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Letters: Readers call article disrespectful, imbalanced

Veterinary technicians take issue with tone, content; reporter responds

January 25, 2022 (published)
From Emily-Ione Kinney; and Ed Carlson

The comparison of technicians and support staff to camels pushing the master out of the tent, quoted in a VIN News Service article about granting non-veterinarians membership status within the American Veterinary Medical Association ("AVMA mulls license portability, membership for non-veterinarians," Jan. 11, 2022) is incredibly offensive and shines a glaring light on the status of the veterinary technician and the veterinary support staff in the eyes of the AVMA membership. While I understand that this may not be the overall feeling of AVMA members, the fact that this was said and published in an article is disheartening.

In my 23 years as a certified veterinary technician and 16 years as a veterinary technician specialist in emergency and critical care, I cannot remember a time when the profession of veterinary technicians has been so demeaned. While I understand that the AVMA is there to protect the interest of the veterinarian, the interest of veterinary technicians often goes hand-in-hand. Decisions made by the AVMA impact technicians and support staff; we are a team, and veterinarians and veterinary hospitals cannot function without us.

We often hear the question, "How do we retain qualified staff?" One way, among other things, is respect. Based on the comparison of veterinary technicians to "camels in the tent," the profession has a long way to go. This statement raises the question of how technicians are being treated in the practice. More and more on social media, technicians, assistants and customer service representatives are posting about the lack of respect they receive from their veterinarian colleagues, as though their value and humanity are an afterthought. This contributes to burnout and compassion fatigue, which are often overlooked when discussing support staff longevity.

The AVMA needs to get ahead of this statement, and quickly. Technicians deserve a voice in decisions that impact them; they deserve a seat at the table. While we are not in the same role as veterinarians, we should be viewed as equally important, not as camels to a veterinarian master.

— Emily-Ione Kinney

Emily-Ione Kinney is a certified veterinary technician and education coordinator at Mountain West Veterinary Specialists in Layton, Utah.

***

I attended the AVMA reference committee meeting that the membership question was sent to for discussion and recommendation, and the House of Delegates meeting the following day. I and other non-veterinarians that I spoke with who attended were pleased with the outcome and the support expressed by many veterinarians.

Reading this article, however, confirms my distaste for how the media reports "news." Often, as is the case with this article, the reporter is looking to bring attention to themselves and their news outlet, not actually reporting what happened. I agree that there were some individuals, including those quoted in the article, who said things that confirmed we do still have a long way to go. Some, such as the "camel in a tent" analogy, were insulting, in my opinion. However, there were many more positive comments from veterinarians than what is reported in this article. I am disappointed with the news media, including VIN, for sensationalizing in what appears to be an effort to increase readership.

"Efforts to open AVMA membership further did not come to fruition" is a very misleading statement. There was no proposal, no details of what membership for non-veterinarians might entail. It is not reasonable or realistic to assume that any organization would approve opening membership to other groups without a plan outlining how, fees, voting or non-voting, etc.

The question of potentially expanding AVMA membership to non-veterinarians was discussed in a reference committee meeting. After discussion, the committee approved a motion that the "House request the Board of Directors to consider a pathway of communication with the other veterinary healthcare team organizations, starting with the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, to investigate how best to work collaboratively to strengthen their organizations and professions as well as the AVMA." The statement was intentionally vague to allow for all options to be considered.

The reporter also neglected to mention that the AVMA House of Delegates voted to approve the committee recommendation with a 94.8% majority vote, proving that the majority are in favor of seeing how we can collaborate effectively together.

— Ed Carlson

Ed Carlson is a certified veterinary technician and a veterinary technician specialist in nutrition based in Haverhill, Massachusetts.


***

Response from Jennifer Fiala, VIN News Service reporter

The reference committee meeting that Mr. Carlson attended was one of several that happened concurrently before the gathering of the full House of Delegates. (I attended a different committee meeting.) Because the full House is where final decisions are made, that was the focus of the article.

On the floor, the majority of delegates who spoke expressed reservations about opening AVMA membership to non-veterinarians, and no one actively advocated for it. Although Mr. Carlson found the committee to be highly supportive, that support was not reflected in the discussion by the full House.

My reason for including the "camel in the tent" comment in the article was not to offend or demean, but to provide an unvarnished report of thoughts expressed by delegates on the House floor as they described views of their constituents.

The story was meant to reflect a variety of discussions and actions from the House floor overall. It includes the statement, "Delegates asked the Board of Directors to reach out to groups such as the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association about working together to collaboratively strengthen their ties," albeit without including the percentage by which the initiative passed.

We appreciate continued interest in this important topic.


VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email news@vin.com.



Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.



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