What is a Veterinary Technologist Specialist (VTS)?
Our team at Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital (BBVSH) works collaboratively to provide care for even the most critical, life-threatening emergencies and trauma, with specialists on staff and on-call after hours to handle any medical or surgical issue your pet may be experiencing.
An integral part of that care is our team of Registered Veterinary Technologists (RVTs) and Veterinary Technologist Specialists. Registered Veterinary Technologists are like nurses in the human field. Veterinary Technologist Specialists (VTSs) are RVTs who have experience, a high level of training, and have completed a rigorous course of study and passed a board exam. VTSs are experts in a very specific area of veterinary medicine (like emergency and critical care or anesthesia) and who have mastered advanced skills within that area. This process takes several years of hard work and dedication to achieve.
We sat down with one of our Veterinary Technologist Specialists, Jo Hubbard, who has been a RVT with BBVSH for seven years. We asked her about her experiences at BBVSH and what led her to becoming a VTS.
What does a VTS bring to a specialty and emergency/critical care hospital like BBVSH?
A VTS is a valuable addition to any hospital as we have specialized in a certain area of veterinary medicine and therefore bring advanced skills and knowledge to the team. At BBVSH we routinely see patients who are very sick and who may require emergency procedures or intensive, life-saving care.
Having the ability and knowledge to be able to help those patients in a wide range of ways, whether it is by starting an emergency blood transfusion, recognizing when a patient in congestive heart failure needs increased oxygen therapy or perhaps intubation, placing a central line in a patient who urgently needs to be started on vasopressors, or being in constant contact with our very busy doctors about how our patients are doing is beneficial both to our patients and to our team.
Having Veterinary Technologist Specialists on the team brings a specialized level of care and knowledge into the hospital, which is important for training newer RVT graduates, and it is a requirement of our hospital’s certification as a VECCS Certified LEVEL 1 and VetCOT Level II Trauma Center.
What led you to becoming a VTS?
From day one as a baby RVT just out of school, I told myself that I would always provide the best patient care that I could. To me that meant never becoming complacent and always working to further my skills and knowledge in order to benefit my patients. Becoming a VTS in emergency and critical care allowed me to gain valuable experience, master advanced skills, further my learning, and to continue to be inspired to never stop asking questions.
What do you do as a VTS at Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital?
At BBVSH as a VTS ECC (Emergency and Critical Care) I do a little bit of everything. I primarily work in our ICU (Intensive Care Unit) taking care of our critical patients—anything from patients with acute kidney injuries to patients on high flow oxygen therapy or even on the ventilator, and everything in between. I frequently help out with our blood bank to ensure that we have enough dog and cat blood on hand to fulfill our needs. If needed, I will help support our anesthesia team during critical surgeries. I also help to train RVTs who are new to BBVSH, and I am co-supervisor of our ICU.
What is your favorite part about being a VTS?
I have so many favorite parts of being a VTS ECC. I love being an advocate for our patients and increasing their comfort or care. I thoroughly enjoy placing central or arterial lines, helping other techs learn more advanced skills, working to get critical patients safely through surgery, and taking care of them post-op. But perhaps the best part of my job is seeing those patients go home! In emergency and critical care, the unfortunate reality is that not every patient makes it home, so it is pretty special when we get to see lots of them walk out the door having been helped by our team at BBVSH.
Some final thoughts on being a Veterinary Technologist Specialist
If you’re thinking of becoming a VTS, here are a few things to consider:
- Specializing isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. It will not only benefit you as an individual and professional but will also benefit your workplace. The expertise and knowledge a VTS brings to a facility can increase overall facility productivity and provide more opportunities for more client education.
- Veterinary Technologist Specialists are in high demand and typically earn higher salaries than RVTs that choose not to specialize.
- Specializing can broaden your horizons and lead to more professional opportunities. Many technicians feel more fulfilled in their positions after choosing to specialize.
- There are a wide variety of specialties a veterinary technician or technologist can pursue:
- Anesthesia and analgesia
- Clinical pathology
- Diagnostic imaging
- Emergency and critical care
- Equine nursing
- Internal medicine (Small and Large Animal IM, Cardiology, Neurology, and Oncology)
- Laboratory research
- Physical rehabilitation
- Zoological medicine
- In 1994, National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)created the Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties (CVTS). The Committee provides a list of criteria as well as provides assistance for those societies who are interested in attaining Academy status.
For more information on how to become a Veterinary Technologist Specialist, check out these websites and resources:
- National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) Committee on VTS
- British Columbia Veterinary Technologists Association
- Alberta Veterinary Technologist Association – Advanced Training for RVTs
- Registered Veterinary Technologists and Technicians of Canada (RVTTC) – Specialties