Considerations on Volunteering as a Vet Tech
Becoming a veterinary technician can be an excellent step for those individuals wishing to enter into a dependable and well-compensated career in the veterinary care sector.
In fact, the continuing emphasis many Americans place on obtaining high quality care for their beloved companion animals ensures that this field will continue to enjoy sustained growth, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimating that there will be at least a 52 percent increase in the number of available jobs between 2010 and 2020.
However, veterinary technicians can also work as volunteers in a variety of fields, both before and after the completion of their training and licensure process.
Volunteering Before Certification or Licensure
Many future vet techs choose to volunteer before they have graduated from a vet tech program or in those states that require it, received their license. In this case, the future vet tech may choose to engage in volunteer activity for a variety of reasons.
Being able to list volunteer work on an individual’s resume can help a newly graduated vet tech demonstrate his or her experience in the veterinary care field.
In addition, many volunteer opportunities can also allow an individual to make personal and professional connections with currently employed veterinary professionals such as veterinarians, vet techs and other individuals who can be of assistance to the vet tech’s later professional development.
Volunteer Activities and the Educational Process
In some cases, volunteer activities can also help the vet tech complete his or her vet tech program. Some volunteer programs may satisfy a number of the educational requirements for completion of a vet tech program. In other cases, a vet tech program may directly sponsor volunteer work as an adjunct to the educational process.
However, this may require the student to fulfill additional reporting requirements in order to verify that he or she has completed the volunteer activity to the satisfaction of their program’s administration.
For that reason, any student intending to volunteer in the pet care field should discus how those activities will impact their status in the vet tech program.
Limitations on Pre-Licensure Volunteering
Before volunteering, any individual who has not yet completed his or her course of vet tech training should carefully evaluate the relevant state law regarding the practice of veterinary technology.
Many states do not allow unlicensed individuals to carry out those duties that are restricted to licensed vet techs. Other states may not regulate the practice of veterinary technology.
Even in this case, however, the volunteer agency may limit the duties of those individuals who have not yet completed their veterinary technology program.
It is very important that the vet tech should personally verify any limitations on his or her duties due to a lack of licensure. Failing to abide by these limits could expose the vet tech to substantial penalties, including the possible loss of the right to become a licensed vet tech in the state.
For that reason, individuals who are currently in the process of becoming a vet tech should check with their local state licensing body or veterinary technician professional association before performing any type of veterinary care.
Volunteering after Licensure or Certification
Once a vet tech has completed his or her education and obtained a license in those states that require it, he or she can seek employment as a vet tech. However, many licensed vet techs choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons.
In many cases, vet techs may volunteer to promote a cause that they feel strongly about, for example by donating their services to a local humane shelter or animal care facility.
In other cases, a vet tech may decide to volunteer in order to expand his or her professional experience. This can be especially useful for those vet techs who must obtain a certain type of experience, for example, a vet tech who is pursuing a National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognized vet tech specialty.
Finally, some types of volunteer activity may allow the vet tech to obtain a tax deduction for his or her time and any other expenses.
This is especially true if the organization the vet tech is working with is a registered non-profit group. Vet techs who are interested in this should be certain to adequately document all of their expenses in a form that state, local and federal tax agencies will accept.
Permitted Volunteer Activities
Unlike those individuals who volunteer before they have completed their program of education, a qualified vet tech may perform a wide range of duties when volunteering.
However, the vet tech may need to ensure that the organization he or she is working with has obtained any required state, federal or local permits for the activity that it is currently engaged in.
It is important to remember that state restrictions on what services a vet tech can offer vary widely. Some states permit vet techs to engage in some level of unsupervised veterinary care, while other states have strict limitations in place on what types of services a vet tech can provide.
Because of this, a vet tech should always verify what his or her expected duties are and ensure that they are permitted under his or her state veterinary care regulations.
Working in Other States
One area that vet techs should consider, especially when working with a large volunteer association, is what restrictions they will face if they are asked to provide care in another state. In most cases, a state will not permit a vet tech to provide veterinary care without being licensed by the state in question, whatever the vet tech’s qualifications in his or her home state.
In some cases, a state may have exceptions for certain type of volunteer activities. For example, many states allow vet techs to provide emergency services as part of a recognized disaster relief organization.
However, any vet tech who may be working as a volunteer outside of his or her home state should verify what types of restrictions the state may place on his or her activities.
