Veterinary Nursing in Action

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Veterinary Technician’s Oath

I solemnly dedicate myself to aiding animals and society by providing excellent care and services for animals, by alleviating animal suffering, and by promoting public health. I accept my obligations to practice my profession conscientiously and with sensitivity, adhering to the profession’s Code of Ethics, and furthering my knowledge and competence through a commitment to lifelong learning.

Veterinary Nursing in Action

In 1993, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) executive board passed a resolution declaring the third week of October National Veterinary Technician Week (NVTW) to focus positive attention on the veterinary nursing profession. 

According to NAVTA, the NVTW goals are:

  • Educating the public about the roles and responsibilities of veterinary nurses 
  • Reinforcing the value and professionalism of veterinary nurses to veterinarians and the public
  • Providing an opportunity for veterinary team members to salute one another for excellent work performance 
  • Acknowledging veterinarians for hiring credentialed veterinary nurses 

NVTW’s 2016 theme is “Veterinary Nursing in Action,” which connects to the diversity of experiences and species managed in the veterinary profession and reminds each veterinary nursing team member of the action steps listed in the veterinary technician oath.

In the spirit of this theme, let us look back at the veterinary nursing profession over the past year.

  • A task force was established to research the uniformity of a single credential and the terminology that is most representative of our roles and responsibilities on the veterinary team. Kenichiro Yagi, RVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM), and Heather Prendergast, RVT, CVPM, cochair the National Credential Task Force spearheaded by NAVTA. 
  • Veterinary Nurse or Veterinary Technician? explains the work that the task force has done exploring and opening up discussions with all constituents involved in this important discussion. 
  • The Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties announced 2 new specialties—the Academy of Dermatology Veterinary Technicians and the Academy of Veterinary Ophthalmic Technicians—bringing the total of veterinary technician specialty academies to 13, a truly amazing achievement. The very first specialty, the Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians (AVECCT), is celebrating its 20th anniversary. 

There are 230 AVMA-accredited veterinary nursing programs and 31 NAVTA-approved veterinary assistant (AVA) programs, proof of the continuing interest in veterinary team professional careers and the need to differentiate each team member’s skills and responsibilities.

Veterinary Team Brief recognizes that every veterinary team member is a valuable asset and congratulates the veterinary nursing team on another well-deserved celebration. Use this celebration as the springboard to promote and support teammates and clients. Lift one another UP! Celebrate each other, celebrate the prfession, celebrate YOU! 

Veterinary Nurse or Veterinary Technician? An Update on National Credentials

The veterinary technology profession has been developing since the 1960s and has experienced numerous changes in designated titles, from animal technician, to animal health technician, to veterinary technician. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) is spearheading discussions about a nationally unified title and standardized credential requirements within the entire profession. 

Did You Know?

The top 3 factors most likely to affect veterinary nursing jobs in the next 5 years are:

Source: NAVTA 2016 Demographic Survey

Since the title veterinary technician (VT) was implemented in 1989, efforts to elevate the profession through professional and public education and legislation have been ongoing. Significant progress has been made; however, challenges still need to be overcome, including varying credentialing requirements, professional titles, scope of practice, and job tasks, depending on the state veterinary practice act in the 37 states with established licensure. In 10 of the states without licensure, nonprofit veterinary organizations have implemented voluntary credentialing to uphold similar standards, leaving 5 states and US territories without credentialing systems.

Credential Woes 

Currently, a VT is designated a certified VT, registered VT, licensed VT, or licensed veterinary medical technician (LVMT), depending on the credentialing state. (See Table 1.) The lack of standardization has led to widespread confusion regarding the VT’s role within the veterinary profession and among members of the general public, who do not clearly understand VT credentialing, leading to these members of the profession having little perceived value.

