The main tasks of a veterinary assistant involve looking after animals while in clinics as well as helping out with specific procedures. They're generally supervised directly by scientists, veterinarians, or veterinary technicians or technologists.
The tasks a veterinary assistant may perform could include grooming and caring for animals through feeding, bathing, and exercising them. They could also be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting exam and operating rooms in addition to restraining animals to allow the veterinarian to better administer care.
If you're considering becoming a veterinary assistant in New York, we recommend attending school or earning certification through a vet assistant program. Here are a few examples of schools in this state that could help you prepare for this career:
Many veterinary assistant training programs in New York involve combining education on general skillsets, technical knowledge, and possibly in-field learning. Although specific course direction varies from between programs, a few general skillsets touched upon will likely be:
As far as technical knowledge coursework goes, you may cover such topics as cleaning and disinfecting cages and kennels as well as exam rooms, maintaining and sterilizing medical equipment, monitor the health of animals post-surgery, helping provide emergency aid to animals, giving immunizations and medication, assisting in collecting biological material, etc.
The state of New York does not require certification for the role of veterinary assistant. As additional certification however may communicate advanced knowledge of certain veterinary assistant skills, employers may be quicker to hire candidates with certification than candidates without it.
Though there are no New York specific state designations for veterinary assistants, national certification is offered by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America through the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation. The program stipulations involve graduation from a NAVTA-approved course. Afterwards, candidates are required to pass a proctored exam composed by the NAVTA's AVA committee.
To learn more about New York veterinary assistant schools and training programs, we reached out to Donna Meier, Assistant Professor of Veterinary Science at SUNY Ulster.
What are some of the unique issues that face veterinary technicians and technologists in New York?
Veterinary technicians and technologists in New York State are required to be licensed in order to perform specific duties in a veterinary practice. Our scope of practice ranges from placing intravenous catheters, monitoring and inducing anesthesia to dental prophylaxis. I don't like to compare our duties to that of a human nurse because our required skill sets are much broader. Similar to a nurse, only a licensed veterinary technician can perform the duties of an LVT. With that being said, one of the biggest challenges we face as a licensed profession is our pay scale and unlicensed persons performing the duties of a licensed veterinary technician.
I know it is hard to believe, but I have been in the field of veterinary medicine for over 30 years and this was taking place 30 years ago and continues to this day. In New York State it is illegal for an unlicensed person to perform the duties of an LVT. When veterinarians allow unlicensed persons to perform our duties it lowers our pay scale and demeans our profession. We as a profession are obligated to report any misconduct seen in a veterinary hospital. If misconduct is found, the veterinarian can be held accountable.
There are many excellent veterinary hospitals that hire only LVTs to perform these duties, but there are still others that do not and they get away with it. Enforcement from the state unfortunately is not possible because they are spread so thin with responsibilities. So what are LVTs in NYS doing about it? The New York State Association of Veterinary Technicians, of which I am President, is empowering our members on their rights as a licensed profession. We are also focusing on consumer education. If a pet owner understands what our job entails and admits their pet into a veterinary hospital for a surgical procedure, some questions should be asked. The most important is, "Do you hire licensed veterinary technicians and will a licensed veterinary technician be inducing anesthesia and monitoring my pet while he is under anesthesia?" The answer to this question should be yes. If the answer is no, the pet owner should go to a hospital that hires only LVTs to do these very important duties.
What is the greatest benefit of practicing this field within the state of New York?
There are a few benefits to practicing veterinary medicine in NYS. The greatest benefit is we are required to be licensed. Being licensed protects our profession. We are 1 of approximately 50 licensed professions in New York State. We are required to obtain 24 continuing education hours within a 3 year period to maintain our licensure. This legislation is fairly new to our profession. It keeps LVTs up to date on changes in our profession and the ability to practice better medicine. Another benefit is the diversity of our field in New York State. LVTs can work in private practice, industry such as pharmaceuticals and laboratory instrumentation, research, academia, federal work, zoos, the list goes on. New York has approximately 4000 licensed veterinary technicians to date all of which are employed in these different capacities.
