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World Organisation for Animal Health

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Veterinary paraprofessionals

As described in the OIE’s International Standards, National Veterinary Services provide the fundamental management system for animal health and welfare and veterinary public health in Member Countries. National Veterinary Services must have the capacity and the sustainability to ensure the delivery of their outputs including inspection and certification of animals and animal products, management of the animal health and welfare situation and the control of diseases at the animal-human-environment interface including transboundary and zoonotic diseases. This capacity and sustainability is linked to the availability of resources and the integrity of the management system including policies, procedures, staff, and documentation; the processes for auditing and evaluation of performance; and preparedness for response to emergencies and other critical situations.

The OIE recognises the important role that veterinary paraprofessionals can play in support of strong National Veterinary Services and the OIE’s Sixth Strategic Plan for the period 2016-2020 commits to a better definition of the role of paraprofessionals and non-veterinary specialists, including their education and training. The development of the OIE Competency Guidelines for Veterinary Paraprofessionals and the OIE Curricula Guidelines for Veterinary Paraprofessionals is a demonstration of that commitment.

Based on the results of multiple PVS Pathway missions, discussions held at the various OIE Global Conferences on Veterinary Education and the outcomes of two specific regional conferences on Veterinary Paraprofessionals in Africa and Asia, a clearer picture has emerged regarding the situation of veterinary paraprofessionals in both the public and private sectors. It is evident that in many Member Countries, particularly those without sufficient numbers of veterinarians, veterinary paraprofessionals are called upon to provide a wide range of activities and services in the areas of animal health, veterinary public health and laboratory diagnosis and that their participation can be essential to the performance of the National Veterinary Services.

At the same time, it also has become clear that considerable challenges exist. The education of veterinary paraprofessionals varies greatly around the world both in duration and quality. Recognised categories of veterinary paraprofessionals may not be well defined and the standards of performance for existing categories of veterinary paraprofessionals may also not be clear. This occurs because many Member Countries do not have a veterinary statutory body whose mandate includes establishing recognised categories of veterinary paraprofessionals, identifying their prerogatives and activities and defining their training requirements for licensure or registration.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that different Member Countries may use the same term or category, for example, ‘animal health technician’, to define a position that varies markedly between Member Countries in terms of the scope of the person’s responsibilities and the duration and content of their training.

In an effort to address these challenges, the OIE convened an ad hoc group on veterinary paraprofessionals consisting of educators, regulators, experts and representatives of veterinary paraprofessional associations to identify desired competencies for veterinary paraprofessionals working in animal health, veterinary public health and laboratory diagnosis and to prepare model curricula designed to deliver these competencies for each of the three tracks. Given the scope of the work involved, the group restricted its focus to developing competencies associated with approved curricula delivered by accredited institutions offering programmes at the certificate, diploma or degree level and did not address the issue of veterinary paraprofessionals trained for shorter periods in informal settings using unapproved curricula.

This work is an additional OIE contribution to the completion of some United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 4 ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong, learning opportunities for all’, ‘Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’, and Goal 8 ‘Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.’

Given the OIE mandate and the definition of veterinary paraprofessional from the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, the OIE took a broad view by developing competencies and core curricula for three tracks of veterinary paraprofessionals, namely Animal Health, Veterinary Public Health and Laboratory Diagnosis.

Animal Health veterinary paraprofessionals are those paraprofessionals who are involved in various aspects of disease control activities in the field. Public Health veterinary paraprofessionals are those paraprofessionals who are involved in ante- and post-mortem inspection, other relevant food safety inspections and possibly zoonotic disease investigation and control. Laboratory veterinary paraprofessionals are those paraprofessionals who are involved in laboratory diagnostic services.

The OIE encourages National Delegates to familiarise themselves with these competency guidelines and to highlight them in discussions with relevant partners and stakeholders, including senior representatives of veterinary paraprofessional training establishments, veterinary and veterinary paraprofessional associations and the National Veterinary Statutory Body.

The OIE Competency Guidelines for Veterinary Paraprofessionals is designed to identify the likely range of activities that veterinary paraprofessionals might be involved in and then to establish the required competencies necessary to ensure that the activities would be carried out properly. In that context, it should be understood, for example, that the inclusion of diagnosis and treatment of livestock disease as competencies of veterinary paraprofessionals does not imply an endorsement of their right to diagnose and treat livestock disease, but only their competency to do so where permitted. Granting that prerogative will be the decision of each Member Country. With regard to veterinary paraprofessionals working under the responsibility and direction of veterinarians, OIE confirms and supports this expectation but also recognises that it is the prerogative of the veterinary statutory body in each Member Country to determine the extent and nature of that responsibility and direction relative to the various activities that are sanctioned for VPPs to perform.

The purpose of the OIE Curricula Guidelines for Veterinary Paraprofessionals is to provide guidance in the identification of the curricula necessary to deliver the competencies that veterinary paraprofessionals require to properly carry out the responsibilities expected of them depending on the nature of their work, the extent of their training, and the prerogatives defined for them by the Veterinary Statutory Body (VSB) or other regulatory body.

Used together, the Competency Guidelines and Curricula Guidelines can be applied within Member Countries in many ways. Potential applications include: use by veterinary statutory bodies to improve recognition and definition of different categories of qualified veterinary paraprofessionals; use by training institutions for programme and curricula development; use by Veterinary Services and other potential employers for development of veterinary paraprofessional job descriptions and requirements for training; use by policy-makers to help develop human resource needs assessments and skill development for veterinary paraprofessionals in the veterinary domain; and, use by veterinary paraprofessionals themselves for self-assessments aimed at continuing education and career advancement.

Related Links:

OIE Competency Guidelines for Veterinary Paraprofessionals

OIE Curricula Guidelines for Veterinary Paraprofessionals