Opportunities for Veterinary Assistants

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
TMCC Veterinary Students Image

TMCC veterinary technician students participate in clinicals during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Student veterinary technicians at Truckee Meadows Community College are inspiring high school students to become part of the animal care team through a unique program encouraging young people to become certified as an approved veterinary assistant (AVA).

In much the same way that certified nursing assistants work together and assist registered nurses to take care of human patients, veterinary assistants support veterinary technicians in their care of their four-footed patients.

“The Veterinary Technician Program is excited to announce that the Veterinary Assisting Program we partnered with last year, the Northern Summit Academy, has been approved to allow their graduates to take a credentialing exam,” said Veterinary Technician Program Coordinator, Michele Noreen, DVM.

When Academy students pass the exam, they are ready to enter the workforce as an AVA.

“We’re very excited for Northern Summit Academy,” she said. “An integral part of the recognition from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America is a partnership with a Veterinary Technician Program such as ours at TMCC.”

Enthusiastic High School Students

Northern Summit Academy is a charter high school in Anderson, California, located between Redding and Red Bluff. Their AVA program coordinator is Melisa Armstrong, a registered veterinary technician (RVT).

The TMCC Veterinary Technician Program partnership with Northern Summit Academy’s Veterinary Assistant Program includes a yearly field trip by the Academy students to TMCC, shadowing vet tech students. The first event was held during Fall Semester.

“The high school students toured the Pennington Health Science Center and had a parasitology lab together with the second-year veterinary technician students,” Noreen said. “They stayed over at a local hotel with two representatives from the Academy—the program coordinator and the head administrator—and then came to Washoe County Regional Animal Services shelter the following morning before heading home. At the shelter, the students participated in a lab with the first-year vet tech students.”

Credentialing and Accrediting Organizations

“Melisa has worked very hard to gain acceptance of her program by NAVTA,” Noreen said. “Northern Summit Academy is the first high school in all of California to receive this designation.”

As of April, nationally there were 18 high schools, including the Academy, that have been NAVTA/AVA approved, four online veterinary assisting programs with the designation, and 19 college programs, Noreen added.

The examination and credentialing are recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). Education for veterinary technicians is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Committee for Veterinary Education and Activities (AVMA-CVTEA).

“It’s exciting that the organization for veterinary technicians has created this designation for veterinary assistants,” Noreen added.

Tasks of AVAs and RVTs

Veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians are members of an animal care team, with a different set of tasks.

AVAs are supervised by a veterinarian or veterinary technician, and provide care including, but not limited to the following:

  • Applying bandages
  • Monitoring anesthesia
  • Collecting laboratory specimens
  • Ear cleaning
  • Taking temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and weight
  • Administering oral or topical medications
  • Positioning an animal for X-rays, or other imaging

Licensed veterinary technicians are supervised by the veterinarian, and perform tasks such as these:

  • Induction of anesthesia
  • Blood administration
  • Application of casts and splints
  • Preventive dental care
  • Physical therapy
  • Introduction of a stomach tube
  • Provide injections

Further Study for the Veterinary Assistants

Noreen would like the partnership to continue and grow. The Academy’s program now has a modest number of students enrolled because it is just beginning, but she sees a potential for larger classes in the future.

“We have a memorandum of understanding agreement to continue the relationship,” Noreen said. “Melisa Armstrong is also a member of our TMCC Vet Tech Program advisory committee now, and I’m a member of the Northern Summit Academy’s advisory committee.”

They are starting to plan for the next field trip.

“It’s our hope for the future that graduates of Northern Summit Academy will continue their education at TMCC if they decide to progress to veterinary technician,” Noreen said.

For more information about the Veterinary Technician Program at TMCC, please call Dr. Michele Noreen at 775-850-4003.