The field of veterinary care has changed radically from its early days. Currently, veterinary medicine includes specialties and practices that are as sophisticated as anything one might find in a modern hospital.
These include a growing number of veterinary technician specialties, allowing vet techs to assist specialist veterinarians in providing excellent care for pets and livestock alike.
What is Clinical Pathology?
Clinical pathology is the diagnosis of disease based on tests performed on blood, saliva, serum, urine and feces, in addition to material extracted via a biopsy. This material is then tested using a variety of laboratory techniques in order to determine that nature of any illness or medical condition afflicting the animal. Clinical pathology can be very useful in diagnosing illnesses that have minor symptoms, or whose symptoms can mimic those of other diseases.
The Veterinary Technician Clinical Pathology Specialty
Veterinary technicians specializing in clinical pathology assist veterinarians in a variety of ways. Their responsibilities include the following areas:
- Properly taking and labeling samples from an animal and preparing them for laboratory testing.
- Assisting veterinarians in performing clinical pathology tests and effectively and accurately recording the results of such tests.
- Evaluating the results of tests, including tests for parasitic infections or other disorders.
- When working with wildlife management programs, these vet techs assist in tracking the development and spread of infectious diseases such as rabies.
A specialist in clinical pathology must be extremely conscientious in the handling and performance of his or her duties. Clinical pathology is a field where minor errors or inattention can result in an incorrect or harmful diagnosis. The clinical pathology specialty exists in order to allow vet techs to demonstrate that they are fully prepared for the responsibilities of their specialty.
Becoming a Veterinary Clinical Pathology Technician
In order to become a veterinary clinical pathology technician, the candidate must be approved by the Academy of Veterinary Clinical Pathology Technicians (AVCPT) which is currently recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) as the certifying body for clinical pathology vet techs.
The steps required to become a certified clinical pathology technician include the following:
- Graduate from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited veterinary technician program, or be a currently credentialed veterinary technician in the United States or Canada.
- If the state where the individual practices as a vet tech does not require licensure or credentialing, the candidate must be able to demonstrate that he or she has achieved a passing grade on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE).
- Be a current member of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).
- Have at least three years or 4,000 hours of documented experience as a veterinary technician in the field of clinical pathology. This experience can date no earlier than six years before the vet tech’s application.
- At least 40 continuing education (CE) hours in fields focusing on clinical pathology. This education must come from accredited sources to be accepted by the AVCPT.
- Be able to document the technician’s skills in clinical pathology. This includes providing a skills form, case log, and five detailed case reports showcasing the technician’s competency in his or her field.
- Two letters of recommendation attesting to the technician’s professional and personal qualifications. The vet tech should check with the AVCPT to ensure that his or her letters are from an acceptable source.
The Clinical Technician Exam
Upon providing the required materials, the vet tech may take the certification exam for the clinical pathology technician. This exam is a comprehensive examination which tests all aspects of the candidate’s skills in clinical pathology.
Obtaining a passing score is required in order to become a certified clinical pathology technician. While candidates can repeat the test should they fail, they will be required to pay the admission fee again in order to retake the exam. For this reason, it is important to only take the AVCPT exam when the candidate is confident he or she can successfully pass it.
Advantages of Becoming a Certified Clinical Pathology Technician
With the emphasis on high quality care for animals of every type, a certified clinical pathology technician will be able to command higher wages, in addition to enjoying a more secure and rewarding career. There are a wide variety of professions open to a certified clinical pathology technician, including government and private wildlife management, zoo based veterinary care, rural and urban veterinary clinics, and veterinary laboratories.
In general, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has noted that the veterinary technician profession enjoys extremely promising job growth, as well as steady and competitive wages. Specialist technicians will enjoy even greater job opportunities as the field of veterinary medicine continues to expand to meet the demand placed upon it by private individuals, commercial businesses and government alike.