Why I Chose to be a Veterinary Technician
Often when I meet people for the first time and they discover that I am a Certified Veterinary Technician, the first question they ask upon hearing my job is: Do I plan on becoming a veterinarian? Or, did I want to be a vet? The short answer is: Nope.
I know that people are well intentioned in their interest of my job, but I wonder if they understand that by assuming I want to be a veterinarian they are discrediting my career choice (and I bet that I am not the only CVT who feels this way). I also wonder if our human counterparts in the medical world (i.e., nurses) get this type of question when discussing their career with new people? I would imagine that they get that question far less than veterinary technicians, who are essentially animal nurses.
My choice to become a vet tech was an educated one. I wanted a job that kept me busy and challenged me on a daily basis. I’ve always loved animals and have great empathy for them and their well-being, but it takes more than a fondness of furry creatures to be a career veterinary technician. I say ‘career’ because the sad truth is that most graduates of a veterinary technology program do not stay in the field for long (the average time working as a CVT is 5 years). In addition to my love of animals, I loved science, biology, anatomy and physiology. For me, those interests put me on the path for a career in veterinary medicine.
But WHY wouldn’t I want to become a veterinarian you ask? It seems like if you love animals you should WANT to be a DVM, but I did not have that desire. I wanted to provide the nursing care, collect the blood samples, run the lab work, use the microscope, place the IV catheters, monitor anesthesia, perform the ‘hands-on’ tasks with the patients. My job keeps me engaged and my duties can change daily depending on the needs of the animals I am caring for.
Another aspect of my job that I enjoy is connecting with the clients; addressing their concerns, answering questions, demonstrating how to give medications, or providing reassurances when their pet is ill or injured. When you first start out as a vet tech you do not realize initially how much of your job is actually working directly with people and not just the cats and dogs.
In summary, I love being a veterinary technician. Would I love my job if I was a veterinarian? I don’t know. DVMs and CVTs are complimentary, we work toward the common goal of increasing the well-being of our patients, there are times when our responsibilities overlap but we are not interchangeable. Veterinarians examine, diagnose, prognose, prescribe and perform surgery; all things that a CVT cannot do. But that does not mean that being a technician is ‘less than.’ It is a different job with a different skill set. I have heard some CVTs refer to themselves as ‘just’ a technician. But we are not ‘just a technician,’ we are a vital part of the veterinary medical team and we should be proud of our career choice.
Katie, BS, AAS, LVT
Patient Care Technician
Step Into Change Not Away From It
“Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing.” –Mandy Hale
The process of change can be hard and challenging. Leaving your comfort zone is scary, especially for someone like me who loves their comfort zone
In my career as a CVT, I have been extremely fortunate to have worked in an amazing general day practice for the past 8 years. I then transitioned to Sunstone Veterinary Specialists, an incredible specialty clinic, earlier this year. That was a hard and scary change for me for multiple reasons. It may seem like a small change to some people, but for me it was huge.
I have always been a general practice technician and I loved where I was. It was a super small clinic with 1 doctor, 1 technician, 1 receptionist, and 1 very spoiled clinic cat. Working at such a small clinic, they became my family. I developed a really special bond with the clinic cat, and that clinic became my life. You also develop friendships with clients and their animals, and when they come in as puppies and kittens, you get to see them grow up! That was something I was going to miss; the relationships I made along the way.
So when this opportunity presented itself to me, I was hesitant, and here’s why: Being a general practice technician was all I knew. As a GP tech, you deal with wellness exams, sick patients, vaccines, spays/neuters, ultrasonic scalings (dentals), mass removals, and emergencies here and there with more in depth surgeries sporadically thrown in. No day was ever the same and that was great. I loved it, but it also became a huge comfort zone crutch for me. I had a routine and I liked it that way.
But, I also knew I had so much room to learn and grow as a technician, which is another reason why I was hesitant to switch to a specialty practice. I’ve never worked at a specialty practice before. Would I catch on quickly? Would I fit in? What if I don’t do well? A lot of “what ifs” went through my mind. It was fear, fear of the unknown and we all experience this throughout life. A lot of the time, fear stops us from taking that chance and seeing what else is out there.
After thinking through everything, I did decide to take that leap of faith, and as hard as it was, I don’t regret it. I definitely miss my old co-workers and that crazy spoiled clinic cat, but life is about learning and growing. You need to change and step out of your comfort zone in order to grow in every aspect of your life.
I have learned so much already being at a specialty clinic, working in the surgery department, and have had some amazing surgery cases that I wouldn’t have had at a general practice. I have been able to expand my knowledge and skills as a technician, and I’m excited to see what else I can do to keep sharpening my skills. I’m developing new client relationships and I absolutely love my surgery patients! I am also very lucky to have gone from one amazing clinic to another. Everyone at Sunstone has been so welcoming and I am extremely grateful they gave me this opportunity. They have been nothing but kind, caring, and supportive throughout my transition.
Each and every day, I am learning to step out of my comfort zone and I encourage you to as well. It’s not easy, but you need to take chances. “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” Choose the option to step forward into growth – you never know where that may lead you!
Alicia, AA, AAS, LVT
What Does the Internal Medicine Assistant Do?
