Minnesota colleges and animal shelters offer programs to address the veterinary technology shortage

Jen Charewicz was determined to become a medical technician, but when she walked into an interview for a training program, she had her dog with her. And an interviewer question sent her down another path: veterinary technician.

“Some people think it’s just puppies and cats all day,” Charewicz said. “But it’s that aspect of helping take care of something, helping something get better, helping [with] the connection of an owner and their animal.”

Charewicz, who has been a veterinary technician with the Animal Humane Society for 10 years, began her education at the now-closed Argosy University and completed it at the Animal Human Society. The nonprofit animal welfare organization has launched programs in recent years to prepare more vet technicians to address a staff shortage as Minnesota residents face long waits to bring their pandemic pets in for care.

In the state of Minnesota, veterinary technicians are not required by law to be certified. This opens the door for programs like the non-accredited options offered at the Animal Humane Society, where students can learn veterinary skills through supervised hands-on experience instead of having to pay for classes and their certification.

Dr. Sara Lewis, a managing animal protection veterinarian with the Animal Humane Society, said understanding the “why” of veterinary procedures is a big emphasis in their educational programs.

Some argue that having a certification requirement for veterinary technicians who do attend school in traditional programs would help them get paid more and have more stable jobs.

At least one recent report, from Mars Veterinary Health, found a need for tens of thousands of certified vet technicians nationwide.

Dr. Kim Rowley, a veterinarian and program director for the veterinary technology department at Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC), says the entire country needs more veterinary technicians and veterinarians, but the economy has discouraged people from pursuing careers. And despite the increasing need for vet techs, she hasn’t seen a noticeable increase in applicants for the program at RCTC.

“Unfortunately, depending on where they go into practice, veterinary technicians aren’t paid very well,” Rowley said. “And right now the economy is such that people can graduate from high school and get a job at Costco to make about $20 an hour, or they can go to school for two years, barely earn more than that, and have to pay off their loans.”

Charewicz of the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, is also taking more veterinary training through an online program. She said she enjoys the flexibility of being able to work and continue her studies at the same time.

Dave Burklund, Chavewicz’s colleague in Golden Valley, was a board-certified veterinary technician who worked in private practice before his certification expired when he took time off to stay home. When he wanted to work with animals again, the Humane Society’s program was more attractive than paying to re-certify.

“Here you’re actually working while you’re working out,” Burklund said. “Sure, you have classroom instruction or you have a trainer helping you with the skills, but you clock in. It’s your job.”

At the end of the day, Lewis said that both accredited programs and the Animal Humane Society’s programs are responding to the need for more veterinary staff across the state.

“I hope we can all understand that we’re in it together, and that we’re really trying to train individuals to be fully informed as they go out and have those skills that can benefit our community,” Lewis said. . “The more knowledgeable staff we have to care for the animals that don’t necessarily have someone else to care for them, the better.”

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