Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Wider role for vet techs as shortage hits

Neal Wallace
Veterinary Council takes three-pronged approach to addressing need.
Additional roles for technicians will be more obvious in companion animal practices and likely involve the administering of medication and conducting routine tests. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Veterinary technicians are to take on more clinical roles in practices to help address the vet shortage.

Veterinary Council of NZ (VCNZ) chief executive Iain McLachlan said it is up to individual practices what extra roles they give to nurses and technicians, but they will be within their scope of practice.

He said these additional functions will be more obvious in companion animal practices and likely involve the administering of medication and conducting routine tests.

“Very much like human health, where you might see a general practice nurse, seeing a veterinary nurse or technician can safely happen at veterinary clinics.

“Allied veterinary Professionals [AVPs] have their own set of standards, ethics and guidelines, so are trusted specialists in their fields.”

The VCNZ’s professional adviser, Seton Butler, said AVPs are already responsible for tasks such as anaesthetic inductions, intubations and prepping for surgical procedures in companion animal clinics.

In production animal clinics “they can also be the first professional called to calvings and, if needed, they can perform epidurals or prepare for a caesarean in advance of the veterinarian arriving in well-run clinics”.

Massey last year increased enrolments in its Bachelor of Veterinary Science course by 30, but it will be five years before they graduate.

McLachlan said before the covid pandemic two-thirds of the approximately 300 vets registered in New Zealand each year came from overseas.

That source dried up over the past two years and while it is slowly recovering, it is not a quick fix to address the vet shortage.

The NZ Veterinary Association had 77 vacancies on its website last week.

McLachlan said the sector is using a three-pronged approach: registering more vets, training more vets and finding new ways of operating, such as using AVPs.

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