INSTITUTION: Austin Community College
REQUEST: Continuing Education Certificate in Veterinary Assisting
Program Objectives: This Veterinary Assistant Continuing Education Certificate Program is designed to enable students to develop the competencies needed to successfully enter the work force as Veterinary Assistants with entry-level skills. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be eligible to take the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) exam for Certified Veterinary Assistants (CVA). The TVMA Veterinary Assistant Curriculum and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Curriculum Guide for Veterinary Technicians were used during the development of the attached curriculum.
Austin Community College (ACC) is applying for Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approval of a non-credit (continuing education) program in Veterinary Assisting which will serve as the foundation for a two year Associate of Applied Science Degree in Veterinary Technology. ACC intends to initially offer the non-credit program with the program growing into an integrated (credit/non-credit) program offered simultaneously, with students being able to decide to take the courses in either format. Both programs will comply with all Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) criteria for credit courses, which will enable non-credit students to convert the coursework to credits at a later date, upon meeting all ACC requirements for admission of credit students, including mandatory assessment and placement.
Program Requirements: This program is composed of 736 veterinary assistant contact hours. Basic skills and workplace competencies are integrated throughout the curriculum. Classroom lecture, laboratory, and supervised practicum work in local veterinary clinics and non-profit animal care centers will integrate all instructional components of the program.
NEED AND POTENTIAL
Occupational Need: Justification for creation of this program was based on several sources of information:
Three Local Needs Assessment Surveys
The original impetus for a formal training course to prepare Veterinary Technicians began in 1995 when a group of local veterinarians requested the program. The classic method for starting a two-year program was attempted which resulted in the formation of an Agricultural Advisory Committee. A needs assessment that demonstrated a perceived need in the community and a proposal for implementation during the Fall of 1996 was developed at that time. However, approval and funding were not forthcoming and the program was placed on hold. (Attachment #1)
In the Spring of 1999, a group of veterinarians belonging to Capital Area Veterinary Medical Association again broached the subject of their need for entry-level office workers. They reported that their need for employees was so great that they wanted any type of short course that would quickly train individuals in animal handling. A telephone survey at that time demonstrated that higher-level training was preferred but, "warm bodies" with minimal technical skills would be hired as fast as they could be trained at Austin Community College. The few trained personnel available to veterinarians are needed to perform technologically advanced skills in the veterinarianís offices and the amount of time required to train new workers was not deemed to be the best use of these trained employees time. A second written needs assessment and research of industry projections validated the stated need and an evening Introduction to Veterinary Technology course was developed and offered through the continuing education department in the Fall of 1999. An additional course has been added each semester. In the first year of offering the courses, and with a minimal of advertising, fifty-six students have enrolled in at least one of the courses. All are presently working while attending classes.
Research of the local Texas Workforce Commissionís report on Veterinary Assistants in Austin-San Marcos MSA there is a projected growth rate of 25.6% over the period of the next eight years, faster than the 17.4% growth rate for all occupations in Texas. Growth plus replacement needs are estimated to average about 148 openings per year. (See Attachments #2)
The industry with the highest employment in Texas for 1998 was Agricultural Services with 96% of the total employment of this occupation. These numbers can only be expected to increase exponentially as the nationís population continues to grow and the priorities for expendable income is being placed upon the family pet and surrogate child.
Existing Programs: There are only two Veterinary Assistant and five Veterinary Technician Programs in Texas. One of the Veterinary Assistant programs that is being offered is an on-the-job training manual produced by the Texas Veterinary Medical Association. Conversations with TVMA indicate that their primary interest lies in administering the certification examination. The other program is offered by Cedar Valley College, a satellite of Dallas County Community College District. Although this program is offered as a distance program, it does not meet the needs of this community in that it requires General Education Courses prior to job-specific skills. The director of the program did offer valuable suggestions during the planning phase of the ACC program.
The closest Veterinary Technician program is located in San Antonio at Palo Alto College. This program clearly does not meet the needs of the healthcare community in Austin, because it too requires General Education Courses as prerequisites for the Introduction to Veterinary Technology course. Therefore, needs of the local community as verified by the Needs Assessment conducted by ACC reveal a program that will have job-related skills placed at the start of the program with multiple exit points based upon the individual students career goals. Students may then work while taking the courses required in obtaining the degree.
