Vet Techs and the Clinical Pathology Specialty
The modern veterinary care sector has become an increasingly important field in the United States. With a rising number of families demanding world-class care for their beloved companion animals, many veterinary clinics employ techniques that are fully as advanced as anything found in a major hospital.
Because of this, the veterinary sector requires highly trained professionals in order to continue providing the high level of care that pet owners demand. Among these professionals are licensed vet techs that provide a variety of services to veterinarians and other animal caregivers. A growing number of vet techs have chosen to become certified in a variety of specialties in order to provide a higher level of care in certain areas. One of the more important specialties a vet tech can obtain is a specialty in clinical pathology.
The Clinical Pathology Specialty
Clinical pathology is a field that involves the diagnosis of a disease or other condition based on the analysis of an animal’s blood, saliva, urine and feces, in addition to tissue that has been extracted via a biopsy. These materials are then subjected to a number of tests in order to diagnose diseases and other veterinary medical conditions.
Clinical pathology has a number of advantages when applied to animals. In many cases, minor symptoms may go undiagnosed or even contribute to an incorrect diagnosis, especially if the symptom is associated with a number of diseases. Additionally, a disease may not manifest any symptoms until it is very advanced, making treatment difficult or impossible.
In some cases, such as when an animal has been poisoned, testing the animal’s urine or blood may be the only way to determine the proper way to treat the animal, especially when time is of the essence.
Clinical Pathology and Cancer
The effective treatment of cancer in a pet often requires the assistance of a vet tech specializing in clinical pathology. Biopsies and other samples can be taken to determine the exact type of cancer, whether it is malignant or benign, and how widely the cancer has spread. This is especially important due to the need to start treatment as early as possible and tests are usually performed over the course of the treatment to determine whether or not the cancer is being successfully eliminated.
The Vet Tech Clinical Pathology Specialty
Currently, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes the field of clinical pathology as an official vet tech specialty. The Academy of Veterinary Clinical Pathology Technicians (AVCPT) sets the standards required for those vet techs seeking certification in this field and provides oversight over currently certificated vet techs.
The most common duties of a veterinary technician who has chosen to specialize in the field of clinical pathology include the following:
- Properly extracting samples from the animals under their care.
- Preparing various types of samples for testing by the vet tech or other veterinary professionals.
- In cooperation with the veterinarian, performing tests and recording the results for later use.
- Properly disposing of biological samples after testing. Due to the potential presence of infectious diseases, this is an especially important part of the vet tech’s duties.
Vet Tech Specialists in Wildlife Management Fields
One important area where vet techs specializing in pathology are needed is in the field of wildlife management. Many agencies work to monitor and control the spread of various types of diseases, such as rabies.
In many cases, vet techs specializing in clinical pathology will play a vital role in obtaining, testing and evaluating samples from wild animals in order to determine whether or not the animal is currently carrying any diseases. In some cases, these vet techs may also assist in tagging wild animals in order to monitor their later movements for research purposes.
Becoming a Vet Tech Specializing in Clinical Pathology
The AVCPT has established strict requirements for those vet techs wishing to obtain certification in the field of clinical pathology. Among the requirements that the vet tech must complete are the following:
- Have graduated from a veterinary program that has been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Alternately, the vet tech may qualify if they are a currently licensed or credentialed vet tech. In those states that do not require licensure, the vet tech must have taken and passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
- Be a current member in good standing with the NAVTA.
- Have at least three years or 4,000 hours of experience in the field of veterinary clinical pathology. The candidate must be able to document this experience to the satisfaction of the AVCTP.
- Provide case logs and at least five detailed case histories for examination by the AVCTP.
- Complete at least 40 continuing education hours in fields that are related to the practice of clinical pathology.
- Take and pass a certification examination.
- Provide two letters of recommendation from a qualified source, attesting to the candidate’s professional and moral qualifications to become a certified specialist in clinical pathology.
Once the vet tech has become certified, he or she will be required to take continuing education courses in order to remain up to date with the current state of veterinary clinical pathology. In addition, the vet tech will have to continue to fulfill all the renewal requirements for his or her general veterinary technician’s license.
By becoming a veterinary technician specializing in clinical pathology, the vet tech can dramatically improve his or her professional options. Many organizations will only hire certified specialists for positions involving the practice of clinical pathology. In addition, even when certification is not required for employment, those vet techs that have become certified specialists may enjoy superior advancement and salary options when compared to non-certified employees.
With the rising demand for qualified vet tech specialists, becoming certified in clinical pathology can be an excellent path for those individuals who are interested in improving their professional qualifications. Due to the continuing expansion of the veterinary care sector, vet techs will continue to enjoy robust growth in both employment and wages. For these reasons, becoming a certified specialist in clinical pathology can be an excellent decision for newly graduated and experienced vet techs alike.