Emergency and Critical Care Vet Tech Career Profile
Emergency and critical care veterinary technicians are specially trained and certified to assist veterinarians with emergency cases.
Emergency and critical care veterinary technicians are qualified to assist veterinarians with a variety of emergency procedures and critical care situations. They must be able to react quickly and remain calm under pressure to assist with emergency cases as they arrive. Emergency and critical care vet techs routinely see animals that have been poisoned, hit by cars, burned, or injured in fights.
Routine responsibilities for emergency vet techs may vary from one clinic to the next but often include duties such as being on call in the intensive care unit, monitoring vitals, placing catheters, taking x-rays, cleaning wounds, applying casts or bandages, handling surgical equipment, giving injections, taking blood samples, giving fluids, and updating case files.
Veterinary technicians, especially emergency and critical care techs, may be required to work night and weekend shifts. Many emergency clinics operate on a 24-hour basis, so staff must be on hand around the clock to ensure proper care is administered to current critical cases and incoming emergencies.
Some veterinary technicians choose to become certified in multiple specialty areas, such as combining their certification in emergency and critical care with an additional option in anesthesiology or surgery. They may also transition to other positions in the animal health industry where their knowledge can be valuable (such as selling veterinary pharmaceuticals or medical and surgical devices).
Education and Licensing
There are more than 160 veterinary technician programs in the U.S. that allow students the opportunity to earn a two year degree in the field. In addition to completion of an accredited degree program, vet techs must pass a licensing exam in their specific state. Most states use the National Veterinary Technician exam (NVT).
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America recognizes eleven specialty certifications for veterinary technicians. The currently recognized specialties include anesthesia, internal medicine, dental, surgical, emergency and critical care, clinical pathology, clinical practice, equine, behavior, zoo, and nutrition.
The Academy of Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Technicians offers specialist certification to licensed vet techs that have completed at least three years or 5760 hours of work in the field of emergency and critical care, at least 25 documented hours of continuing education, a year-long case log that documents at least 50 cases, and four in-depth case reports. Techs meeting these requirements must pass the AVECCT certification exam to achieve specialty recognition.
Certified emergency and critical care vet techs may have preference over other candidates when applying for positions at emergency clinics due to their advanced skills in the field.
While the salaries of veterinary technician specialists may vary, they generally earn slightly more than the average for all veterinary technicians due to their experience and advanced professional certification.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not separate out veterinary technician specialists from the more general category of all veterinary technicians and technologists, the most recent BLS salary survey of 2012 reported a yearly salary of $30,290 ($14.56 per hour). The lowest 10 percent in the field earned less than $21,030, while the highest 10 percent in the field earned more than $44,030. SimplyHired.com reported a slightly higher average salary of $33,000 for emergency vet techs.
The benefit package for vet techs may include a combination of items such as medical insurance, paid vacation, retirement plans, discounted veterinary services for their personal pets, and uniform allowances.
According to the 2012 BLS salary survey, veterinary technicians held a total of 84,800 positions nationwide. Over the decade from 2012 to 2022, the BLS predicts that the profession will expand at a rate of about 30 percent, a significantly higher rate than the average for all careers surveyed. It is expected that there will not be enough new graduates entering the field each year to satisfy the strong demand.
Demand should be particularly strong for certified emergency and critical care veterinary technician specialists due to the very limited number of candidates that qualify for this specialty certification each year.