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Veterinary technicians fill valuable role

I thought this week I would bring attention to a group of individuals who work as hard as veterinarians, get even dirtier, and listen to many more complaints than we ever will.

These are our veterinary technicians. Once a year, they get to celebrate their profession, education and dedication to their chosen career during National Veterinary Technician Week.  This year it is the week of Oct. 10.

The primary role of a veterinary technician is to support veterinarians, researchers and other scientists as they work in the fields of animal science.

Years ago, we trained our own technicians as they were employees and on-the-job training was perfectly OK. In the 1960s, formal academic programs started appearing to train individuals more completely than a busy veterinarian ever had the time or energy to do. Now there are more than 100 certified veterinary technology programs in the United States. In fact there are two American Veterinary Medical Association accredited programs in West Virginia; one in Charleston at Carver Career Center and one in Fairmont at the Pierpont Community and Technical College.

These two-year programs turn out technicians who have associate of science degrees. Some technicians can also pursue specialty areas like zoo animal medicine, rehabilitation or anesthesia, but these require more advanced study and time.

After school, these technician candidates must become certified, registered or licensed on a national and state level. They do so by sitting for an exam to test their competency. The test includes written, oral and practical parts covering the past two years of learning.  This test is regulated by a National and a State Board of Veterinary Examiners, which is the same board that governs veterinarians.

A technician's education and licensing are taken very seriously.

What technicians do for us veterinarians and for our clients and pets is what I am lucky enough to see every day. They really make the many demands of my job easier to fulfill.  Technicians can do physicals, take medical histories, educate the clients, care for the patients, give medications, and run laboratory tests. They also are taught to clean teeth, take X-rays, assist in surgery and help with office management and personnel. They are our version of a nurse and a physician's assistant rolled into one.

In addition to small animal practices needing veterinary technicians, other career opportunities exist for them. They can go into teaching, the military, industry and research.  The possibilities are endless.

The theme of this year's campaign is Hands on Healing.  If you think about it, that really does sum up what they do on a daily basis. To find out more about a career as a veterinary technician, visit the Web site And if you happen to be at your veterinarian's office the week of Oct. 10, or anytime really, don't forget to thank the technicians there for all the care they give to your pets. They are awesome.

 Send questions for Dr. Allison Dascoli to "Ask the Vet," Charleston Daily Mail, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston WV 25301 or e-mail them to Comments or suggestions can be submitted the same way.


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