Credentialing Status of Veterinary Technicians Depending on State of Practice

Credential status

  • State licensure
  • Private credentialing
  • No credentialing system

Credential type

  • Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT)
  • Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT)
  • Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT)
  • Licensed Veterinary Medical Technician (LVMT)
  • None

Education requirement

  • Formal (AVMA-accredited program)
  • Informal (state-designated alternate routes)
  • None

Maintenance requirement

  • 0 to 20 hours CE per cycle

Scope of practice and job tasks

  • Veterinary practice act
  • Voluntary governance
  • None

VT leaders expressed the need for nationally standardized credential requirements and a unified title at a summit hosted by NAVTA in July 2015. Standardizing credentialing requirements will ensure high-quality patient care and veterinary consumer protection and provide avenues to establish reciprocity between states. The title proposed was veterinary nurse (VN), which would emphasize the role of the growing profession, facilitate public education, and unite the profession under a single title.

The National Credential Task Force (NCTF) was formed in November 2015 to create a strategy in pursuit of these goals. The NCTF devoted 2016 to gathering stakeholder feedback and researching credential governance and legislative processes to determine the best method for implementing a national credential. 

Leader Input

Surveying leaders of state VT associations and VT specialty academies showed 97.3% of respondents felt nationally standardized credential requirements were necessary, with challenges expected to include legislative changes, agreement on a standard, implementation cost, and major stakeholder support (NAVTA, unpublished data, January 2015). A majority (73.3%) of VT leaders were in favor of the VN title (NAVTA, unpublished data, January 2015) but expected challenges in reaching consensus within the profession, including gaining support from nurses and conflicts with nurse title protection, a law that restricts the use of the title nurse to those meeting specific requirements. (See Figure 1.)

FIGURE 1 Results from a survey of leaders of state VT associations and VT specialty academies

Consultation with attorneys revealed that nurse title protection would cause definite conflict in 16 states, possible conflict in 8, and no conflict in 14. Nurse title protection does not exist in 12 states. The attorneys’ report indicated the VN title could be implemented in more than 26 states without conflict. NAVTA is collaborating with the AVMA and the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) to establish a single language in model practice acts pertaining to VTs that can help provide clear title protection, and help disseminate standards and the unified title from the national level.

The NAVTA 2016 Demographic Survey1 disseminated to all members of the veterinary field (with the vast majority VTs) showed 90% of respondents felt nationally standardized credentials and a change in title were important, with 54% of respondents favoring VN and 37% favoring VT. The main reasons for favoring VT were the anticipation of conflict with human nurses and believing that VTs perform different tasks than nurses. 

Did You Know?

Where veterinary nurses are employed by percentage:

Source: NAVTA 2016 Demographic Survey

Nurses Speak

Although there is a precedent of opposition by nurses in select states, initial surveys indicate more support for the VN term than previously suspected. The prevailing message from nurses is a call for any profession using nurse in its title to enforce high education standards and levels of responsibility in their role of patient care. (See Figure 2.) NAVTA has initiated discussions with nurse regulatory and advocacy organizations to find common ground and gain insight into further developing veterinary nursing as a proud profession.

Figure 2 Veterinary technicians provide expertise in many aspects of nursing care, and initial surveys indicate support for the term veterinary nurse.

Members of the profession commonly say “veterinary technicians do more than nurses” when speaking against the VN title. This comment is made largely from the misconception of a human nurse’s scope of practice and the various professional specializations. When comparing duties, scope of practice is similar, and RNs and VNs deserve equal respect.


Ultimately, the profession’s fate lies with its members. Efforts to establish higher standards in credential requirements, gain professional and public recognition, and protect a unified title will be stifled until the profession moves forward under a single banner. The responsibility lies with each individual to be educated on the issue and participate in the discussion to make a profession-wide decision. The time is now. Rise to the occasion.

Editor’s note: Kenichiro Yagi and Heather Prendergast cochair the National Credential Task Force.

For More Information About NAVTA

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

PO Box 1227

Albert Lea, Minnesota 56007


Credentials Map

This interactive map displays the credentialing details in each of the 50 states. Click on any state to jump to full information including the credentialing body (state licensing board or private) if applicable, if a veterinary technician association (VTA) exists in that state, if credentials are compulsory, the minimum CE hours required per year, if applicable, and if an alternate education route (ie state-designated informal route to credentialing vs. AVMA-accredited program) is available. Information about any title protection of the term veterinary technician is also provided.

