V​eterinary Technicians
​dedicated to the advancement ​of
cutting-edge veterinary surgery

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Application for 2021 AVST Examination

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The Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians (AVST) appreciates your interest in becoming a Veterinary Technician Specialist in Surgery, VTS (Surgery). The AVST’s goal is to assure the veterinary profession and the public that an AVST certified technician possesses the knowledge, skills and experience needed to practice surgical nursing at an advanced level of competency.

The requirements of eligibility for the examination are defined in the AVST Constitution and Bylaws. Although the academy requirements are rigorous, they are not designed to be obstacles to prevent candidates from becoming certified; they are intended to assure the public and the profession that technicians certified by the AVST have demonstrated a high degree of competence.

All forms demonstrated in this packet MUST be used for the application submission. All forms must be typed or word-processed.

Download and save the blank forms from the website for use in your application.

With exception of the AVST Small Animal Advanced Surgical Skills Form and other application-associated signatures, (these forms may be scanned and saved) all forms must be word-processed. Hand written forms will not be accepted. Include only the information requested. Extraneous documents will not be accepted  and may result in your application being rejected. This is a professional application and all efforts should be made by the applicant to ensure it is an example of their highest quality of work. Poor spelling and grammar may adversely affect the approval of your application. Plagiarism is unacceptable.

Form 1-          Professional Experience and History Form
  • You may begin working on your application after you have completed a minimum of 10,000 hours (equivalent to 5 years of full-time employment) of work as a credentialed technician. Before      starting your AVST application, ensure that you have been employed for at least 6000 hours (3 years) in a small animal surgical environment. You must also document that at least 4500 hours (75% of 6000) of your time was dedicated exclusively to performing veterinary surgical duties. For the purpose of this eligibility requirement, the definition of ‘surgery’ as established by the Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians will be used.
  •  Outline your experience working as a credentialed veterinary technician in the five years prior to the application submission date.  Read the AVST Definition of Surgery and determine the number of hours you  have spent providing surgical care.
  • ​ List your NAVTA membership identification  number on the form;  NAVTA  membership  is strongly advised for all AVST candidates. List any other veterinary technician specialty (VTS) certifications  you possess. If you have recently earned a VTS designation in another discipline it means that for the last 3 years  you have spent at least 75% of your time working in that particular discipline. Since the same criteria are required for pursuing a specialty in surgery (dedicating 75% or more of your time to surgical-related  duties)  you must first complete a minimum of 6000 exclusively surgical-related hours (~ 3 years) before you could apply for this specialty.

License and Diploma
  • Applicant must be a graduate of an AVMA approved Veterinary Technology Program and/or legally credentialed to practice as a veterinary technician in a state of the United States or province of another country. Applicant must provide proof of a legal credential to  practice in  a  state  or province. Include a photocopy/scan of your current credentials (e.g. license, certification, registration.) If you are a graduate from an AVMA approved Veterinary Technology Program  submit  a photocopy/scan of your diploma as proof of graduation as  well. Canceled checks and other documents will not be accepted as proof. Your original date of credentialing, date of passing the VTNE (or its equivalent) and graduation date (if applicable) must be documented on the history form.