Expected Enrollment: ACC plans to offer the non-credit Veterinary Assistant Certificate Program in June 2001. Several of the courses are currently being offered in a non-credit format, and there are approximately 50 students taking those courses. Courses will be open admissions to anyone meeting general enrollment criteria.
Courses: There are nine courses proposed, each of which is listed in the Workforce Education Course Manual (WECM) for continuing education except for the practicum. A local needs application for the practicum has been submitted. Foundation and workplace skills are integrated throughout the program.
Faculty: Verda Turnbo, R.N., B.S.N., supervises the Veterinary Assistant courses currently being taught. Adjunct faculty, who possess qualifications meeting SACS criteria for college level coursework, teach the courses. An hourly consultant, a veterinarian, was hired during the curriculum planning phase to assist with the choice of courses, the sequencing of courses and the required job skills for both the Veterinary Assistant and the Veterinary Technician. ACC plans to hire a full-time faculty member for this program, prior to the initiation of the credit program anticipated to start in August 2003. Minimum credentials for the full-time director of the program will be a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine as required by the AVMA. Minimum requirements for instructional faculty will be an Associate Degree in addition to certification as a Registered Veterinary Technician. Extensive experience in both hospitals and veterinarians offices will be required.
Facilities and Equipment: Veterinary Assistant lecture courses are currently being taught in existing classrooms at ACCís Highland Business Center. Laboratory exercises requiring access to live animals are held at the Humane Society and at private veterinarians office. Courses will continue to be taught this way utilizing community partnerships as offered by the local veterinarians and non-profit agencies.
Student Loan Default Rate: The Student Loan Default Rate for Austin Community College is 11.7%, which is well within the acceptable range (0-20%) adopted by the U.S. Department of Education.
Workforce Program Job Placement Rate: Data from the 1999 Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Annual Data Profile indicate that ACC offers 70 AAS degree programs and 85 certificate credit programs, for a total of 155 credit programs. Only 14 of those 155 degree and certificate programs have a graduate completion rate of less than 15 graduates over a three-year period. Therefore, 91% of these programs exceed the graduation standard. Under the successful outcome standard, ACC has a 94% overall graduate placement rate.
ACC has a plan of corrective action on file with the Coordinating Board for low-performing programs.
DOCUMENTATION OF WORK FORCE DEMAND
The following items were considered in justifying the need for creation of the Veterinary Assistant and/or the Veterinary Technician Program.
1. The program would prepare students for an occupation that has been identified as one of the fastest growing occupation for the state by the Texas Workforce Commission. Texas Workforce Commission lists Veterinary Assistants, Veterinary Technicians, and Animal Caretakers in the top 24 occupations in Texas.
2. Texas Labor Market Review, 1998 states, "Texas non-farm employment will exceed 10 million in 2006, a 21.5 percent increase from the 1996 level of 8.3 million. This represents an average annual growth rate of 2.2 %, Texas will outpace the projected national average of 1.3 percent, adding an average of 178,305 jobs per year for the projection period." "Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing employment will increase by almost 16,300 by 2006. Of this growth, 79% will be found in Agriculture Services, with Landscaping and Veterinarian Services contributing nearly 13,000 jobs."
3. Additionally Austin Community College, Division of Workforce Education, conducted a Needs Assessment Survey in 1999 to ascertain the need for a program such as this. (Instrument enclosed as Attachment # 3). This survey of local and regional employers was mailed to 105 local independent and corporate veterinary clinics Travis, Bastrop, and Williamson counties during the month of February 2000. Surveys were specifically targeted at veterinarians and office managers. A stamped, self-addressed return envelope was enclosed with each survey along with instructions to return the surveys by fax. Of the 105 surveys mailed, forty (40) were returned with the majority being returned by fax. The overall return rate was 38%.
The questionnaire was developed to survey the Austin/Travis County area veterinary community to determine:
1. The current and future needs for Veterinary Assistants/Animal Health Technicians in the Austin/Travis County area,
2. The skill level of personnel in greatest demand,
3. Entry level salaries in the Austin/Travis County area, and
4. Potential support of the program through advisory committee, cooperative education/internship involvement and other support.
1) Current & future needs for Veterinary Assistants/Animal Health Technicians. The respondents indicated that there were 30 vacancies identified in staffing the 40 responding facilities in February and March of 2000. Turnover in 1999 resulted in the hiring of 118 personnel with an expected number of new hires in 2000 being 112 individuals. 36 of the respondents, or 90%, stated that they would prefer to hire a person who had completed a formalized, structured training program. As one respondent commented, "Öhaving people that even have a clue about procedures and routine equipment would be great."