Research provided by the NAVTA National Credential Task Force

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LVT Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington
RVT California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia,
CVT Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming
LVMT Tennessee
None Connecticut, Utah

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State Credential State VTA? Credentialing Body Compulsory? CE hrs Req'd/yr Alternate Route Title Protection?
Alabama LVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 8 No Yes
Alaska LVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 5 Yes No
Arizona CVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 5 No No
Arkansas CVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 4 No No
California RVT No State Vet Board Yes 10 Yes No
Colorado CVT Yes VTA No 8 No No
Connecticut None No NA NA  NA No No
Delaware LVT No State Vet Board Yes 6 No No
Florida CVT Yes VTA and VMA No 7.5 No No
Georgia RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 5 No No
Hawaii RVT Yes NA NA 11 No No
Idaho CVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 7 No Yes
Illinois CVT Yes State Department of Professional Regulation Yes 7.5 No Yes
Indiana RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 8 No Yes
Iowa RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 10 No No
Kansas RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes NA  No No
Kentucky LVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 6 No Yes
Louisiana RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 10 No Yes
Maine LVT No State Department of Professional Regulation Yes NA  No No
Maryland RVT No State Vet Board Yes 8 Yes No
Massachusetts CVT Yes VTA No 12 Yes No
Michigan LVT Yes State Vet Board Yes NA  No No
Minnesota CVT Yes State VMA No 5 No No
Mississippi CVT No State Vet Board Yes 10 No No
Missouri RVT Yes State Department of Professional Regulation Yes 10 No Yes
Montana CVT Yes VTA No 8 No No
Nebraska LVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 8 No  
Nevada LVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 5 Yes Yes
New Hampshire CVT Yes VTA No 12 No No
New Jersey CVT Yes VTA No 10 No No
New Mexico RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 8 No No
New York LVT Yes Office of Professions Yes 8 No Yes
North Carolina RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 6 No No
North Dakota LVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 4 No No
Ohio RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 5 No No
Oklahoma RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 10 No Yes
Oregon CVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 7.5 Yes No
Pennsylvania CVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 8 No Yes
Rhode Island CVT Yes VTA No 12 No No
South Carolina LVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 5 No No
South Dakota RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 6 No No
Tennessee LVMT Yes State Vet Board Yes 12 No No
Texas LVT Yes State VMB Yes 5 No Yes
Utah None Yes NA NA NA  No No
Vermont CVT Yes VTA No 6 No No
Virginia LVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 6 No No
Washington LVT Yes Board of Govern. Yes 10 Yes No
West Virginia RVT Yes State Vet Board Yes 8 No  
Wisconsin CVT Yes State Department of Professional Regulation Yes 7.5 Yes No
Wyoming CVT Yes VTA No 5 No No


References and author information Show
  1. National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. NAVTA 2016 Demographic Survey Results. Accessed September 13, 2016.

Kenichiro Yagi

RVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM) Adobe Animal Hospital, Los Altos, California

Kenichiro Yagi, RVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM), is an ICU and blood bank manager at Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, California. He has authored textbooks, chapters, and articles on transfusion medicine, respiratory care, critical care nursing, and the veterinary nursing profession. He is a board member of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society, the Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians, and the Veterinary Innovation Council, and he serves as the NAVTA State Representative Chairperson and cochair of the Veterinary Nurse Initiative.

FUN FACT: Before authoring articles, Ken had a stint in translating Japanese manga such as Rurouni Kenshin into English.

Heather Prendergast

RVT, CVPM, SPHR Synergie Consulting, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Heather Prendergast, RVT, CVPM, SPHR, has been in the veterinary industry for more than 20 years, working in small animal practice and as a consultant. She authored the book Front Office Management for the Veterinary Team and lectures nationally on practice management and veterinary nurse-related initiatives.

FUN FACT: Heather drives a customized Harley Davidson Fat Boy when time allows.

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Veterinary Team Brief delivers practical skills for team-based medicine—with clinical strategies for team training, peer-reviewed credibility, concise content, essential training modules, and easy-to-implement protocols. From the publisher of Clinician's Brief.