Technician With Pug
For years, veterinarians throughout the State of California have called their staff members who are not licensed “technicians,” which includes “techs,” “vet techs,” etc.  This blog addresses three problems with veterinarians continuing to designate unlicensed people and their positions using the word “technician.”

Veterinary Practice Act

Veterinarians have recently come under fire for violating Business and Professions Code Section 4839.5 which was passed in 2010.  This section provides as follows:

No person shall use the title “registered veterinary technician” or “veterinary technician,” or any other words, letters, or symbols, including, but not limited to, the abbreviation “R.V.T.,” with the intent to represent that the person is authorized to act as a registered veterinary technician, unless that person meets the requirements of Section 4839 [RVT License].

While the statute seems to clearly require the veterinarian and the unlicensed person to have “the intent to represent” that someone is licensed, the Veterinary Medical Board of California (“Board”) recently is taking a more expansive view of this.
Misleading Titles
Apart from prohibited terminology as set forth in Section 4839.5, no veterinarian may engage in any action or communication that could mislead or tend to mislead the public.  To the extent licensees are called “registered veterinary technicians,” using “technician” in any title could arguably be confusing or misleading to a consumer.

Charting

Because veterinary staff who are both licensed and unlicensed are involved in the charting process, any time someone (including the Board) reviews the medical records, the issue of a proper title comes up. In fact, some veterinary record keeping software label’s non-veterinarians as “technicians” which does not comply with the Board’s requirements or the law. In addition, the Board reviews veterinary practice websites as part of its investigations. For these reasons, avoiding “technician” as discussed above is critical since it is likely to come to the Board’s attention in any investigation.

As Applied

In a recent case, the Board found fault with the use of “lead technician” on a client’s website.  While use of “lead technician” can arguably constitute a violation, there is no intent to represent the person is an RVT and no intent to mislead. But the Board investigated this issue and noted this violations.
The problem was easily resolved by our client changing the website to “lead hospital manager.”  Another term that substitutes nicely for technician is “assistant.”  Even “veterinary assistant,” “hospital assistant,” “clinical assistant” do not have the propensity to mislead and violate Section 4839.5.  The title “assistant” is a safer alternative than “technician” when a staff member of a veterinary hospital is not a licensed registered veterinary technician.  With a little creativity, this whole issue can be avoided.  And once this title is established, it needs to be used on business cards, in charting, signage, websites, etc.
In responding to Board investigations, Simas & Associates, Ltd. advises veterinary clients not to provide any ammunition for the Board to find violations.  While this may be a minor violation subjecting a veterinarian to a “citation,” or letter of education, we recommend to veterinarians throughout California they avoid using the title “technician” for any of their employees.