Form 2-           Case Log
  • Candidates must submit a case log of at least 50 (but not more than 75) cases completed from January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020. The case log will be used to demonstrate your  experience  as  a  surgical  technician  and  your  mastery  of  advanced  surgical  nursing  skills.  The  50  cases contained  in  the  case log must meet the AVST Definition of Surgery. Additional case  log  entries  may  be  submitted  to  demonstrate mastery of a skill where applicable. Please remember  case log entries submitted to reference a  skill that does not meet the AVST Definition of Surgery should not be included as part of the 50  required  cases. In addition, if only 50 cases are submitted,  a  single unacceptable case could result in an application being rejected.
  • For the purpose of this exam the AVST will include canine, feline, lagomorphs, avian, reptiles, primates, small exotic pets and small laboratory animals as ‘small animal’ patients.
  • Each case log should  include  the  following:  name  or  ID  number,  date,  patient  information (species/  breed, age, sex, weight), duration of surgical care,  technician  role,  attending  clinician’s  name  and credentials, the reason for surgery as well as the type of  surgery  performed.  It  should  also  concisely  describe the  preoperative  diagnostics  and  preparation  of  patient,  instrument, equipment  and  operating room preparations performed prior to surgery, a brief list  of  instruments  and  equipment  used  intraoperatively, as well as any postoperative diagnostics, external coaptation used, postoperative care performed, etc. Information supplied in the case logs is intended to provide a summary of the  surgical procedure performed on a variety of species while succinctly demonstrating as many advanced surgical  nursing skills as possible (as outlined on the AVST Advanced Surgical Skills Form.) If you use a case to demonstrate mastery of a particular skill you MUST  provide  detailed  verbiage  pertaining  to  the use  of that specific skill in the  case  summary  (e.g.  list  the  context  in  which  you  used  the  skill). Each  case log should also clearly outline your role in the surgical procedure and demonstrate how your actions  helped contribute to a successful outcome.
  • Remember that the case log MUST demonstrate a  variety  of  surgical  procedures  to  represent  the  applicant’s diversity in the operating room (e.g. thoracic and abdominal surgery,  neurologic surgery,  orthopedic surgery, minimally invasive surgery, oncologic surgery, etc.) as well as the applicant’s use of advanced surgical skills and care throughout all phases of the case. Ensure that elective, common or routine surgical procedures do not comprise > 15% of your case log. Elective, common or routine case examples include onychectomy, ovariohysterectomy or orchiectomy, dental extractions, patellar luxation or cranial cruciate ligament surgery, or minor mass removal. Furthermore, submitting > 5 similar surgical cases (i.e., routine, elective cruciate surgery example: submitting more than 5 combined  tibial  plateau  leveling  osteotomy, extracapsular cruciate ligament repair, and tibial tuberosity  advancement,  or  submitting  more  than 5 splenectomies) may result in disqualification of the supplementary case log entries.  Furthermore, copying passages (using ‘cut’ and ‘paste’ features) from one case log  entry  into  another  may  adversely impact your application.
  • The applicant must utilize the AVST Abbreviations  List  in  all  of  the  case  logs  and  case  reports.  Download the AVST Abbreviations List document and include it as the first page of your case log. If you use  an abbreviation that is not  listed, then you must concisely define the abbreviation the first  time  you use   it     in  your  case  log  (e.g.   laryngeal   paralysis   [LarPar]).   Alternatively,   you   can   include   an  ‘abbreviations addendum’  page  with  your  application  packet.  On  the  abbreviations addendum page you  can include all of the new abbreviations with definitions that are contained in your case log entries and case reports. Please put your abbreviations addendum page behind the AVST Abbreviations page in your application packet.
  • The case log form should not contain more than 2 case log entries per page, this will require 25 pages for your complete case log.   Do not exceed this limit. Be sure the  case  log  is  detailed,  neat,  spell  checked  and  clearly  written.  Please  do  not  include  personal client information such as owner name, address, phone numbers, etc.
  • All cases included in the applicant’s log must be completed at the facility where the applicant  is  employed or while under the supervision of the employer  at  a  different  location. (e.g.  your practice  takes patients to a separate MRI facility.) 

Four Case Reports 
  • Select four cases from your case log that best demonstrate your diversity and expertise in surgery to submit  as  case reports. These four case reports should be carefully chosen  and  will  allow  you  the  opportunity  to  elaborate on your mastery of as many of the  AVST  Advanced  Surgical  Skills  as possible.  All  information  from the case log should be  included  in  the  report.  You  must  also document the case log number as a  reference to confirm the case is entered as part of your case log.  In addition   to   the   information   from   the   case log, the case reports MUST  demonstrate  your knowledge,  skills  and  abilities  in  advanced  surgical nursing techniques  on  a  variety  of  surgical  patient  species  undergoing  assorted  (e.g.  soft  tissue,  orthopedic, oncologic, minimally invasive, thoracotomy, ophthalmic, neurologic) and challenging (e.g. non-  routine or non-elective) surgical procedures.
  • The case report should describe, in detail, how  the  patient  was  evaluated  and  managed  during  all phases  of the surgical care. It is imperative that the information contained in your case  report  is  clearly  understood.  Present  each  case  in  a  logical  manner.  Be  sure  to  check  your  spelling  and  define  any   abbreviations   (e.g., total hip replacement-THR.) It is important to show how you participated in the  evaluation  and  management of the patient and were not just an observer. Consider some of  the  following  ways  of  demonstrating your knowledge and experience:

