Who’s Who in Veterinary Medicine?

By: David Sessum, LVT

TVMA Member
Bryan, TX

Published October 2018

In human medicine, when you seek medical treatment, there is a plethora of people to assist with medical care, such as physicians and physician assistants. Once medical treatments are prescribed, you may see a phlebotomist to draw your blood or a radiology technician to perform radiographs. Other possible roles in human medicine include surgical technicians, anesthesiologists and pharmacists. Each job title in human medicine has a specific meaning, clearly indicating many of the tasks involved in the job.

Becoming a Veterinarian

As for veterinary medicine, many of the job titles don’t clearly indicate their assigned tasks. The main job title is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), who completes three to four years of undergraduate studies and then an additional four years of postgraduate study at an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-approved school of veterinary medicine. DVMs in Texas also must pass a national and state examination to become a licensed veterinarian in the state. To maintain an active Texas license to practice veterinary medicine, a DVM also must obtain 17 hours of continuing education (CE) every year.

The Difference Between Hospital Personnel

Aside from veterinarians, there are four main titles of the people who are usually involved in the hands-on care of your pet or livestock. According to the practice act in the state of Texas, those four titles are Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT), Certified Veterinary Assistant (CVA), Equine Dental Provider (EDP) and Veterinary Assistant. Most practices refer to all hospital personnel as “technicians,” which implies the technical expertise of accredited veterinary personnel. Many of those skills include drawing blood, placing intravenous catheters, monitoring anesthesia, taking X-rays and filling medications, but each title has a similar role to the human medical field, as they clean and medicate wounds, care for animals in surgery, handle and hold animals, provide support for clients, explain disease processes and teach clients how to administer treatments and medications at home. However, there is a difference between the four titles and the rules that apply to each one.

Steps to Earn Title of a Licensed Veterinary Technician

An LVT is a graduate of an AVMA-accredited veterinary technology program. The AVMA is the same organization that supervises the accreditation of veterinary schools. Upon graduation from an AVMA-accredited program, to become an LVT an individual must pass a national and state exam. The American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) offers the Veterinary Technology National Exam. The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME) offers the Licensed Veterinary Technician Exam (LVTE) to individuals who have graduated from an AVMA program and seek licensure in Texas. Once licensed, an LVT can perform more tasks in a clinic with a lower level of supervision. One example includes the induction of anesthesia. State law requires immediate supervision, meaning that a veterinarian must be in the room where an animal is undergoing anesthetic induction. If an LVT is present in the room, the DVM does not have to be in the immediate vicinity, and the LVT can supervise other non-credentialed personnel, such as a CVA or Veterinary Assistant. An LVT must acquire 10 hours of CE every year to maintain his or her LVT license. In addition, at a veterinary clinic you may see CVTs or RVTs. CVTs or RVTs are individuals who are veterinary technicians who are licensed in another state. In Texas, only an individual who is licensed with the TBVME is considered licensed in Texas, and their license should be on display in the clinic to comply with state law.

Certified Veterinary Assistants Master a Variety of Skills

A Certified Veterinary Assistant (CVA) has obtained 500 hours of work experience under the supervision of a DVM or LVT while employed at a veterinary hospital or through an FFA or 4-H program, completed and mastered skills on a skills validation checklist that has been approved by a DVM or LVT and passed a certification exam. To become a CVA in Texas, an individual must complete the program offered by the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) per Texas Administrative Code. A CVA must complete five hours of CE yearly to renew their certification. There are three different levels of the CVA training provided by TVMA. A CVA requires a higher level of supervision to complete certain tasks in a veterinary clinic.

Equine Dental Provider Credentials

In an equine veterinary practice or at an equine facility, you may encounter an Equine Dental Provider (EDP), which is an individual who has scored at least an 85 on the Equine Dental Provider Exam provided by the TBVME and is certified by the International Association of Equine Dentists or other state board-approved entity. A licensed EDP under general supervision by a veterinarian has the authority to reduce incisors and extract loose, mobile or diseased teeth, among other veterinary medical tasks. EDPs are required to obtain six hours of CE each year to maintain an EDP license.

Veterinary Assistants Train on the Job

Most clinics employ one or more veterinary assistants who do not have LVT or CVA accreditation but perform tasks related to animal care. A veterinary assistant trains on the job and requires a higher level of supervision than an LVT to complete certain tasks in a veterinary clinic.

How to Look Up the License of an Individual

You may use the following website to look up the license of an individual who is assisting with your pet or livestock: State Board Licensee Lookup.Veterinary practices use the titles listed above to help protect the public and help you know more about the experience and expertise of the individual caring for your pet. These titles also help you better understand the tasks performed during a veterinary appointment.

David Sessum, LVT, works at Lone Star College Tomball in Bryan, Texas.

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