Probably the most important benefit is we have is a strong state association. The New York State Association of Veterinary Technicians (NYSAVT) is active promoting and protecting our profession. We also have a strong and active legislative agenda. This year alone the executive board was able to represent licensed veterinary technicians in Albany to oppose and stop multiple bills that were introduced in legislation that would of affected animals and or our profession. We have met with members of the Assembly to educate them on the duties of an LVT, based on a bill that was going to be introduced that would have been detrimental to our profession. Some states do not require veterinary technicians to be licensed, which is unfortunate because they are not protected.
How will the job of a veterinary technician and technologist change in the next 10 to 20 years?
I would like to see a few things evolve or change in our profession. One of which would be nationwide, to have veterinary technicians in all states licensed. It would give our profession more continuity just like nurses. I know that LVTs would like to say to a pet owner, "Do you know what a licensed veterinary technician is and does?", and that person would be able to reply to the question. Secondly LVTs would like to put an end in New York State to the hiring of unlicensed persons. There are animal office assistants who help with the basic duties of a veterinary hospital, cleaning, restraint, reception work and the like. These duties are permissible by an unlicensed person and these individuals are crucial to the function of the practice.
Veterinary technician specialists are growing by leaps and bounds. This is a person who has graduated from an accredited veterinary technology program, passed the boards and has worked in practice for a period of time, usually 3-4 years depending on the specialty requirement. For example, while in practice the technician became very interested in dentistry, nutrition, clinical pathology or emergency medicine. That technician can apply to become board certified in that profession. It is a long process and requires a lot of preparation and work. I see these specialties growing over the years because technicians want to do more and be more marketable. I have also discussed with some of my peers the possibility of a veterinary technician becoming specialized similar to a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner in human medicine.
How does your school prepare future veterinary technicians for their careers? Are there any specific programs you offer that help your school stand out?
SUNY Ulster is an accredited veterinary technology program and our accrediting body is the American Veterinary Medical Association. We have specific guidelines and criteria our program must adhere to, to stay accredited. These guidelines will prepare our students to become successful licensed veterinary technicians. Our program not only teaches in the classroom, but we also teach in the barns, laboratories, medical research facilities and veterinary hospitals. Our program covers all species from cats, dogs, exotics, pocket pets and large animal.
Our veterinary technology club has won an award for collegian philanthropy. The clubs primary goal is to fundraise and give back to the community. We have achieved this in multiple ways. We have bought the Ulster County SPCA a microscope and refractometer. We have given a monetary donation to the Kingston Police Department to purchase a Kevlar vest for a police dog. We have brought in speakers such as Temple Grandin and invited the community. The club has hosted rabies and microchip clinics at a very low cost to the pet owner, while also educating them on different topics. The club has also given scholarships to students to attend the NYSAVT annual Spring Conference in Saratoga. It gives the students an opportunity to see what continuing education is and why it will be required in their profession. These dedicated students understand the importance of giving back to the community to help animals every step of the way early on in their veterinary technology career.
SUNY Ulster Veterinary Technology Program has partnered with the UCSPCA shelter and hospital. We are providing all new equipment such as anesthesia machines and multiparameter monitors to name a few. Our students with the supervision and instruction of our veterinary technology faculty will be able to perfect their skills and abilities as well as care for the animals at the shelter. This is a very exciting opportunity for both parties as the students will give back to the community while learning.
Many of our students choose to do internships in an area of veterinary medicine that they are interested in. For example, I had a student who interned with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, another student interned at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. Many do internships at Rhinebeck Equine, LLC because they are interested in the equine aspect of veterinary medicine. We have had a student volunteer her time for World Vets in Nicaragua. She assisted veterinarians and technicians from around the world to give much needed veterinary care to the animals in Nicaragua. This summer one of our students completed an internship at an elephant rescue in Alabama. We would like to pursue more of these opportunities for our students via grants to fully fund their travel and expenses.
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Long Island City
The map below shows job statistics for the career type by metro area, for New York. A table below the map shows job popularity and salaries across the state.
Listed below are metro areas ranked by the popularity of jobs for Veterinary Assistants relative to the population of the city. Salary data was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 22.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org
Annual Median Salary