Heal­ing Hands

Dis­cover why and how to be­come an equine ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian.


YYou can’t re­mem­ber a time in your life when you weren’t in love with horses. From your first pony ride at 5 years old, you were hooked. Your life has re­volved around learn­ing ev­ery­thing you could about horses, from rid­ing to be­hav­ior to nu­tri­tion to train­ing. Now you’re ready to ful­fill your yearn­ing to be a part of the heal­ing hands in the equine world, to learn ev­ery­thing you can about equine health care.

If this is you, it’s time to ex­plore the op­por­tu­ni­ties that ex­ist in the equine ve­teri­nary field. With some fo­cused ef­fort and ed­u­ca­tion, you can be­come an equine ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian. Here’s some ad­vice from the ex­perts to get you started.

Horse-Savvy Head Start

Your ex­ist­ing horse knowl­edge will be ex­tremely help­ful in any course of study you un­der­take re­lated to be­com­ing an equine vet tech. Such ba­sic horse skills as groom­ing, tack­ing up, ex­er­cis­ing, and feed­ing will be a part of ev­ery­thing you learn as you move into the field.

Groom­ing your horse gives you hands-on in­for­ma­tion about his shape and feel, so that you’ll no­tice any changes, such a swelling, scabs, heat, or sen­si­tiv­ity.

Mak­ing sure that your tack fits your horse prop­erly will lessen the risk of him de­vel­op­ing mus­cle sore­ness or rub abra­sions that can im­pact his health and hap­pi­ness.

Giv­ing your horse reg­u­lar ex­er­cise al­lows him to main­tain a level of fit­ness that helps avoid such prob­lems as mus­cle strain, foot is­sues, and weight gain, while cre­at­ing a bright mind and will­ing part­ner.

And lastly, from years of feed­ing your horse, you al­ready know that the horse is a graz­ing an­i­mal whose di­ges­tive sys­tem is de­signed to func­tion best when he’s al­lowed to eat and move about through­out the day.

Your prac­ti­cal knowl­edge of ba­sic equine medicine will prove use­ful, too. You al­ready know that horses need to be de­wormed on a reg­u­lar sched­ule to pre­vent the buildup of in­testi­nal par­a­sites. You may also know a bit about why it’s im­por­tant to ro­tate de­worm­ers to avoid drug re­sis­tance in your horse.

You un­der­stand the im­por­tance of vac­ci­nat­ing your horse to pre­vent dis­ease. You likely have ba­sic ex­pe­ri­ence with wound care and maybe even have some past ex­pe­ri­ence with rec­og­niz­ing and treat­ing colic, lamini­tis, or scratches.

By tak­ing this fun­da­men­tal knowl­edge and adding in fo­cus and ed­u­ca­tion, you can launch your­self into a ca­reer as an equine ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian.

Know the Job De­scrip­tion

An equine ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian is the per­son be­hind the scenes, work­ing to as­sist the equine vet­eri­nar­ian. Most large an­i­mal ve­teri­nary prac­tices will be manned by one or more doc­tors, cus­tomer ser­vice staff, and med­i­cal staff, such as ve­teri­nary as­sis­tants and ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cians.

In a ve­teri­nary prac­tice, per­son­nel per- form dif­fer­ent func­tions, de­pend­ing on their roles. Cus­tomer ser­vice staff han­dles the front desk and per­form such tasks as fil­ing, col­lect­ing pay­ments, sched­ul­ing ap­point­ments, and as­sist­ing with client re­la­tions.

Ve­teri­nary as­sis­tants help doc­tors and tech­ni­cians with nurs­ing du­ties, clean­ing du­ties, lab prepa­ra­tion, di­ag­nos­tic test­ing, imag­ing, surgery, and med­i­cal records.

Ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cians, who have more train­ing than ve­teri­nary as­sis­tants, per­form nurs­ing du­ties, con­duct di­ag­nos­tic test­ing and imag­ing, com­plete lab­o­ra­tory test­ing, sup­ply med­i­ca­tions to clients and pa­tients, run anes­the­sia, as­sist in surg­eries, and act as a li­ai­son be­tween clients and doc­tors.

Pro­fes­sional Help

To get the most from your equine ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian ca­reer, in­ves­ti­gate the Amer­i­can Association of Equine Ve­teri­nary Tech­ni­cians and As­sis­tants (www.aaevt.org), es­pe­cially its cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and ed­u­ca­tional of­fer­ings.

