The field of veterinary technology plays a vital role in ensuring that America’s companion animals, livestock and production animals receive high quality care.
As a component of this, there are a variety of specialized fields for highly qualified vet techs. The veterinary technology surgical technician is one of the most important of these specialized fields.
The Surgical Veterinary Technology Specialty
Vet techs that choose to specialize in surgical technology will focus on providing a variety of services to veterinary surgeons and other professionals, focusing on ensuring that animals receive high quality surgical treatments. Among the duties of a surgical vet tech are the following:
- Assisting the surgical team during the surgery, including providing scalpels and other equipment at the direction of the surgeon.
- Preparing the equipment and supplies for the surgical procedure.
- Assisting with the postoperative care of the animal, including rehabilitation and other recovery processes.
- Maintaining proper sterile conditions in the operating room and other areas to reduce the danger of a postoperative infection.
Becoming a Veterinary Technician Specializing in Surgery
Certification as a veterinary surgical technician is currently controlled by the Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians (AVST), which is sanctioned by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).
The AVST sets the standards required for those vet techs seeking to become certified surgical technicians. The AVST periodically reviews its standards to ensure that they are current with the state of the art in veterinary technology.
Currently, the requirements to become a surgical vet tech include the following:
- Be a currently certified vet tech in good standing. Depending on the state the individual works in, this may involve certification by the state or by a private agency. The AVST does not accept vet techs that are not credentialed, so this is a very important step.
- Have at least three years or 6,000 hours of experience as a credentialed vet tech. Of this, at least 75 percent must be experience in the field of veterinary surgery.
- At least 40 hours of approved continuing education (CE) that has been obtained within five years of applying to become a vet tech specializing in surgery. All of the CE hours must be obtained after becoming a certified vet tech.
- Complete the advanced veterinary surgical technician skills form, in order to demonstrate that the candidate has mastered all the needed surgical and veterinary skills.
- Maintain a case report log for the year before applying to the AVST. This log must include no fewer than 50 case logs, demonstrating an advanced knowledge of all aspects of surgical technology.
- Write out at least four case reports that have been taken from the case logs. These reports must demonstrate an in depth knowledge of nursing management for surgical cases.
- Two letters of recommendation from an approved veterinary professional.
Finally, as these standards are subject to revision, the candidate should always be certain to check with the AVST to obtain the current requirements for application to the organization.
Certification and the Surgical Specialty
It is important to note that an applicant must be certified to practice as a regular vet tech at all times. This certification must be maintained concurrently with certification to work as a surgical vet tech, and depending on the state, a vet tech who allows his or her certification to lapse may be prohibited from continuing to work as a vet tech.
The AVST Exam
The AVST surgical technician exam is a comprehensive exam designed to ensure that all applicants have the practical and academic skills needed to work as a veterinary technician specializing in surgery.
While the AVST provides a reading list to assist the applicants in preparing themselves for the test it is important to note that only an experienced veterinary technician with a comprehensive knowledge of surgical technology is likely to pass the exam. For that reason, individuals who are considering becoming certified surgical vet techs should be certain that they are fully prepared for the exam before registering for it.
Employment Opportunities for Surgical Vet Techs
There are a wide variety of career options for surgical vet techs. As various types of surgical procedures become more important in the field of veterinary medicine, the demand for qualified surgical vet techs will continue to grow. Surgical vet techs are currently employed by a wide range of groups, including traditional clinics, government agencies and large veterinary clinics.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the employment of vet techs, including surgical vet techs, is expected to grow by 52 percent from 2010 to 2020. This rate of growth is considerably greater than the average growth rate for other professions. Furthermore, surgical vet techs earn an average median salary of approximately $37,000. This is somewhat more than traditional vet techs make and reflects the growing demand for qualified surgical vet techs.
With the increase in the importance of quality veterinary care for the beloved pets of America, it is certain that the surgical vet tech will see a growing demand for his or her services. For this reason, vet techs who are interested in professional and personal development should strongly consider becoming a certified surgical veterinary technician.