American Animal Hospital Association

“Veterinary nurse” is one step closer to being a legally recognized job title. In a future-focused move, AAHA last week came out in support of the Veterinary Nurse Initiative (VNI).

In 2017, National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) formed the VNI coalition to unite the profession under a single title—including credentialing requirements and scope of practice—with the goal of instituting a single, standardized title in all 50 states.

Specifically, the goal of VNI is to establish the credential of registered veterinary nurse, which would then replace the following titles: registered veterinary technician, licensed veterinary technician, certified veterinary technician, and licensed veterinary medical technician.

The AAHA Board of Directors voted to support the initiative during their October 2018 meeting.

“By standardizing the term ‘veterinary nurse,’ we increase consistency throughout the profession while also growing professional recognition and relevancy among pet owners,” said AAHA Chief Executive Officer Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (Emeritus). “Ultimately, this makes our profession stronger.”

Of the move, NAVTA President Kara Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, VTS (Nutrition), VTS-H (Internal Medicine, Dentistry), said, “I’m thrilled to have the support of the AAHA Board of Directors for the Veterinary Nurse Initiative. The partnership between AAHA and NAVTA is longstanding, and . . . . AAHA’s support of this extremely important initiative shows the need and understanding of the role that veterinary nurses play on the healthcare team.”

But why the big fuss over a name change? Veterinary nurse, veterinary technician, nurse—when you get right down to it, what’s the difference? As it turns out, there’s a big one.

“The word ‘technician’ does not come close to encapsulating all of the care and passion these dedicated professionals share with their patients and clients,” Cavanaugh said. “The veterinary nurse designation better aligns with the wide variety of valuable skills they perform every day to help clients and patients benefit from the human-animal bond.”

Unfortunately, human nurses don’t necessarily agree, and many actively oppose the VNI.

NEWStat reached out to VNI co-chair Kenichiro Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM), for some perspective. “We’ve seen varied opinions from registered nurses (RNs) around the nation ranging from strong opposition . . . to being encouraging and supportive of the change,” Yagi said.

Yagi says RNs who have some familiarity with the day-to-day challenges veterinary technicians face seem to be the most supportive because they understand that their jobs are similar. “They realize nursing care and nurses do not only exist in the human medical field.”

Erin Spencer, MEd, CVT, VTS (ECC), assistant professor in the veterinary technology program at the University of Massachusetts, agrees. “The more understanding an RN has of what veterinary technicians do in practice seems to correlate with how closely they can identify with the similarities between the two professions.”

“On the flip side, we in the veterinary technology/nursing profession recognize the struggles that the human nursing profession has faced to get to the well-respected status they hold in our communities today,” Spencer noted.

She added that a name change alone won’t garner that same level of recognition and respect for veterinary technicians, and that a campaign of advocacy and public education are needed, as well: “Our goal is to garner that same type of respect for our profession.”