Vet nurses vs vet techs - What’s the difference?
Many vet clinics in Australia are feeling the impact of staff shortages which are putting unnecessary pressure on veterinarians. Could veterinary technicians help alleviate this pressure?
Vet nurse qualification
In Australia, the current Australian national qualification for vet nursing is Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing, which takes from 18 months to 2 years to complete.
The Diploma in Veterinary Nursing is then an additional qualification following on from the Cert IV, for 12 months, in three different streams. These streams are general practice; surgical; and emergency and critical care.
Vet tech qualification
Veterinary technology is a three-year bachelors degree, which incorporates and extends the training provided by the Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing.
Starting in 2020 at the University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy campus, the Bachelor of Veterinary Technology will include 500 hours of clinical experience in which students will develop high level practical skills in caring for animals of a wide range of species.
Through the three years of the program students will develop a comprehensive understanding of animal diseases and their management at the level of individual animals and in populations.
Elective specialisations will include small animal medical and surgical nursing, emergency and critical care, anaesthesia, diagnostic imaging, equine nursing, farm animal health management and practice management.
On completion of the program graduates will be paraveterinary health care specialists experienced with the advanced technologies used in animal health management.
How could becoming a 'vet tech' help?
Some clinics, emergency and critical care hospitals, and specialist centres in Australia are already using a very effective tiered system of support staff. These include kennel hands and specific customer support staff and receptionists, through to trainee veterinary nurses, veterinary nurses, diploma qualified nurses, degree qualified veterinary technicians and practice managers. This means that veterinary surgeons gain the time to do the work that only they are qualified for.
“Most veterinarians will welcome ‘vet techs’ as well-trained support staff who will make the vet's job easier, more efficient and more rewarding,” says veterinary technology program coordinator Professor Kym Abbott.
“An additional benefit will be that many practices, particularly in rural and regional areas, are having serious difficulty recruiting and retaining veterinarians. In some cases, vet techs will help keep these practices viable and profitable, to the benefit of the vet, the vet tech, the clients and community.”
So, rather than employing another vet in a very tight market, could 'vet techs' be a solution for some clinics?
- Employing a veterinary technician could help alleviate the heavy workload on vets, allowing vets to manage their veterinary surgeon duties more effectively.
- It could increase job satisfaction for all veterinary staff, which may lead to better retention of vets in practices.
- It may even allow a pay rise for vets, further contributing to improved retention.