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National Veterinary Technician Week October 12-18

October 14, 2008

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During National Veterinary Technician Week October 12-18, it is the ideal time to recognize the education, experience and dedication of veterinary technicians.

Veterinary technicians at the School of Veterinary Medicine provide skilled nursing care, work with clients, and teach veterinary students—all while caring for more than 30,000 animal patients each year at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America reminds us October 12-18 to recognize these valuable members of the veterinary community for their contributions to animal health. 

A single visit to the teaching hospital illuminates the busy lives of veterinary technicians. In the cancer clinic, two technicians dressed in their signature green scrubs administer chemotherapy drugs to a dog. Down the hall, a technician is preparing a horse for radiation therapy. In the imaging suite, a technician positions a cat for an MRI while a co-worker monitors the imaging. In the surgical suite, nearly a dozen techs bustle around two cats, preparing instruments, monitoring anesthesia and assisting in a kidney transplant procedure. In the wards and the ICU, veterinary technicians give medications, draw samples, and care for the needs of their patients. When not with their patients or consulting with clinicians, veterinary technicians work closely with clients to communicate how their pets are doing, explain procedures and provide instructions for home care after an animal leaves the hospital.


Harold Davis, BA, RVT, Veterinary Technician Specialist, VTS, in Emergency & Critical Care*, is a national leader in the field who has worked at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital for more than 25 years. He says that 156 career veterinary assistants/technicians work at the teaching hospital. Seventy-eight have trained in an accredited program and passed California's licensing examination to become Registered Veterinary Technicians, or RVT's.

Some vet techs have furthered their skills in specialty areas, Davis explains. "Among our technicians are specialists in the fields of emergency and critical care, anesthesia and internal medicine for small animals and large animals."  For example, Craig Cornell, RVT, VTS (Emergency & Critical Care) (Anesthesia) and Davis co-founded the Academy of Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Technicians, the first organization of its kind.  Davis adds, "Along with Kirk Stafford, RVT, VTS (Anesthesia) and Greg Hanson RVT, VTS (Anesthesia), Craig and I are organizing committee and charter members of the Academy of Veterinary Technician Anesthetists (AVTA)." The organization formed in 1999 with 26 members.

Marika Pappagianis RVT, VTS (LAIM), Kristin Miguel RVT, VTS (LAIM), Susan Cox RVT, VTS (SAIM) and Darlene Riel, RVT, VTS (SAIM) helped establish the Academy of Internal Medicine Veterinary Technicians.

Five AVECCT members work in the hospital's intensive and critical care units: Michelle Ashley, Julie Eveland-Baker, Paula Howell, Charissa Jordan and Kim Zwerenz-Miks. Zwerenz-Miks also became a specialist in small animal internal medicine, part of a long career filled with clinical variety and professional development. At her job in the Intensive Care Unit, Zwerenz-Miks is proficient at working with small animals from the emergency room and patients recovering from surgery.

With a degree in microbiology and completion of RVT training and licensing in the late 1970s, she learned on the job and gained experience at veterinary practices in Elk Grove, South Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. Zwerenz-Miks helped during one of the first parvovirus outbreaks in California, worked in orthopedics, handled delicate exotics, assisted a veterinary ophthalmologist and acted as head technician.

A trained chef, Zwerenz-Miks once owned a café, but always knew that she would return to veterinary work. "In 2003, I saw my next step to growth as the university," she recalls. She and other career vet techs, says Zwerenz-Miks, "We will become more specialized, especially where veterinarians need more technical expertise."  What's New Image


The school's veterinary technical staff members set themselves apart from beyond  because they contribute to the teaching mission of the school.

"Most of us have [teaching] as a component of our position description," Davis states. "Even in clinics, when showing a student how to perform a procedure such as a catheter placement, it is considered teaching."

The school is fortunate to have on staff veterinary technicians of a high caliber who are capable of assisting and performing so many procedures and techniques, and thus they become a vital part of the teaching team in the clinical setting and instructional laboratory, notes Darlene Riel, manager of the Gourley Clinical Teaching Center. 

Riel explains, "Veterinary Technicians play a vital role in assistant teaching in many student laboratories. "In the Gourley Center, where many hands-on pre-clinical teaching laboratories take place, technicians assist the faculty in instruction on a variety of species (dogs, cats, horses, sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, small mammals [rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits], iguanas, ferrets, and avian species).  Veterinary technicians aid students in learning aseptic techniques, animal handling techniques, biological sample collections, urinary and venous catheterizations, injections and medical treatments, anesthesia equipment and monitoring, dentistry instrumentation and procedures, imaging (radiographs and ultrasound), suture knot tying techniques, and  medical diagnostic procedures such as arthocentesis, bone marrow aspirates, and transtrachel lavage."   

 Several veterinary technicians from UC Davis are instructors at continuing education events around the country for their fellow technicians. They have also organized and taught at the school's comprehensive CE seminars for veterinary technicians.

During National Veterinary Technician Week, we agree with Cindy Savely, RVT and Small Animal Clinic manager that "The technicians of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital are the heart of pet wellness!"

*Technician specialty organizations are overseen and recognized by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. There are currently five recognized technician specialties. Technicians who qualify may use the initials "VTS," or Veterinary Technician Specialist, in their titles.

AIMVT: Academy of Internal Medicine for Veterinary Technicians 
  SAIM: Small Animal Internal Medicine 
  LAIM: Large Animal Internal Medicine
AVECCT: Academy of Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Technicians
AVTA: Academy of Veterinary Technician Anesthetists
AVDT: Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians
AVBT: Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians