S4168, a bill introduced in the NJ Senate, would require licensure for veterinary technicians. New Jersey has not required licensure of veterinary technicians or other veterinary assistants, and the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association has historically been opposed to such requirements. Instead, regardless of the experience, training and education of veterinary assistants, New Jersey licensed veterinarians are legally liable for any and all acts or omissions by such assistants working under the responsible and/or direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian in the relevant practice.
“Responsible supervision,” defined in existing regulations and the proposed bill, means “that the supervising licensed veterinarian has assumed full responsibility for the actions or omissions of the persons being supervised” and “acts performed in the office of a veterinarian in the physical presence of the veterinarian pursuant to the order, control and full professional responsibility of the veterinarian,” respectively.
“Direct supervision” is not defined in existing laws but is defined in the proposed bill.
‘Direct supervision’ means acts performed in the office of a veterinarian in the physical presence of the veterinarian pursuant to the order, control and full professional responsibility of the veterinarian.
The bill would require an individual seeking licensure as a veterinary technician apply to take a qualifying examination, with “sufficient proof that the applicant is qualified to be licensed as [a] veterinary technician” and to pay appropriate fees. The bill would permit a licensed technician to “perform any task for which the technician has been trained as delineated in the American Veterinary Medical Association’s essential task list for veterinary technician teaching programs,” under the responsible supervision of a veterinarian.
Both provisions are reasonable, but except for the licensure requirement, do not appear to change the status quo. In other words, the supervising veterinarian remains the solely liable licensed party. This may also be the case in other states in where veterinary technicians are licensed, but there are usually comprehensive regulations that govern the practice of veterinary technology in addition to whatever statutory authority exists.
The primary concern here, at this time, is how such a law would impact existing practices that may be struggling with maintaining valued employees who, suffering from compassion fatigue during the pandemic, may have resigned or retired. And, if veterinary technicians in the future had to be licensed in New Jersey, shouldn’t there be an exemption for those already employed?
Some of the COVID-related issues affecting veterinarians and their practices are described in “Are we in a veterinary workforce crisis?” published in JAVMAnews, Sept 15, 2021,
Many practices . . . have struggled with losses of staff members. Whether a team member became sick, had to quarantine, or needed to stay home for childcare or other personal reasons, operating with a suboptimal number of employees only made a challenging situation worse.
As the article further describes, these COVID-related workplace issues are compounded by the relatively high turnover of staff, including veterinary technicians, in veterinary practices as compared with other health professions.
The AVMA offers members solutions to manage “[t]he stress and pressure veterinary professionals are dealing with today [which are] both real and prevalent.