: Prepping for surgery?
HappyGiirl: shaving, yes....
HappyGiirl: scrubbing..maybe
HappyGiirl: catheter placement, no.
Nsmithrvt: Treatments? Setting up surgery, doing packs?
HappyGiirl: packs.....if supervised.
Nsmithrvt: How about anesthesia? Induction? maintenance? post op.
HappyGiirl: unless directly supervised, and only like oral stuff then..
Nsmithrvt: No IV injections?
HappyGiirl: and maybe iv's that have a catheter already in place
HappyGiirl: only under direct supervision.
Nsmithrvt: Okay, now what does direct supervision mean?
HappyGiirl: anesthesia...NO WAY
HappyGiirl: induction..NO WAY
HappyGiirl: maintenence...NO WAY
HappyGiirl: post op......under direct supervision
Nsmithrvt: Direct supervision currently means the DVM is in the building/area
HappyGiirl: someone...dr....or vet tech IN THE SAME ROOM
HappyGiirl: not buildingHappyGiirl: there needs to be a term for even more than direct supervision
Nsmithrvt: Okay.
HappyGiirl: do you feel the same about any of these?
Nsmithrvt: Now we're getting somewhere.
Nsmithrvt: Yes, pretty much all of this. Our UA's are trained to always
Nsmithrvt: ask. Even some of our RVTs we have to watch like hawks.
Nsmithrvt: Yes, better definement of supervision is needed. Several DVMs have
HappyGiirl: Eyes On Supervision
HappyGiirl: y'know what i mean?
Nsmithrvt: stated that this is a huge grey area. Eyes on supervision is good. I mean our
Nsmithrvt: practice is huge. You can be in one end of the building and be completely clueless
HappyGiirl: the VA's get away with more and more all the time....
Nsmithrvt: as to what is going on and not be able to hear or see it.
HappyGiirl: a little here, a little there...
HappyGiirl: and it free's up the vet
HappyGiirl: so he's!
Nsmithrvt: Okay, next point after supervision is addressed is regulation.
Nsmithrvt: Regulation is up to the Veterinary Medical Board in each state.
HappyGiirl: maybe more vets need to be dinged on the lack of supervision they use
Nsmithrvt: Because this is a state board, $$ is precious and regulation
Nsmithrvt: can be quite minimal.
HappyGiirl: so..if an anonymous person "turns in" a vet for supervision violations...what happens normally?
Nsmithrvt: Inspections do catch some, but very little and virtually no RVT/UA
Nsmithrvt: stuff at all.
Nsmithrvt: Right now, if an RVT or DVM is turned in, the regulation falls on the DVM
HappyGiirl: they send someone out?
HappyGiirl: and if they long does the inspector stay?
Nsmithrvt: The RVT may lose his/her license, but so will the DVM.
HappyGiirl: how often do they prove the allegation though?
Nsmithrvt: Regulatory visits are granted, and I think it varies in each state
Nsmithrvt: with how much notice if any they get. Inspections take a day
Nsmithrvt: or less usually. The most successful inspections are those
Nsmithrvt: instigated by clientele. Most employees (assoc. DVMs, RVTs, staff)
Nsmithrvt: are uncomfortable with turning someone in for fear of losing their job
HappyGiirl: how would someone turning someone in get found out?
HappyGiirl: arent' there anonymous hotlines you can call?
Nsmithrvt: or tarnishing their image all around town. It's all supposed to be confidential, but....
Nsmithrvt: Sometimes if it sounds like a complaint the VMB will turf it to ethics committees which
Nsmithrvt: use mediators between the teller and the doer.
HappyGiirl: the thing that sucks is that the whole DVM thing is such an "old boys club" even though the
HappyGiirl: there are more and more women DVM's
HappyGiirl: i have yet to find a vet talk bad about's such a tight circle
Nsmithrvt: I suppose you can send an anonymous letter and hope the VMB takes it to heart.
HappyGiirl: y'know what i mean?
Nsmithrvt: Try the specialists circle, you hear it all there, unfortunately.
HappyGiirl: see...we're threatened by the VA's and UA's, ...are the DVM's threatened by us in the same
HappyGiirl: fashion?
Nsmithrvt: What everybody seems to forget is our main purpose, the health and welfare of the animal
HappyGiirl: well...maybe my boss is different...she's a specialist and hasn't said "Boo" about anyone.
HappyGiirl: or maybe i haven't been around long enough..:)
Nsmithrvt: Some DVMs feel threatened (again stemming from the nurse practioner, own clinic thing).
HappyGiirl: yeah..i can see that.
HappyGiirl: so how are we to get the DVM's to back us up, if subconciously they are threatened by us?
Nsmithrvt: I hope your specialist maintains her standards. Tattle taling is only helpful if
Nsmithrvt: it is truly needed and not just nit picking.
HappyGiirl: yeah...i agree
Nsmithrvt: Continue to show DVMs and the public that we are educated,
Nsmithrvt: professional individuals that are an essential part of the Veterinary
Nsmithrvt: Health Care Team
HappyGiirl: there needs to be more public awareness of our profession
HappyGiirl: national vet tech week is only noticed by vet techs...
HappyGiirl: how can we get the word out?
Nsmithrvt: Without the knowledge of what makes up the whole, the public, just assumes
HappyGiirl: they all think we got our degrees from sally struthers
Nsmithrvt: the DVM does everything. When they are told who will be doing what, they rarely
Nsmithrvt: question it when they are told of why and what qualifies us to do so.
HappyGiirl: so how do we get the word out? newspapers?
HappyGiirl: have them do feature articles about us?
HappyGiirl: tv?
Nsmithrvt: I have said for years, since NVTW started, that the public needs to be involved.
HappyGiirl: magazine shows?
Nsmithrvt: But NAVTA is underfunded and most funding they get stays within the
HappyGiirl: i think that animal planet should do a feature on vet techs..
Nsmithrvt: veterinary practice. It's good, but it won't get the public asking the DVM
HappyGiirl: i like the animal er thing....
Nsmithrvt: who their staff is and what their qualifications are.
HappyGiirl: but they need to highlight the techs more i think.
HappyGiirl: or come up with a program that does.
Nsmithrvt: Funny you should mention that. I have been working with ComCast
which runs Animal Planet
Nsmithrvt: on just that very thing.
HappyGiirl: oh ReEEEEEallly?
HappyGiirl: do tell.
HappyGiirl: what type of show?
Nsmithrvt: For NVTW this year, they have offered to do 200-300 22 second spots
HappyGiirl: :)
HappyGiirl: and.....................................
Nsmithrvt: on NVTW and VT's. Our event for the week centers around disasters
Nsmithrvt: and they plan on using the weather channel to help out
HappyGiirl: :)
HappyGiirl: cool.
HappyGiirl: that's a start!!!!!!
Nsmithrvt: I believe it's all a trickle down theory.
HappyGiirl: yeah
Nsmithrvt: When I started it was a drop by drop, now it's a small stream.
HappyGiirl: we need some big time bucks to back us up...or a big time personality...and i don't mean sal
HappyGiirl: sally struthers.. :)
Nsmithrvt: With individuals like you and most of us on VIN/VSPN continually pushing
HappyGiirl: Hey...I'm a pushin!
HappyGiirl: <---grunting and groaning
HappyGiirl: :)
Nsmithrvt: Things will change. No kidding!!
HappyGiirl: i hope!
HappyGiirl:'s been great talking with you...
Nsmithrvt: Betty White has been some help, but she doesn't get to the younger crowd.
Nsmithrvt: Thanks for joining me. I appreciate the good camraderie. People like you make my career
Nsmithrvt: worth while. See you soon!