  1. Show how your veterinary team assessed the patient and developed a surgical plan.
  2. Discuss the relevant pathophysiology of the patient and include the reason for the surgical procedure.
  3. Detail the patient’s history, including laboratory data, current medication(s), any prior procedure(s), and describe diagnostic imaging techniques used.
  4. Discuss proposed outcome of surgery being performed. Why was this procedure chosen over another? (e.g. limb salvage over a limb amputation) Identify potential complications.
  5. Explain preoperative patient preparation details for each procedure such as anatomic landmarks for the surgical clip margins, agents and aseptic technique used, rationalization for antimicrobial agent choice, and intraoperative patient position or positioning devices.
  6. Detail the preoperative preparations and intraoperative setup for the procedure.
  7. Explain the surgical approach, pertinent anatomy and physiology, and a complete synopsis of the full intraoperative  procedure. Discuss any particular intraoperative challenges, unique supplies, instrumentation, equipment and suture material requirements as well as their purpose during the procedure.
  8. Discuss the immediate and extended postoperative nursing plan, including nutritional recommendations, rehabilitation, bandaging techniques, and wound care.
  9. Discuss detailed client education and provide a follow-up report summarizing the final laboratory test results and prognosis or final outcome.
  10. Provide a list of the surgical instruments, equipment and supplies used as well as information on their proper care; also detail the sterilization techniques and methods employed to ensure sterility. List wrapping materials used and other pertinent data.
  11. Include a list of references.

  • Each case report will contain a maximum of 7 pages and may contain a maximum of five 8.5 x 11-inch pages  of case report content, a 1-page listing of all surgical instruments and equipment used, and 1 page stating references used, following the format provided. Each case report must be printed in a 10-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, left and  right  justified,  and  with  0.5-inch page margins. Case reports that do  not meet these requirements will be rejected. The case reports must be the original work of the applicant.  Please do not include personal client information such as owner name, address, phone numbers, etc.
  • Please review detailed AVST Case Report content instructions.

Case Report Sample

Form 3 - AVST Small Animal Advanced Surgical Skills Form
  • The AVST requires a licensed veterinarian or a VTS who has mastered the skill  attest  to  your ability  to perform the task. Small animal applicants must complete the Small Animal Advanced Surgical Skills Form. Interested potential large animal applicants must contact the AVST Board Member Heidi Reuss-Lamky at Hreusslamky@avst-vts.org.
  • Your testifier must sign at the bottom of the form to validate their initials throughout the form. If the testifier signing and validating any particular skill is a veterinary surgeon, ensure their name is also listed as the primary clinician in your case log summary or on your case report. Mastery is defined as being able to perform the task safely, with a high degree of success, and without being coached or prompted. Mastery requires having performed the task in a wide variety of patients and situations. The applicant must demonstrate mastery of 90% of the skills on this form (equivalent to mastering 70 of the 78 listed skills for  the  Small  Animal Advanced Surgical Skills Form). The skills you have mastered must be demonstrated in your case logs and case reports.
  • The AVST understands that some of the skills contained on the Small Animal Advanced Surgical Skills Form may be difficult to demonstrate in a typical surgical case log summary. Once you have documented at least 50 valid surgical cases in your case log you may utilize any remaining case log entries for the sole purpose of documenting these skills (e.g. “Dr. Roberts verified my ability to use an ultrasonic cleaner to process surgical instruments”, “Dr. Smith verified that I correctly identified orthopedic plating instrumentation and properly operated nitrogen powered equipment.” “Dr. Jones  witnessed  me  safely  and  properly  handling  glutaraldehyde during cold sterilization  of  the arthroscope.”  “Drs. Daniels and Murphy verified my OR  conduct and ability to properly maintain asepsis.”) See the AVST Case Log Sample  for other creative ways to demonstrate these skills. Please do not exceed 75 case log entries.
  • If a skill was mastered at a prior place of employment during the current application period listed in your employment history, it must be validated by  the  veterinarian  associated  with  the  prior employment in the  form of a signature on the Small Animal Advanced Surgical Skills Form or by a letter stating such.

