Group study benefits UF veterinary technicians

Veterinary technicians gathered in the anesthesia rounds room of the new UF Small Animal Hospital Feb. 18 for a physiology lecture presented by CVT Jennifer Sager. From left to right are Holly Kitchen, ophthalmology; Melanie Powell, cardiology; Jennifer Sager, anesthesia; Jennifer Cash, large animal surgery; and Heather Wells, large animal medicine.

Approximately 25 veterinary technicians employed at the UF Veterinary Hospitals hope to better themselves professionally by sitting for the national examination that, if they pass it, will lead to their becoming Certified Veterinary Technicians.

To that end, the group recently organized study sessions in which they meet every other Friday to discuss various topics covered by the exam  — physiology, anatomy and anesthesia, just to name a few — and listen to lectures by others who are already C.V.T.s or even veterinarians who don’t mind sharing their knowledge.

“We have had a pretty decent turnout, although it is still new,” said Melanie Powell, a veterinary cardiology technician. “The first gathering was just a meeting of the minds to discuss basic information such as how to apply, requirements, schedule, format and such. Most of us are planning to take the exam in July.”

Technicians who pass the exam are then eligible to sit for the Florida licensure exam as well as to start training for specialty certification.

Interest among UF veterinary technicians in taking the national test grew when the American Association of Veterinary State Boards changed its rules to allow would-be applicants for the examination to take the test in Florida instead of out of state for the first time.

“There are very few states that will let a technician take the national exam without having gone through a two-year accreditation program,” said Powell. “We have to apply to take the exam through one of these states, with the requirement being at least 7,000 hours working as a veterinary technician under the supervision of a D.V.M.”

Most of those in the UF group will be applying in that category, she added.

“Lucky for us, everything is all computerized now, so we can actually take the test at a testing center here in Gainesville, which is probably why there is so much interest now. Previously you had to travel to one of those few states to take the exam,” Powell said.

Soon after the AAVSP’s test format changed last year, Powell and colleagues Amanda Lamar and Chelle McClure, technicians in veterinary internal medicine and recovery, respectively, were talking amongst themselves about their own interest in taking the test. They soon realized there might be an opportunity to involve others at UF who had the same goal.

“We’ve got all of these people working in different departments,” Powell said. “There’s a lot of knowledge in this building, not just from people who are studying for the test but from people who have already taken it.”

Jennifer Sager is certified both nationally and within her specialty field of veterinary anesthesia. She presented a lecture on anatomy to the group on Jan. 21, another on physiology on Feb. 18, and will conduct a final presentation on pharmacology on April 15. Other certified veterinary technicians, including Terry Torres and Amanda Shelby from anesthesia and Danielle Mauragis of radiology, will also be giving presentations.

Both large and small animal hospital technicians are now attending the sessions, and the diversity of specialties represented has made for the cross-pollination of ideas and interests – a benefit, since the test is comprehensive and covers areas that many technicians aren’t familiar with in their immediate working environment.

“Melanie may know a lot about cardiology, whereas I may know more about general medicine,” McClure said. “Someone else knows more about anesthesia or dermatology. We all bring what we know to help each other out, and we can explain what we know in lay terms to make the study more comfortable.”

Those who are participating in the study group are contributing not only their own time after work hours, but also the cost of application, books and the test itself – about a $600 investment, Powell said. When applicants had to take the test out of state, they had to pay for the cost of travel as well.

Whether she passes or fails the exam, Powell says she hopes to continue the study program for others who might show interest in the future.

“For me, this is a stepping stone to getting my cardiology certification,” she said.

For McClure, the study time and costs will all be worth it when she passes the test.

“You still have to sit for the board, but once you have it, you have it,” McClure said. “Then you just have to get your CE hours every year.”

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