2) Identify the skill level of personnel in greatest demand.
With few exceptions, initial training for the veterinary assistant appears similar to the Registered Veterinary Technician. Additional skills required of the RVT include advanced computer skills, ability to perform dental prophylaxis, placement of I.V. catheters, performance of laboratory procedures, and an ability to take x-rays. Ironically, members of the advisory board disagree with the results of the survey in that they believe that dental prophylaxis should be considered a basic skill. The agreement was that the majority of veterinarians do not personally perform dental procedures in their office because they were not taught the skill in veterinary school, but that they require their assistive personnel to do so, sometimes causing the assistant to breach accepted standards of care.
3) Determine salary levels in the Austin/Travis County area.
From the surveys, it was determined that salary ranges for veterinary assistants with no experience in the Austin area was between $6.51 to $12.00 per hour, with the majority of respondents indicating rates between $6.51 and $8.50. Respondents indicated salary ranges for veterinary technicians who complete a formal, structured program to be between $6.51 and $12.00 per hour, with the greatest number of respondents indicating rates between $10.00 and $12.00 per hour. 60% of respondents indicated they anticipated the salaries to increase more than the expected cost of living over the next 5 years.
4) Potential support of the program through advisory committee, cooperative education/internship involvement and other support indicated support in the form of providing clinic facilities to serve as a clinical training site for the students of the program was split 50-50. Most of the comments indicated lack of space and time constraints as the reason. Support in the form of serving as faculty, advisory committee members, or as subject matter experts was 85% for and 15% against. Again, comments indicated time constraints.
ASSURANCE OF BASIC SKILLS AND SCANS COMPETENCIES
Because the program will be a Continuing Education Certificate, students will not be required to take the TASP or TASP alternative exam prior to enrolling in any of the courses.
Academic and workplace skills are integrated throughout the curriculum according to the matrix included as Attachment # 4.
Austin Community College has also committed extensive resources to profiling occupational and job competencies of workforce education programs through the use of Work Keys, a system available American College Testing (ACT). Although the American Veterinary Medical Association provides a list of competencies for Veterinary Technicians (refer to Attachment # 5), the College believes that personal and academic skills are unique to the profession and related to specific community needs. The Work Keys system will enable ACC to objectively identify and assess skills needed in the work place in broad skill clusters identified by the U.S. Department of Labor in the SCANS report; these skills will be used in the development of the curriculum. Work Keys are grouped into eight areas: Reading for Information, Applied Math, Listening for Information, Writing, Locating Information, Applied Technology, Observation and Teamwork. Veterinary Technician subject matter experts (SMEís) in Austin will be chosen to work with a certified Work Keys Profiler from ACC to identify these work place competencies. When students enrolled in these certificate programs begin the capstone practicum course, they will be tested to determine their personal competencies relative to those identified through the Work Keys process. If there is a discrepancy between the Work Keys profile and graduatesí competencies, the curriculum will be modified to enable future students to achieve the desired skills prior to graduation.
ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT PLAN
ACC will advertise this program in order to recruit students. Because of the acute shortage of veterinary office personnel in the Austin area, ACC has already received many calls from students interested in taking these courses and in completing the certificate. Brochures have been developed (Attachments # 6) for the non-credit program. Brochures will be distributed to all advisors and counselors within the College. Brochures will also be sent to counselors and health occupations faculty in the Austin, Leander, and Manor Independent School Districts.
Brochures will be mailed to a long list of community agencies, including the Work Force Development Center, Texas Rehabilitation Commission, Department of Human Services, Austin Housing Authority, SER Jobs for Progress, Urban League of Texas, Texas Employment Commission, and the DeWitty Job Training and Employment Center.
In addition, Capital Idea, a non-profit educational assistance program, is considering offering skills preparation for several of its clients to begin this program.
We anticipate that ACC will have no problem filling these classes by certificate seekers and people who need to take one or more of the courses to enhance their employment skills.
Enrollment will be limited to 20 students in each VTHT class. If all practicum students successfully complete their objectives for the course, the number of graduates would approach 60 each year.