The AAEVT is a pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 2004. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pur­pose is to as­sist in pro­vid­ing the best med­i­cal at­ten­tion and prac­tices to im­prove the health and wel­fare of the horse, and to pro­vide re­sources and lead­er­ship for the ben­e­fit of the equine in­dus­try and the ve­teri­nary com­mu­nity that serves it.

To ac­com­plish its pur­pose, the AAEVT works to achieve the fol­low­ing ob­jec­tives:

• To pro­mote and pro­vide con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties rel­e­vant and ac­ces­si­ble to equine tech­ni­cians and as­sis­tants.

• To en­cour­age and im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween equine tech­ni­cians and as­sis­tants by cre­at­ing a net­work so we can share ideas, find oth­ers with sim­i­lar in­ter­est and ar­eas of ex­per­tise, and post job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

• To be more in­formed on leg­isla­tive mat­ters that af­fect the equine ve­teri­nary com­mu­nity.

• To ed­u­cate the pub­lic and the ve­teri­nary pro­fes­sion as to the value and ben­e­fits gained by em­ploy­ing and sup­port­ing trained para­pro­fes­sion­als.

• To pro­mote and main­tain pro­fes­sion­al­ism and eth­i­cal be­hav­ior for all equine tech­ni­cians and as­sis­tants and to im­prove the de­vel­op­ment of the vo­ca­tion.

• To pro­mote and main­tain the pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Amer­i­can Association of Equine Prac­ti­tion­ers and mem­bers of the AAEVT.

To ful­fill its pur­pose and ob­jec­tives, the AAEVT of­fers its An­i­mal Care Tech­nolo­gies On­line Equine Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram, equine-ori­ented con­tin­u­ing ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian ed­u­ca­tion re­sources, in­for­ma­tion about ac­cred­ited ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian de­gree pro­grams, and in­for­ma­tion on the AEVNT — the spe­cialty academy for equine ve­teri­nary nurs­ing tech­ni­cians (www.aaevt.org/page/aevnt­faq).

Learn­ing Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

The AAEVT course­work is the ACT On­line Equine Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram (www. schools.4act.com). The pro­gram is de­signed as a learn­ing and train­ing tool for equine ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cians, as­sis­tants, and other sup­port staff in the equine prac­tice, or for those al­ready en­rolled in an ac­cred­ited gen­eral ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian pro­gram who are most in­ter­ested in work­ing in equine medicine.

To en­roll, you must first be­come a mem­ber of the AAEVT. Ac­cord­ing to Deb- orah Reeder, CWAS, RVT, VTS-EVN, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the AAEVT, “Ap­pli­cants don’t need to be em­ployed in an equine prac­tice, but they do need to have a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with a DVM, prefer­ably an AAEP mem­ber.”

The AAEVT is a sis­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion to the AAEP (www.aaep.org) — the vet­eri­nar­i­ans who work in equine medicine. AAEP mem­bers su­per­vise and sign off on the course work and skills of AAEVT ap­pli­cants. As Reeder notes, “Cre­at­ing that re­la­tion­ship with a DVM who can men­tor an ap­pli­cant and teach the nec­es­sary skills is cru­cial.”

The pro­gram ap­pli­ca­tion is avail­able on­line. Pr­ereq­ui­sites are few, but be pre­pared. “There’s quite a bit of read­ing, and it’s help­ful to un­der­stand some ba­sic med­i­cal/ve­teri­nary in­for­ma­tion,” says Reeder.

How­ever, there’s no need to al­ready be a cre­den­tialed ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cian to en­roll in the course; in fact, the AAEVT can pro­vide you with in­for­ma­tion about ac­cred­ited pro­grams avail­able around the coun­try.

The pro­gram is self-paced and self-study, with en­hanced ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als that

in­clude videos, a re­quired text­book, Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tions, and a web­site.

There are four cour­ses, each made up of 9 to 10 mo­d­ules. “These cour­ses were cre­ated by cre­den­tialed tech­ni­cians — my­self in­cluded — who have worked in equine medicine for years, and they all have ex­per­tise in the spe­cific top­ics they cre­ated,” notes Reeder.

Course 1 top­ics in­clude equine basics, hus­bandry, med­i­cal ter­mi­nol­ogy, phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions, equine pa­tient re­straint, equine well­ness, and re­pro­duc­tion.

Course 2 top­ics cover anatomy and phys­i­ol­ogy, phar­ma­col­ogy, equine nurs­ing care, equine med­i­cal treat­ments, emer­gency care, and equine dis­eases.