Failure to do so could result in professional and legal sanctions, making it very important to only provide those services that the state permits.
Types of Volunteer Activities
There is a vast range of potential vet tech volunteer activities, ranging from working with small groups to large, internationally recognized organizations.
Because of this, vet techs interested in volunteer activities usually have little difficulty in finding an organization that is suited to their own particular situation.
Local Volunteer Opportunities
Most cities and counties have local humane and animal control shelters that depend heavily on volunteer help in order to continue operating in an era of increasingly tight budgetary constraints.
In these cases, vet techs may assist the staff veterinarian, or provide direct assistance in admitting animals to the shelter, performing any permitted medical procedures such as first aid or spay and neuter operations, and working with members of the public who come to the shelter.
In addition, many local humane and animal care organizations need vet techs to help them educate the public about proper animal care. This can range from conducting tours of the animal care facility to visiting schools, libraries and local entertainment venues to present educational shows to the audience.
In other cases, the vet tech may be expected to help provide presentations on how best to handle the intrusion of wild or stray animals, either by his or herself or in cooperation with a fellow professional, such as a wildlife management specialist.
Many vet techs choose to volunteer at local pet adoption centers and no-kill shelters. These vet techs assist in preparing the animals for adoption, verifying their health and working with customers and their fellow veterinary professionals in order to ensure that the adopted pet finds a congenial home.
Other opportunities for local volunteer activity include the following:
- Providing in home veterinary care for seniors and other individuals who are unable to travel to a veterinary clinic.
- Helping local agencies provide free or low cost spay and neuter services.
- Pet vaccination clinics.
- Working with volunteer veterinarians to provide free or low cost veterinary care to pet owners who cannot afford to obtain proper veterinary care for their companion animal.
As can be seen, there is a wide range of local volunteer activities that vet tech can participate in without having to leave the local area. As well as providing a material benefit to the pets and other animals, these types of volunteer activities can help the vet tech connect with his or her community.
In addition to the professional benefits this can provide, a vet tech will enjoy the personal gratification that comes from knowing that they have assisted their neighbors to provide effective care for their beloved companion animals.
National Volunteer Activities
In addition to local volunteer activities, there are a growing number of national opportunities for volunteer vet techs. Whether it is in providing veterinary care for disadvantaged rural communities or assisting in disaster relief programs, a vet tech who is interested in traveling should consider these volunteer options.
Disaster Relief Operations
Recent disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, have demonstrated that emergency pet care is now a vital part of any full-spectrum disaster response effort. Whether it is as part of the immediate relief efforts, or later attempts to reunite pets with their owners, providing assistance to animals impacted by the event can be a vital part of helping the region recover from a local or regional disaster.
In this case, volunteer vet techs and veterinarians are especially vital, as it is likely that local vet techs and veterinarians may themselves be victims of the disaster and unable to provide aid. In addition, most or all of the local veterinary care facilities may have been destroyed or damaged by the disaster.
Disaster relief operations will require the involved vet techs to be able to operate in conditions of high stress. Volunteers must be able to work with individuals who are extremely distraught, while also providing first aid and other veterinary procedures for injured, lost and frightened animals.
Examples of current agencies that provide opportunities for vet techs to volunteer for disaster relief operations include the following:
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – APHIS National Animal Health Emergency Response Corps
- New Hampshire Disaster Animal Response Team. Most states have their own equivalent to ensure that they will be able to provide an effective response to the needs for pets in a disaster.
- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Animal Disaster Relief and Response Fund.
- The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team.
In many cases, these groups require that any vet techs who choose to volunteer with them receive some additional training in order to ensure that they can function in a disaster stricken region without endangering themselves or others.
International Volunteer Activities
There are a number of international groups that need volunteer veterinary technicians. Many of these groups need vet techs to assist them in providing animal care in the developing world, or in disaster stricken areas.
Volunteering for an international organization may result in prolonged absences from home, and so any vet techs considering this type of volunteer work should be certain that they can afford to spend substantial amounts of time away from their job and family.
Other Considerations When Volunteering
When planning to volunteer with an organization, a vet tech should make certain that they can do so safely and without damaging his or her own career. Because of that, the vet tech should evaluate the following areas regarding any volunteer opportunities.
- Potential out of pocket expenses.
- Malpractice and liability insurance.
- Professional considerations.
- Social Benefits.
Out of Pocket Expenses
Although volunteers do not receive a salary, the vet tech should verify if the group he or she is volunteering with compensates its volunteers for any out of pocket expenses.