Form 4 - Waiver, Release and Indemnity Agreement
This form must be signed and included in your application submission.

Form 5 - Continuing Education Record
  • Applicant must  submit  a  minimum  of  forty  (40)  qualifying  hours  of  advanced  continuing education  (CE) pertaining to surgical procedures or associated topics that can be directly correlated to any of the AVST Advanced Surgical Skills. However, no more than five  (5)  hours  of anesthesia-related or analgesia-  related CE will be accepted. More than 40 hours of CE may be submitted in order to compensate for any hours that may be deemed unqualified and subsequently rejected. Continuing education programs MUST be presented by a VTS member (in any of the specialty academies) or a veterinary diplomate of an American or European college from any of the following approved disciplines: American College of Veterinary Surgeons** (ACVS), American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM to include small and large animal internal medicine, cardiology, oncology and neurology), American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO), American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA), American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC), American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP), American College of Veterinary Radiology (ACVR), American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology (ACVCP), American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC), American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD), American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (Canine) or (Equine) (ACVSMR), and the European College of Veterinary Surgeons (ECVS). You MUST list the CE provider’s diplomate/credential status (DACVS, DACVAA, DACVIM, DECVS, VTS, etc.) on the CE form. Failure to include the speaker’s credentials will result in those hours being rejected.

  • Only the continuing education activities outlined  below  will  be  applicable  for  this  academy.  Furthermore, submitting continuing education activities analogous to  self-study  (e.g.  reading journal  articles and passing an associated quiz) will not be accepted.
  • You must use the Continuing Education Record to submit only the continuing education attended by the applicant from January 1, 2016 to the date you submit your application (previous 5 years.)
  • A photocopy of a CE Certificate provided by the organization or speaker must be provided as proof of attendance and should follow each CE sheet. Cancelled checks or other documents will not be accepted as proof of attendance.
  • Use the AVST’s definition of continuing education to determine whether or not your CE meets the requirements regarding content. If the title of the CE does not provide enough information to show the CE was related to surgery, you may submit photocopies of the course description provided by the organization providing the CE. Each meeting attended should be listed on a separate copy  of  this  form.  For  a  particular  meeting,  each  lecture  attended  should  be  listed  on  the  form.  In  evaluating  the  CE resources, the AVST Credential’s Committee is looking for  diversity  in  the percentage of CE obtained  from in-house, online, and meeting/conference attendance, therefore no more than 50% (20 hours) of in- house and online combined CE will be accepted. If more than 20 hours total of in-house and online CE are submitted, they will not contribute towards the total hours needed. This means that it is MANDATORY that at least 20 hours of CE must come from national, state or local meetings. Furthermore, ensure  that the people providing the CE are AVST approved speakers.