My name is Colleen, and I am the internal medicine assistant here at Sunstone. One of the questions I am most often asked about my job, right after “what is the weirdest animal you see?”, is what I do as a part of the Internal Medicine team. As a client, you spend most of your time with the doctor, so you may not see much of what Katie, the Internal Medicine technician, and I do every day. As Dr. Elliott’s team, we do everything we can to let him focus on figuring out what is going on with your pet and making them feel better.
Before each appointment, we sort through the medical history, making sure he has all of the puzzle pieces at his disposal. Katie or I then meet with you, the client, to hear the full story from the person who has been by the patient’s side at every step. This gives Dr. Elliott a more complete picture to base his conversation with you off of.
Once his exam is complete and a treatment plan has been decided on, Katie and I jump into gear. We take X-Rays for Dr. Elliott to evaluate, administer medications and draw blood, which we may test ourselves in our clinic or we may send out to a lab. Some patients need more advanced imaging or procedures which require Dr. Elliott to be involved. In these cases, we set up everything Dr. Elliott will need. One of my favorite parts of my job is mentally rehearsing each procedure to think through anything that could possibly be useful to have on hand. We also prepare the patient, sometimes setting an IV catheter, giving sedation, or fully anesthetizing the animal. Once all the testing is done, we fill any prescriptions, give demonstrations you may need to continue their care, and send them home with you.
Once your fuzzy friend is at home, there are often questions that arise. We hope that you will not hesitate to call us for answers. Katie and I are always happy to chat, sort out any confusion or get an update on the progress being made. We pass these messages on to Dr. Elliott to make sure the pet is responding the way he expected. The Internal Medicine team does not often see simple cases, and treatment changes may be necessary along the way. Good communication with our team is key to making sure your pet is getting the best care possible.
Now that you know a bit about what I do, you should also know that I really, really love my job. I have been told that this is somewhat unusual, but I can’t seem to help myself. I am happy when Monday morning rolls around and, my husband will attest, it took some convincing to get me to agree to a week-long vacation away from Sunstone this summer. There are lots of reasons why I am lucky enough to feel this way, but one of the biggest is that I am blessed to be a member of an amazing team of people. I have worked with Dr. Elliott and Katie for about two and a half years now, and I could not admire them more. When Dr. Elliott decided to start his own practice, I was more than happy to follow my fearless leader. This practice, Sunstone, has been a wonderful place to work, with staff who respect each other immensely, and who care deeply about both pets and their people. It’s hard not to love your job when you are surrounded by this environment day in and day out, and I hope that passion is clear every time you walk through our door.
Internal Medicine Assistant
My love letter to our clients
I had a hard time deciding what to write about for this Vet Tech week blog post. It got me thinking about my last 10 years in the field and what has stood out to me the most. I thought about writing about the unique position that technicians are in right now given the tech shortage and the state of the veterinary field. I thought about discussing my new ventures as Head Technician and all that has come along with that. I thought about all of the interesting medical cases that I have had the pleasure of being a part of, but none of these things felt quite right to me.
I finally realized that I wanted to write about the thing that keeps me coming to work every single day; the thing that drives me even when I get peed on, bitten or scratched, lose a patient I love, barely have a chance to eat all day, or get told by a scared, worried client that all we want is their money. That thing is YOU, dear client, and the bond you share with your beloved pet. This human animal bond is what keeps me in love with this job.
I love getting a chance to know you and hear your stories. I love hearing about how you got your old dog as a puppy and all of the adventures you have shared. I love being able to be there for you in your time of need. In my line of work (Internal Medicine) we don’t see any healthy patients which means when you come to see us, you are probably worried, stressed and scared. I love that I get to talk with you and even hold your hand or hug you at times while we try to figure out what is going on with your beloved friend. I love when you come back to see us and your pet is doing better on their new food or medication or treatment. I love celebrating when the cat with intestinal disease finally gains weight! I love when the chronic respiratory patient gets on treatment and starts to breathe easier. I love the few times we actually get to completely fix something, like the time we pulled a sewing pin out of a puppy’s stomach.
And finally, I want you to know that when you leave your pet with us, whether for a short period of time to take x rays or to do an ultrasound, or whether they stay for a few days with us while they recover, they are treated like family. We are the “stand-in family” for them and yes we baby talk them, carry them around if we can, make sure they go potty when they need to, and make sure they have a fluffy bed, or something to perch on or hide under. We warm their food up to try to get them to eat and even hand feed them. We try to get the medical things done with the least amount of stress possible for your pet. We try to handle them in the gentlest way possible and use tools like sedation if needed. We know that we are no substitute for being at home with you, the person they love, but we do everything in our power to make their time with us as easy as possible.
I am lucky enough to work with a group of people who feel the same as I do and who consider you and your pets to be family. In fact, one of our owners just put up our company vision on our wall. It says “Work is love made manifest.” I think I speak for all of us in the veterinary field when I say that this is a job we do because we love it, because we all know it ain’t for the money! This love for you and for your pets is what being a Veterinary Technician is all about and I am PROUD to call myself a Vet tech. Cheers to all of you working hard every day to provide the best care possible and for keeping the love alive.
Katie, BS, AAS, LVT
Internal Medicine Technician