New Mexico's Pet Resource FALL 2004


Vet Techs:
RNs of the Pet World

text and photos by Dee Miller

Those extremely helpful people you see working so hard with your petís veterinarian are well educated and trained pet nurses, similar to registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs ) for people. Registered veterinary technicians are the RNs of the animal world, and veterinarian assistants are the LPNs. The love, support and nursing they do daily is vital to the well being of patients in the modern animal hospital. Most veterinary technicians and veterinarian assistants also act as laboratory and radiology technicians.

Registered Veterinary Technician is a 2-year associate degree in applied science from an accredited veterinary technician school. Upon graduation, registered veterinary technicians must then pass the licensing exam given by the state in which they work. To keep their licenses current, and to stay abreast of improvements in veterinary medicine like new techniques and new medications, veterinary technicians attend continuing education seminars and workshops.

Beginning this fall, Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute will be offering a veterinary technician program. Before this program started, future veterinary technicians had to attend school outside of New Mexico and then return to the Land of Enchantment to begin their careers. In the past there has been a major shortage of pet nurses in New Mexico so veterinarians are excited about the new program. To learn more about the veterinary technician program at Albuquerque TVI you can call 505-224-3160 or go online at

The other support team member is the veterinarian assistant. Although veterinarian assistants have less technical training than the veterinary technician, they are also valuable members of the veterinarianís animal care team. Veterinarian assistants can perform many of the same duties as the veterinary technician.

Veterinarian assistants attend a 22 week program of classroom studies. In addition to their classroom time they must complete 360 hours of on-the-job training called clinicals. Currently, Pima Medical Institute offers the only veterinarian assistant program in New Mexico. For more information on the veterinarian assistant program at Pima Medical Institute you can call 505-881-1234 and speak to an admissions representative, or go online at

Veterinary technicians and veterinarian assistants provide a large range of services to their patients and pet owners. They feed, water and care for your pet during its stay in the animal hospital. They can examine your pet for signs of injury or illness. They perform many of the same duties we traditionally associate with RNs, like administering medication, giving injections, monitoring patients on IV fluids, wound management and bandaging. Many veterinary technicians and veterinarian assistants perform lab tests like heartworm tests, urinalysis, hematology studies and fecal test for internal parasites. Most veterinary technicians take and develop radiographs. They assist the veterinarian in surgery and monitor your pet during and after surgery. They keep your pet safe while undergoing surgical procedures by monitoring anesthesia. In New Mexico, only veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians can administer rabies vaccinations, anesthesia and IV injections.

Some technicians and assistants choose to work in the front office with clients and clinic relations. They make appointments, answer phones and respond to client questions. You will find registered veterinary technicians and veterinarian assistants performing a multitude of tasks outside of traditional veterinary hospitals. They are working in boarding clinics, grooming shops, pet stores, animal shelters, animal control centers, zoos, pharmaceutical sales, research facilities, pet food manufacturers, and emergency facilities. The wide variety of employment opportunities and many tasks that veterinary technicians and veterinarian assistant can perform makes them an important part of the animal healthcare team.

Dee is the Program director for the Veterinary Assistant Program at Pima Medical Institute and has been a Registered Veterinary Technician in New Mexico for 22 years.

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