Continuing Education Definitions

  • Nationally recognized meeting:
  • A gathering  of  people  for  the  purpose  of  providing  continuing  education  in  the  field  of  veterinary  medicine.  National  meetings  are  announced  in  journals   typically   read   by   professionals  in  the  field  of  veterinary  medicine.  There  is  an  expectation  that  continuing education at a nationally recognized meeting will be provided by lecturers or instructors who are considered experts in the subject they are  discussing.  You  will  need  an  official  CE certificate.  Please be aware: the people providing instruction may not  meet  the  AVST requirements for acceptable CE.
  • Local meeting:
  • A gathering of  people  for  the  purpose  of  providing  continuing  education  in  the  field  of  veterinary medicine. Local meetings are announced by state/city organizations. There  is  an  expectation that continuing education  at  a  local  meeting  will  be  provided  by  lecturers  or instructors who are considered experts in the subject they  are  discussing.  You will  need  an official CE certificate. Please be aware: the people providing instruction may not meet the AVST requirements for acceptable CE.
  • Online training:
  • Requires an official CE certificate or a signed letter from the person supervising your attendance in the program. The CE certificate or letter should detail when the training took place, the name and diplomate status of the CE provider, the objectives and goals of the training program, a statement of your satisfactory performance and the total hours provided. Please be aware: the people providing instruction may not meet the AVST requirements for acceptable CE
  • In-house training:
  • Continuing education provided for people who work at a particular practice or institution. This type of continuing education is not open to the veterinary profession at large and lecturers or instructors  often  work at the practice or institution. You must  be  currently  employed  at  the facility providing the in-  house training. You may hire an outside speaker to come talk to your practice as part of in-house training. Please be aware: the people providing instruction  may not meet the AVST requirements for acceptable CE. If part of your CE is in-house (meetings accessible only to technicians inside your facility) you will need an official CE certificate or a signed letter from the person supervising your attendance. The CE certificate or letter should detail where and when  the  training  took  place,  the  name  and  diplomate  status of the CE provider, the objectives  and  goals,  a statement  of  your  satisfactory  performance  and the total hours provided. (1 hour of lecture = 1 hour of CE)

Letter of Intent and Curriculum Vitae
  • Please provide a brief letter that describes who you are and why you are interested in becoming an AVST member. Please tell us what you feel you can contribute to the AVST and what you plan to do with the certification once you have achieved it. Letters should be a maximum of ONE page in length, single- spaced, using 12-point font Times New Roman, and 1-inch margins. You must also include a current copy of your curriculum vitae.

Letters of Recommendation
  • You must include two signed letters of recommendation with each copy of the application submitted.  One of the letters must be from an ACVS/ECVS diplomate or a VTS member (any academy). The second letter must be from one of the veterinarians included as a testifier of your skills and who has signed on the bottom of Form 3. The letters should include details on training, ethical behavior and quality of skills. The letters may be sealed at the wish of the writer.

Final Instructions

The AVST designed the application forms so you can complete most of the forms using your computer. You will need to download and complete the forms and print them out. With exception of the AVST Small Animal Advanced Surgical Skills Form and other application-associated signatures, all forms must be word- processed. Hand written forms will not be accepted. Remember, this is a professional application; spelling/grammar and overall presentation will be considered when the application is reviewed. The AVST reserves the right to contact the applicant and ask for additional documentation to verify information contained in the application.

You must submits FIVE (5) copies of your application packet; each copy must be professionally bound or secured in a binder. Loose forms will not be accepted or reviewed.

You may submit the $50.00 application fee using PayPal Button
or you may enclose a check for $50.00 made out to: AVST Treasurer.

Mail the completed applications to:


Applications must be postmarked on or before February 1, 2021. Applications postmarked after this date will not be accepted. All submissions are final. Nothing may be added to an application after it has been received.

Included at the end of this application packet is a checklist to help assure you complete all the necessary steps to submit your application. If your application is incomplete or late, it will be rejected. You will receive notification of your eligibility to participate in the certification exam on or before April 30, 2021. You may take the examination a total of 3 times in 3 years with the acceptance of the application.

If your application is rejected, you may appeal the decision within 30 days of the notification of rejection. Your appeal must be made in writing to the AVST Secretary and submitted to
AVST, 6516 Monona Dr. #246, Madison, Wisconsin 53716.
All appeal decisions will be based on the original submitted application. You may not submit additional data to augment the original application, therefore ensure the original application is complete and accurately reflects your qualifications.

Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians (AVST) Definition of Surgery

A.  Veterinary Surgery includes the advanced knowledge of surgical procedures and instrumentation (including instrument identification and care), proper sterilization techniques, principles of infection control, aseptic techniques, perioperative patient care, physical rehabilitation and a thorough knowledge of the anatomy and pathophysiology of animals.

B.  Surgery is defined as the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of injury, deformity and disease by manual and instrumental means. A procedure is considered surgical when it involves cutting of tissues or closure of a previously sustained wound. A surgical procedure may include elective, emergency, reconstructive, transplantation, replantation, cosmetic or minimally invasive procedures such as arthroscopy, laparoscopy, thoracoscopy and laser surgery.