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Feb 26 2013

Veterinary Technicians: Our Unsung Heroes

By Dr. Alan Green

For anyone who has been in a hospital setting, it is no secret that the nursing staff usually sets the tone of the patient care and overall patient experience. In veterinary medicine, this truth also holds true. The veterinary technician is the analog of the nurse and technologist in the medical profession. The field of veterinary technology is a wonderful profession that many pet owners are unaware of, and quite frankly, as intelligent individuals and consumers, need to be.

Interestingly, licensing requirements of veterinary technicians vary from state to state. Many states require veterinary technicians to have formal education (2 or 4 year degree) with practical training, and then pass state and/or national examinations, similar to those of any other health care profession. South Carolina does not require licensure of veterinary technicians, although most hospitals do employ some or all licensed technicians.

In fact, we have a wonderful program for veterinary technology here in Charleston at Trident Technical College. When we opened CVRC, we established a formal relationship with the college, and are actively involved in creating educational opportunities. Our doctors and technicians mentor and instruct groups of students rotating through our hospital as part of their educational and training experience in the veterinary technology program.

The level of expertise and experience within veterinary technology varies, but the possibilities are endless. First and foremost, their primary responsibility is patient care. Like in the human field, our technicians provide medical treatments following the doctors’ treatment orders, and perform all forms of diagnostic testing, including running in house laboratory analyzers. Some of our technicians focus on radiology, and are experts in taking x-rays, and running our MRI and CT scans. Many technicians go on to specialize in various disciplines such as internal medicine, anesthesiology, surgical assisting, emergency and critical care, and more. There is an advanced certification known as a VTS (Veterinary Technician Specialist) that is rigorous to obtain. One of our technicians, Jennifer Severence became the first technician in South Carolina to be awarded that prestigious certification. It took three years of hard work, case presentations, and passing a certification examination. We are extremely proud of her accomplishments.

I truly believe that you cannot be a great doctor nor have an excellent hospital without having great veterinary technicians by your side. I am often asked for my opinion about the quality of various practices, as people understandably want the best for their furry family members. A fair question for pet owners to ask as they evaluate the quality of the practice they are entrusting their pet care to, is the level of expertise of the veterinary technical staff. In all fairness, licensure is just one measure of credential, but certainly does not guarantee excellence. Equally important are training, ability, and dedication.

Most veterinary technicians are incredibly dedicated and hard working professionals. These individuals are often the closest to the patients and feel the emotional ups and downs that occur on a daily basis. As in all medicine, there are some really good days emotionally, and there are some really hard days emotionally. We are all better off because of these noble professionals. Remember next time you’re in your veterinarian’s office to thank the veterinary technicians for what they do…everyday.

Dr. Alan Green is the owner and Chief of Staff of Charleston Veterinary Referral Center. CVRC is a state of the art 24-hour emergency and Specialty Center located in West Ashley. You can reach them at 614-VETS (8387) or visit them online at

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