Why Title Change Is The Path To Profession Change
Leslie Wereszczak, LVMT, VTS(ECC) / The University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center
As a credentialed veterinary technician who feels passionately that it is time to elevate my profession with a name change that reflects the level of my education and professional scope, I strongly endorse the Veterinary Nurse Initiative.
Over my 30 years of clinical experience, I have seen the gap gradually close between human and veterinary medicine in many ways. Medical interventions that would be unheard of in veterinary medicine 20 years ago are now commonplace. Renal dialysis, organ transplantation, transfusion medicine, chemotherapy and mechanical ventilation are just a tiny representation of the many parallels that human and veterinary medicine share in our joint efforts to preserve and prolong the one life we are given- animal or human.
Medical doctors (MD’s) and Veterinarians, (DVM or VMD’s in the U.S.) are universally called “doctor”. In a medical setting, veterinary or human, when a medical professional is addressed as, or referred to as, “doctor”, that person has immediate distinction as to their role and education level. There is no further explanation needed. In a human medical setting, when a medical professional is addressed as, or referred to as, “nurse”, that person has immediate distinction as to their role and education level as well. Unfortunately, that parallel is not drawn into veterinary medicine with the term “technician.” The term “Nurse” implies education. The term “technician” implies many things such as skill or training, but does not imply that the individual whose title is “technician” holds a college degree in veterinary nursing. Yes, veterinary nursing. It is what we do. We provide the nursing care to our patients. The duties among us are as multi-faceted and diverse as the species we treat, yet I do not believe we can use the argument that “nurse” does not describe what we do. It is, in fact, the very essence of what we do!
I have RN friends who support the VNI because they are educated and informed on what I do. We share mutual respect for one another as degreed medical professionals. My sister-in- law is a NICU nurse of over 30 years. We enjoy sharing the parallels and challenges of our jobs, especially the unique vulnerability of our patients, despite the species differences. Her job is very different from my neighbor, the flight nurse, who often induces and intubates in the helicopter as well as performs point-of-care testing in route. Her job is very different from my friend who is an OR nurse who assists in surgery and often scrubs in with her doctor. Her job is very different from my own physician’s nurse who takes my medical history and blood pressure, performs my ECG during my yearly physical, draws my blood, administers my flu shot, and took my radiographs when I fell and broke my arm. These are just 4 examples of 4 very different experiences and responsibilities each of these amazing individuals perform on a daily basis, but all undeniably and unquestionably, registered nurses. I asked them if they would feel threatened or in any way feel marginalized if my title changed to Registered Veterinary Nurse. All emphatically expressed support without reservation. One responded, “Why would I oppose that? It is what you do!”
A search for “technician” jobs available at a local human hospital and the requirements for these positions, are listed below:
- Electrocardio Technician: GED or High School Diploma, EKG Certificate preferred.
- Physical Therapy Technician: GED or High School Diploma, 3 mos. related experience.
- Sterile Processing Technician: GED or High School Diploma, 3 mos. related experience.
- Pharmacy Technician: One-year certification required.
- Monitor Technician: GED or High School Diploma, 3 mos. related experience preferred.
- Central Supply Technician: GED or High School Diploma – Current driver’s license.
- Fitness Technician: GED or High School Diploma.
The multitude of nursing positions posted on the same site universally required nursing degrees- associates or bachelor’s degrees and current licensure in my state. An applicant not meeting these requirements would immediately be eliminated from the applicant pool. There are no grey zones or rules open for interpretation in human nursing as are commonplace in veterinary technology.
As a credentialed veterinary technician, I have to explain what I do over and over again. Time after time I hear the response, “I was was a vet tech once.” I always politely inquire, “Where did you get your degree?” The response confirms that they worked in a veterinary setting where all support staff were collectively called “technicians.” The nametags of the nurses I mentioned above all state their names followed by the title, RN – education implied, no explanation required. I believe it is essential that having a title that defines what we do without explanation is an essential step in elevating our profession to the level it deserves to be. The title RVN would clearly provide the distinction of having a college degree and the role we play in the veterinary field as well. The VNI provides provisions for title protection to end the collective title terminology that provides no distinction between credentialed and non-credentialed individuals.
The Veterinary Nurse Initiative is just that- Initiative! Initiative for discussion. Initiative for positive change among progressive thinkers who recognize the need for action if this profession is ever going to flourish and demand the respect it deserves. Initiative for all veterinary professionals- veterinarians and veterinary technicians alike- to face the issues that are challenging the veterinary nursing profession such as improper title usage, alternative paths for credentialing and the collective term “veterinary technician” for anyone providing nursing care, credentialed or not. The VNI is an effort to provide a standardized title in all 50 states for those meeting the rigorous and respected requirements to earn the title of RVN through legislative amendments and unified requirements in all 50 states.
It is time for a title change. It is time to be called a Registered Veterinary Nurse.
About the Author
Leslie Wereszczak, LVMT, VTS (ECC)
Leslie Wereszczak, LVMT, VTS (ECC) is a licensed veterinary medical technician with a veterinary technician specialty in emergency/critical care. She graduated from SUNY Delhi in 1989. She is the supervisor of the small animal emergency/critical care service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she has worked for 25 years. Leslie enjoys the unpredictable nature of emergency/critical care and the diverse caseload it provides. She enjoys teaching veterinary students in the clinical setting as well as being involved in the simulation laboratory. Leslie is an invited speaker at national and regional veterinary conferences.