Veterinary Continuing Education (CE): Making the Most of It

Veterinary technicians and managers interested in success should strive to continue their education. Career growth in the field of veterinary medicine requires a constant willingness to pursue in-person and online educational opportunities that can bolster your skill set. Many technicians and aspiring managers fail to take advantage of online tools and courses which can help them continue their education in the era of COVID-19. 

Veterinary continuing education is often legally required for those professionals who hope to remain in the field for long. Review these basic facts about veterinary continuing education in order to grow your career to new heights. 

Assessing the Importance of Continuing Education

Veterinary continuing education is incredibly important for those who wish to remain legally certified to operate within the field of veterinary medicine. In addition to ensuring your legal status, veterinary continuing education online can also provide you with an up-to-date skill set that makes you an attractive candidate for positions with better pay. Attending veterinary continuing education conferences will also help you network with fellow professionals who could end up being your future colleagues and this critical education will help prevent burnout in the veterinary field which can impede productivity. 

Veterinary technicians, managers, and other staffers who intend to maintain their license to practice are often legally obligated to earn a minimum number of hours of approved continuing education per year. This refers to education provided for professionals outside of the formal education system, such as a seminar or lab exercise. The topics, number of hours and delivery methods (e.g., online or in-person) are dictated by the state(s) where licensure is held. In the state of California, veterinary professionals seeking license renewal are required to pursue up to 36 hours of continuing education. Veterinary professionals should always keep track of CE credentials and documents to remain legally compliant. 

Astute veterinary consolidators understand that continuing education is a sensitive matter. Rather than forcing educational changes onto the staffers of newly consolidated practices, progressive integrators such as VIS, carefully consider the needs of the workforce before adopting changes. As the veterinary industry continues to become driven by consolidation, clinics and consolidators must work hand-in-hand to ensure staffers remain up-to-date on their continuing education requirements. 

Guidelines of CE

Professionals seeking to master veterinary continuing education should familiarize themselves with the following guidelines. 

The nature of a CEU 

Continuing Education Units (CEU) are course credits which must be earned to remain legally compliant with various veterinary practice standards. Earning a CEU requires attending a course of a particular length to obtain the credit. In the state of Massachusetts, for example, a single CEU may be earned by taking a course that lasts a minimum of 45-60 minutes. A half CEU worth 0.5 credits may be earned by taking a shorter course that lasts about 30-44 minutes. Regulations and requirements may differ on a state-to-state basis. 

How to earn CEU credits

A veterinary professional seeking to earn CEUs can pursue a number of options, including both in-person events and digital training sessions. Online classes such as webinars are increasingly popular in the digital era and allow those interested in veterinary continuing education to earn CEUs from the comfort of their homes. Attending veterinary conferences in person can offer pre-recorded, live, and interactive learning experiences which allow professionals to network and earn CE hours. 

Non-veterinary courses are acceptable

Some credit hours can be earned outside of the field of veterinary medicine. Continuing education courses focused on business management, human resources, and RACE-approved OSHA courses can all be approved on an individual basis. Those interested in pursuing veterinary continuing education outside of the field of medicine should carefully collect course documents such as the qualification of the instructor and the length of the course. These will be needed to submit to your state board of veterinary medicine in order to justify your required CE hours and receive credit for them. 

On-the-job training is not accepted

It is important to understand that on-the-job training does not count as continuing education for veterinary technicians. Any on-the-job training you receive at a particular practice will apply to a universal work environment and be ineligible for acceptance when it comes to earning CEUs. Veterinary continuing education conferences or webinars are the preferred method for earning credits. 

College credits do not count as CEUs

Veterinary professionals must understand that college credits do not count as free continuing education for veterinary technicians. Educational institutions like universities and trade schools may equip veterinary professionals with valuable skills but will not help them earn CEUs. Credits earned in the pursuit of a degree or certificate cannot be counted for the purpose of remaining a legally certified technician, manager, or staffer. 

Types of Continuing Education

Types of Continuing Education

Making the most of continuing education opportunities requires veterinary experts to consider their options. Begin by determining whether a CE event is approved and can be used to fulfill the state licensing requirements you must meet to remain in practice. The local State Board of Veterinary Medicine will provide guidelines on the amount of credit hours needed to remain legally compliant. Consult a list of veterinary state board websites to determine local requirements before investing time in a CE event. 