PROGRAM LINKAGES AND DOCUMENTATION OF NON-DUPLICATION
The Veterinary Assistant program being offered by the Texas Veterinary Medical Association is a series of written and video modules intended for use in a veterinarianís office for on-the-job training. Conversations with the Executive Director of TVMA indicate that the goal of their program was to assist veterinarians to train staff and that they hope to eventually only administer the certification examinations. Curriculum from their program has been examined to determine the scope and depth and deemed to be more consistent with the proposed Kennel Caretaker Continuing Education Certificate.
The Veterinary Technician programs in Texas are in community colleges, however, these programs do not meet the need for entry-level personnel in the Austin area, as the programs are not within convenient driving distance for students.
Affiliation agreements have been obtained with Dr. Sanford Hurwitz, the Humane Society of Austin/Travis County, and Town Lake Animal Hospital. Negotiations are proceeding with The University of Texas Animal Research Laboratory and Animal Trustees of Austin and several of the veterinary specialty offices (Attachment #7).
A Tech Prep option is not in this initial proposal, but the intent is to work closely with representatives from the Capital Area Tech Prep Consortium to determine the feasibility of incorporating the Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology, Veterinary Medical Terminology, and Introduction to Veterinary Technology into existing high-school curriculums in order for students to gain credit in escrow for those courses at the college level. An interest has been expressed by Principles at Bowie High School, Manor High School and Fredericksburg High School.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE MINUTES
A very supportive Advisory Committee has had two formal meetings. Attachment # 8 lists all the members of the Committee and Attachments labeled # 9 are minutes from meetings held to date.
RESOURCES REQUIRED FOR PROGRAM
As previously mentioned, Verda Turnbo, RN, BSN, supervises the Veterinary Assistant non-credit program within the Health Professions Institute (HPI), the non-credit and contract training arm of ACC Health Sciences. Adjunct faculty who are Registered Veterinary Technicians and a DVM consultant have been paid to develop the courses currently being taught and others that are under development.
A specialized laboratory is not needed for this program at this time. Arrangements for live animal laboratories have been made with the Humane Society of Austin/Travis County and a local veterinarian. Specialized software for office management and animal registry is to be purchased by HPI.
ACCís medical librarian is evaluating pertinent journals and reference books for purchase.
The proposed budgets for Fiscal Years 2001 and 2002 are included as Attachment #10.
PRIVATE SECTOR INVOLVEMENT
Private veterinary clinics and non-profit animal care facilities have been overwhelming in their support of this proposal for a Veterinary Assistant/Animal Care Technician program. The external training sites that have been identified in the area have offered their facilities with minimal encouragement.
Affiliation agreements with the City of Austin-Town Lake Animal Hospital and Humane Society of Austin Travis County are current. (Attachments # and # ) ACC will also seek affiliations with other clinics and doctorís offices in the Austin area.
Letters of support for the establishment of this program are included as Attachment #
EXTERNAL AGENCY APPROVAL, CERTIFICATION AND ACCREDITATION
There is no accreditation for Veterinary Assistant programs at this time. However, ACC is using the guidelines for establishing a Veterinary Technician Program from AVMA. (Refer to Attachment #5)
Upon completion of the certificate program, students will be prepared to sit for the TVMA Certified Veterinary Assistant Examination, which is offered each year. The examination assesses the candidateís ability to perform the type of entry-level skills required by veterinary hospitals.
ACC plans to use the "Essential and Recommended Tasks" and competencies, all included in the AVMA guidelines as Attachment # 5, to develop the curriculum for the Veterinary Assistant/Animal Health Technician. A dramatic difference in the curriculum design between the ACC proposal and the other programs in Texas is that job-specific courses may be taken prior to the general academic course work. Close inspection of the beginning job-specific courses needed for a veterinary assistant and veterinary technician showed only a minor variation, that being the depth of the content. It was determined that the Introduction to Veterinary Technology course must serve as a foundation for all of the other courses. Theory and techniques introduced during this course can then be expanded upon in subsequent technical courses. This plan was a direct result of the request of the local veterinary community to produce students with practical skills who then could be encouraged to continue their education utilizing tuition assistance.
In addition, ACC faculty have done an extensive search of currently published textbooks. Contact was made with the Directors of Palo Alto College in San Antonio and Cedar Valley College, Tomball College to determine their selections for books for several of the courses. An identified problem was the lack of a published Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology Textbook that met the needs of the assistant or technician. Curriculum plans from the other colleges in Texas that offer Veterinary Technician Programs were obtained and used as a reference during the curriculum design.
Because of the request that students be able to work their way through the program, classes have been offered at times that meet the needs of the students work schedules.