A veterinary technician, or vet tech, is an individual who performs certain duties in an animal medical environment related to the care and condition of animals. These services are performed under the direction and supervision of a fully-licensed veterinarian, who is ultimately responsible for the work the vet tech does. The vet technician is also prohibited from doing a number of things, including making an official diagnosis and prescribing medications. Overall, the work the technician does frees the vet up to do more complex duties.
A vet tech may perform a number of clerical and minor medical procedures such as taking down a medical history of an animal, dental cleanings, collecting and testing specimens, and helping prepare an animal for surgery. During surgery, the technician may be responsible for providing the proper tools and sterilizing them as needed. The tech may also be able to assist the vet in the care of an animal, especially if that animal is nervous or exhibiting aggressive behaviors. In a research environment, the tech tech is responsible for caring for the animals and assisting in other research operations.
The vet tech may be the first person a pet owner sees once being called into the treatment room. The tech will listen to the reason why the animal is there, whether that be a specific complaint or a routine checkup. The individual will then likely do some minor work, such as weighing the animal and taking the animal's temperature. If there is anything out of the ordinary, the tech will note that on a log sheet.
Once the veterinarian sees the animal, the vet tech may be responsible for explaining any follow-up care that may be needed. This includes the proper way to administer any prescribed medications and explaining what to look for should complications arise. The technician may even help the pet owner decide when the next appointment is needed. In some cases, the vet tech may even provide care instructions over the phone once the animal has returned home.
Veterinary technician training includes either a two-year or four-year degree in veterinary assistance or technology. This provides a background for work in private practice or research environments. Given the highly-developed nature of research work, many employers in that field may prefer technicians to have a four-year degree. Instruction in these degree paths includes many science and animal medicine courses. Once the vet tech has completed the appropriate coursework and graduated, he or she will also need to pass a credentialing exam provided by the state, if working in the United States.