These expenses can include, but are not limited to:
- Room and board, including hotel bills and food expenses.
- Transportation expenses, including fuel, vehicle repair and insurance bills.
- Incidental costs, such as the use of personal veterinary equipment.
Determining if the volunteer organization will pay these work related expenses can be very important. If the organization does not provide compensation for these costs, the vet tech will have to determine whether or not he or she can afford to volunteer with the organization.
Even if the vet tech’s expenses are not defrayed by the organization, he or she can usually take them as state and federal tax deductions. In this case, the vet tech will have to be able to document both the extent of his or her expenses and that they were utilized for a legitimate purpose. Because of this, the vet tech must be certain to obtain full documentation of any expenses from the organization he or she is working with.
Insurance can be a very important part of safely volunteering. A vet tech who is not covered by an effective insurance policy may find him or herself facing large financial penalties should the volunteer work result in a lawsuit by disgruntled parties.
While most employed vet techs are covered by their employer’s liability, health and malpractice insurance, that may not be the case when volunteering with another organization.
Most workplace insurance does not extend to a vet tech’s volunteer work. For this reason the vet tech should verify that any volunteer organization he or she works with has proper insurance, and that the insurance covers the vet tech’s volunteer activities.
It is extremely important that the vet tech carefully study the extent of his or her coverage and refrain from undertaking any activities that may not be covered. This is vital in order to protect the vet tech’s own personal and professional welfare.
In some cases, such as for disaster relief providers, the state itself may have laws regarding what type of insurance is needed, or mandating that some forms of liability will not apply to volunteer disaster relief workers. A vet tech who is volunteering in this field should verify whether or not this applies to them before providing any veterinary services.
In many cases, volunteer work can also help a vet tech’s professional career. Many volunteers obtain a wide variety of experience in the field of veterinary care, which they can then apply to their career. This can be especially important for newly graduated vet techs who have not yet amassed a wide range of professional experience.
In addition, vet techs who are planning to obtain a recognized NAVTA specialty can often use volunteer work as a method of fulfilling their professional experience requirement.
This can be a vital consideration if the vet tech is unable to secure a job that focuses on the desired specialty. In this case, the vet tech should contact the relevant specialty credentialing body to determine if his or her volunteer work can be applied to the work experience requirement, and if so, what type of verification will be needed.
Finally, most state and professional licensing and certification agencies have a continuing education requirement for vet techs who intend to renew their licensure or certification. In some cases, work experience can be used in place of classroom instruction.
If so, the vet tech may be able to replace some or all of his or her continuing education hours with experience gained through volunteer activities. However, the vet tech should verify if volunteer work can take the place of continuing education classes well in advance of his or her license renewal date.
Social Benefits to the Vet Tech
Finally, a vet tech who works as a volunteer will find him or herself providing a vital service to America’s pet owners. Whether he or she is working at a low cost spay and neuter clinic or is working to assist pets and their owners in a disaster stricken area, a volunteer receives a great deal of public and professional respect.
In addition to the undoubted benefits to the vet tech’s professional career, volunteer activities can lead to a high degree of respect from others and an enhanced sense of professional self-worth and well-being for the vet tech.
From a professional viewpoint, this can often result in improved employment and career options due to the connections and acquaintances the vet tech has made while working as a volunteer.
Socially, the vet tech will have forged rewarding personal relationships with other members of the veterinary profession and the general public alike. In some cases, these new acquaintances may result in the development of lifelong friendships and professional relationships.
Ultimately, volunteer work benefits the vet tech and society alike. The vet tech can obtain valuable professional experience while working in a field he or she enjoys, while the society benefits from the vet tech’s professional skills.
Whether the vet tech is working in a low cost spay and neuter clinic or has joined a disaster relief team and is working to reunite pets and their owners in the aftermath of natural and manmade disasters, he or she is providing a vital service to the people of America.
By doing so, a vet tech can take both personal and professional pride in choosing to donate his or her valuable time to the service of others.
Additional Volunteering Opportunities
Humane Society – Rural Area Veterinary Services
World Vets – Check the upcoming projects pages.
Paws.com – Get Involved
Humae Society – Volunteer
Also make sure to check out your local humane society.
If you’re familiar with any organization where vet techs may volunteer please let us know and we’ll add them here.
Would you like to share your volunteering experience? Please comment below or contact us to submit an essay.