Course 3 top­ics cover surgery and sur­gi­cal as­sist­ing, anes­the­sia as­sist­ing, lab­o­ra­tory di­ag­nos­tics, di­ag­nos­tic imag­ing and op­tional modal­i­ties, and of­fice pro­ce­dures. The fi­nal course covers nu­tri­tion and other ad­vanced top­ics.

The pro­gram must be com­pleted within a year of en­roll­ment, and ap­pli­cants must attend one re­gional AAEVT meet­ing or the AAEP/AAEVT na­tional meet­ing, which must in­clude at­ten­dance at a wet lab­o­ra­tory.

( Web labs pro­vide prac­ti­cal, hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence in spe­cific tech­niques. For ex­am­ple, at the AAEVT 2016 Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Florida, par­tic­i­pants could sign up for wet labs cov­er­ing Safety and Han­dling Pro­ce­dures, Ra­di­ol­ogy, and Lame­ness and Sports Medicine.)

Ap­pli­cants also must show pro­fi­ciency in a list of clin­i­cal skills that in­clude of­fice pro­ce­dures, as­sist­ing with ex­am­i­na­tions, phar­macy and phar­ma­col­ogy, sur­gi­cal prepa­ra­tion and as­sis­tance, nurs­ing care, lab­o­ra­tory pro­ce­dures, ra­di­ol­ogy and ul­tra­sound, and re­pro­duc­tion and foals.

After com­plet­ing all course­work, at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence, and ful­fill­ing the skills sig­noff, ap­pli­cants re­ceive a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the AAEVT.

There­after, cer­ti­fied equine ve­teri­nary tech­ni­cians must com­plete five hours of con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion per year and main­tain their mem­ber­ship in the AAEVT.

Mem­ber­ship in­cludes on­go­ing sup­port. “We make avail­able to grad­u­ates a list­ing of ex­tern­ships and in­tern­ships if they want to pur­sue con­crete, hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore seek­ing em­ploy­ment,” Reeder ex­plains.

Prac­ti­cal As­pects

Lau­ren Rus­sell, CVT, is an In­ten­sive Care Unit Shift Lead at Lit­tle­ton Equine Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Lit­tle­ton, Colorado — one of the na­tion’s premier pri­vate equine hospi­tals.

Rus­sell’s ca­reer in equine medicine started sev­eral years ago when she worked as a sum­mer test barn tech­ni­cian for the Colorado Depart­ment of Racing, col­lect­ing sam­ples to test race­horses.

“After leav­ing the track, I worked in a mixed an­i­mal prac­tice for a year, where about 25 per­cent of the pa­tients we saw were horses,” she says.

“I had been work­ing as an equine-only tech­ni­cian for a year be­fore tak­ing the AAEVT course­work. Some of the basics in the be­gin­ning were aimed at stu­dents who didn’t have ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing specif­i­cally in an equine clinic, and since I did, that in­for­ma­tion wasn’t new to me.”

Rus­sell did, how­ever, like that the cour­ses pro­vide a good base for ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of ex­pe­ri­ence, not­ing that, “After the first course, we were all on the same level of un­der­stand­ing.”

What was the most im­por­tant thing she learned from the ACT Pro­gram? “All parts of the pro­gram were im­por­tant,” she says. She felt that some top­ics, such as nu­tri­tion and surgery, were es­pe­cially well-cov­ered.

Rus­sell went on to grad­u­ate from the Bel-Rea In­sti­tute of An­i­mal Tech­nol­ogy in Den­ver, Colorado, with an as­so­ciate’s de­gree in an­i­mal sci­ence. She passed the Ve­teri­nary Tech­ni­cian Na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tion in Au­gust 2014, al­low­ing her to be a Cer­ti­fied Ve­teri­nary Tech­ni­cian.

“I would and have rec­om­mended the AAEVT ACT Pro­gram to co-work­ers,” Rus­sell says. “It’s great for those with some ex­pe­ri­ence and for those who have worked in a mixed prac­tice with lim­ited equine ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Next for Rus­sell: She’s con­sid­er­ing en­rolling in the Academy of Equine Ve­teri­nary Nurs­ing Tech­ni­cians to get her ve­teri­nary spe­cialty cre­den­tials.

If you long to be­come a part of a com­mu­nity that pro­vides heal­ing hands to our equine friends, con­sider a ca­reer in equine ve­teri­nary tech­nol­ogy. A world of ful­fill­ment awaits. TTR

If you long to be­come a part of a com­mu­nity that pro­vides heal­ing hands to our equine friends, con­sider a ca­reer in equine ve­teri­nary tech­nol­ogy.

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