Essential Functions (Tasks) for Veterinary Technicians

Guidelines established by the Association of Veterinary Technician Educators Disability Task Force, 12/2011

The field of veterinary technology is both intellectually and physically challenging.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensure that qualified applicants have the ability to pursue program admission. However, all students must meet the essential skills and technical standards to perform functions required of the Veterinary Technician program and profession. Every student will be held to the same standards with or without reasonable accommodations.

General Physical Requirements

Students must:

  • Possess the physical ability to
    • Tolerate walking and standing for at least ten minutes at a time, multiple times per hour.
    • Lift and/or carry up to 50 pounds from floor to waist level or higher at least several times per day.
    • Lift objects weighing up to 50 pounds to a height of one meter or higher and carry the object or animal for a distance of two meters without assistance.
    • Use hands and arms to handle, install, position and move materials, equipment, and supplies without assistance.
    • Handle, position, and restrain live animals of small and large animal species.
  • Be able to have sustained contact with multiple species of animals and be amenable to learning the safe handling, restraining, and working with these animals. An individual should not be allergic to any species of animals to the extent that would prohibit working in a facility that has them.
Cognitive Ability

Students must:

  • Be able to function in a structured environment within significant time constraints and capable of making rapid decisions in urgent situations and meeting deadlines.
  • Possess a willingness to assist with and perform a wide variety of routine medical, surgical, and diagnostic procedures common to the veterinary setting; including humane euthanasia and handling of sick, injured, fractious, or aggressive animals without fear.
  • Be able to complete required tasks/functions under stressful and/or unpredictable conditions, including emergency situations.
  • Be able to access information from books, reference manuals, computers, and paper and electronic medical documents to perform duties and safely use equipment without assistance.
  • Be able to prioritize, organize, and utilize time-management skills to perform tasks.
  • Evaluate, synthesize and communicate diagnostic information to the attending veterinarian and/or staff.
  • Be able to progress toward minimal supervision as they advance through the program.
Communication Skills

Students must:

  • Read, write, speak, and report accurately and effectively in English.
  • Comprehend and carry out complex written and oral instructions given in English.
  • Be able, when communicating with other individuals by speech, either in person or by telephone, to make legible and coherent written notes in English within the margins and space provided on the appropriate forms.
Professionalism and Interpersonal Skills

Students must:

  • Demonstrate professional and socially appropriate behavior; maintain cleanliness and personal grooming consistent with close human and animal contact.
  • Be able to interact appropriately with clients and all members of the veterinary healthcare team.
  • Have the ability to exercise good judgment and make appropriate professional and procedural judgment decisions under stressful and/or emergency conditions (i.e. unstable patient condition), emergent demands (i.e. stat test orders), and a distracting environment (i.e., high noise levels, complex visual stimuli, aggressive animals).
Manual Dexterity and Mobility

Students must:

  • Be able to move his/her entire body a distance of no less than three meters within two seconds of a signal to do so, to move rapidly from danger while handling animals in confined spaces.
  • Possess tactile ability necessary for physical assessment and to perform nursing duties in a timely manner. This includes performing palpation during physical exams, administering oral, intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intravenous medication, insert and remove tubes, collect organic samples from live animals and perform wound care.
  • Possess the ability to palpate and interpret findings, i.e. palpation of pulses, lymph nodes or trachea to determine proper endotracheal tube size.
  • Be able to hold surgical instruments in one hand and perform fine movements with such instruments. This includes ability to assist in holding of hemostats or other instruments while assisting in surgery; induce and monitor general anesthesia in an animal patient; place intravenous and urinary catheters without assistance.
  • Be able to hold, manipulate, or tie materials ranging from a cloth patch to a very fine string. This includes the ability to hold and manipulate a surgical sponge; tie a 00 silk suture; endotracheal intubation; intravenous injection; catheterize animals to obtain sample of urine and/or other body fluids; apply bandages without assistance.
Auditory (Hearing), Olfactory (Sense of Smell), and Visual Skills

Veterinary technicians must have functional use of senses to safely and correctly assess patients and interpret and record data.

Students must:

  • Possess adequate visual ability, with or without correction,characterize and interpret the color, odor, clarity, and viscosity of body structures and fluids, observe variations in skin and mucus membrane color, integrity, pulsations, tissue swelling, etc.
  • Possess auditory ability necessary to monitor and assess health status, including auscultation of heart and lungs, and hear equipment alarms and warning sounds from animals, humans, and/or equipment of impending danger or injury.
  • Recognize and respond appropriately to distress sounds from animal and alarms/warning signals on animal-monitoring equipment directly and through intercommunication systems to ensure patient safety.
  • Detect and respond appropriately to odors in order to maintain environmental safety and patient needs.
    Be able to use a compound microscope to identify cells and organisms and be able to differentiate colors of stained objects.
  • Be able to observe movement at a distance ranging from 30-45 centimeters to 15-20 meters at a discrimination level that permits detection of subtle differences in movement of the limbs in animals. This includes ability to detect and describe a change in color of hair coat caused by licking or trauma; detect abnormal head posture in a parakeet; monitoring respiratory rate during anesthesia; ability to read anesthesia monitoring equipment.
  • Be able to discriminate shades of black and white patterns in which the band is not more than 0.5 mm in width. This includes ability to characterize bacterial hemolysis on a blood agar plate; density patterns on a radiograph; and ability to see ECG tracing.
  • Possess adequate depth perception to allow detection of a 0.5 cm elevation which is no more than 1cm in diameter on a slightly curved surface having a slightly irregular surface. This includes detection of tissue swelling on the hip on a smooth-haired dog; determining presence of reaction to skin testing for allergies.
  • Be able to perceive the natural or amplified human voice without lip reading to permit oral communication in a surgery room with all occupants wearing surgical masks.
  • Be able to perceive the origin of sound as needed to detect movement of large animals in a pen or corral; monitoring multiple patients in an ICU.
Reasonable Disability Accommodations

Request for reasonable accommodations must be initiated by the student. Reasonable accommodations may be provided for students with documented disabilities upon submission of appropriate documentation. Documentation must include the names, titles, professional credentials, license number, addresses, and phone numbers of the medical professionals that evaluated the student as well as the date of the evaluation. The evaluation report must include a summary of the assessment procedures and evaluation instruments used to make the diagnosis and a narrative summary of evaluation results. The evaluation must list specific accommodations requested and the rationale for those accommodations. Documentation for eligibility must be current, preferably within the last three years. The age of acceptable documentation is dependent upon the disabling condition, the current status of the student and the student’s specific request for accommodations. Students may be required to re-submit this documentation each semester to allow for review of continuing eligibility for accommodations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a disability as a substantial limitation of a major life function. A temporary medical condition does not qualify as a disability and is not covered under the ADA of 1990 or under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act because the extent, duration, and impact of the condition is not permanent. Accommodations may not provide an unfair advantage to the students, fundamentally alter the nature and substance of the curriculum, present an undue hardship for the institution, pose a direct threat to the safety of patients, or compromise the academic integrity of the program. Students may be required to cover the cost of such accommodations and should be aware that a potential employer may not be amenable to use of accommodations that result in undue hardship to the employer. Students receiving accommodations must be aware that these may not be available from a prospective employer. Veterinary practices with small numbers of employees may be exempt from the requirements of the ADA.

Rev. 8/12/2014, CM

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