  • Peer-reviewed veterinary journals: these journals allow technicians to read a peer-reviewed CE article before testing what they have learned with a quiz. Passing the quiz will allow technicians to obtain CEUs while providing them with helpful knowledge which will prove applicable in the field. 
  • National conferences: National conferences may be more expensive than other methods, as they may require those interested in continuing veterinary education to travel long distances or take time off. Nevertheless, they provide unparalleled learning opportunities, yield many CEUs, and allow for networking within the industry. Practice owners may provide the means for a technician or staffer to attend a conference as an employee benefit.
  • State conferences: State veterinary technician associations often hold annual meetings which provide for continuing education for veterinary technicians.  Veterinary assistants may also attend these meetings, which usually focus on highly clinical subjects and provide hands-on training opportunities. While not as high-profile as national conferences, these annual meetings are tailored to  veterinary professionals of any given state and are often more available to technicians and staffers.
  • Local seminars: Regional chambers of commerce or veterinary associations may hold local seminars which are ideal for technicians without the financial means or time needed to travel to national conferences. Local community colleges and technical institutes may also provide valuable hands-on learning experiences in the form of local seminars. 
  • Lunch-and-learn meetings: In-clinic exercises which are usually hosted by a major corporation (e.g., pharmaceutical, diagnostics) can provide helpful industry expertise to technicians looking to broaden their horizons. This economical option is ideal for practices seeking to enhance the skills of the entire staff at once, though they may not always be approved for CEUs. 
  • Specialty groups: Certain specialty groups such as the Academy of Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Technicians (AVECCT) offer specialty tracks to technicians looking to embrace new skills. Unique specialty areas such as surgery and equine medicine are currently under consideration and may become specialty tracks worth pursuing in the future. 
  • Practice management conferences: Technicians who seek to enhance their knowledge of practice management can attend special practice management conferences that focus on small animal medicine. For large animal and other specialties,  groups such as the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians may offer more specialized training in the form of annual events hosted in tandem with a larger organization. 

Continuing Education Online Opportunities

Professionals seeking veterinary continuing education online opportunities should consider webinars and RACE-approved courses. Organizations like Clinician’s Brief offer both self-guided courses and webinars with industry experts that can provide free continuing education for veterinary technicians on a budget. Individual or enterprise subscriptions can also be purchased from qualified providers such as VetBloom, which can offer drug diversion courses or management strategies. 

While credits from a university used to pursue a degree do not qualify as CEUs, some universities are authorized providers of separate online continuing education courses. For example, Purdue Veterinary Medicine provides online classes and quizzes which can take the place of veterinary continuing education conferences or seminars when it comes to earning credits. 

Many state veterinary boards limit the amount of CEUs that can be earned from online courses. Veterinary technicians and staffers should always review state requirements when obtaining CEUs online. Nevertheless, webinars and other online opportunities have become more essential to the veterinary industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many conferences are now conducted virtually, which could have an impact on how continuing education is provided for in the future. 

Internal and Corporate Education

While internal and corporate education opportunities may not count as CEUs for licensing purposes, they can provide invaluable expertise to veterinary professionals. The veterinary industry is increasingly driven by consolidation; practices which aspire to become consolidated partners should strive to maintain a well-educated workforce which can maximize productivity. Corporate efforts to consolidate an existing veterinary practice should take into consideration the internal education efforts offered to employees. 

When a new business is consolidated, corporate veterinary groups should consider introducing new internal training measures to bolster the skills of the existing workforce. Sponsoring corporate education opportunities will also make the newly consolidated practice more attractive to new hires. Internal and corporate education efforts cannot be ignored simply because they fail to generate CEUs for licensing purposes. Practices which shun efforts to upskill the workforce will soon fall behind the competition. 

Video lessons and digital training regimes can help newly consolidated practices meet the needs of the specific corporation which acquired them. Additionally, corporate consolidators should consider sponsoring technicians and staffers who wish to attend national conferences or statewide technician meetings. Sponsoring travel opportunities which allow new staffers to earn CEUs helps avoid workplace conflict after the consolidation process has occurred. 

The Value of Continuing Education

Veterinary professionals who intend to remain legally licensed must learn the value of continuing education. In-person conferences and digital quizzes allow staffers, technicians, and managers to hone their skills while learning about the latest innovations within the industry. Veterinary continuing education events can also provide crucial hands-on training which produces positive patient outcomes. 

Continuing education events generate meaningful results and present helpful networking opportunities which can supercharge the career of young veterinary professionals. Make the most out of veterinary continuing education by reviewing all opportunities to earn CEUs within your state.