What is a veterinary technician? The easiest and most understandable explanation is a registered nurse for animals. To become a licensed, certified, or registered veterinary technician (the names vary depending on the state issuing the license), a candidate must have an associates or bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology, followed by passage of the veterinary technician national exam (with or without a state board exam), application to the state veterinary board of medicine, and yearly continuing education. And for those keeping track, that is the same process for registered (human) nurses.
But vet techs need also to learn about most, if not all, animal species – including cats, dogs, horses, ferrets, rabbits, mice, birds, etc. Yes, it may sound super human, but vet techs are their own form of super hero. Veterinary technicians work side-by-side with veterinarians, veterinary assistance and veterinary client care coordinators to ensure your pet receives the highest level of medical care.
Because You Only Live Once
Most technicians have entered the veterinary field after a lifelong love of animals. For many of us, this is our second, or even third career. I had plans of becoming a music teacher and was even on a full tuition scholarship to Arizona. Amy McKenzie, a former coworker of mine and a licensed veterinary technician (LVT) from the VA area, was a social worker (with a masters of social work) before she made the leap into veterinary medicine. Amy and I were similar in that we both felt the jobs we initially went to school for were not our “calling.”
Amy was forced into unsafe situations doing house calls as a social worker, and felt she burned out quickly. I was dealing with injury, uncertainty and a diminishing passion for music. We both realized that we should follow our hearts and join a profession we were passionate about, and felt we could make a real difference, serving as voice for those who could not speak for themselves.
Why We Love Our Jobs
There have been days I have left the vet clinic covered from head to toe in fur and every bodily fluid imaginable. I have also been bitten, scratched, tossed around, hit in the head, growled and/or hissed at, dragged across a treatment room, and have stayed so busy that I was unable to eat, drink or urinate for hours. I have cried, laughed, screamed in fear, yelled in anger and every other emotion all in a single shift, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Some of the best stories are from situations we never considered “weird.” Becky Mossor, a registered veterinary technician (RVT) from Wilmington, NC had a chance to make three sheriff K9 officers “look like sissies.” She, along with a very petite staff member, were able to carry a large great dane into the clinic, shaming the officers with their impressive weight-lifting skills.
Pets have a wonderful way of making our lives better, decreasing our blood pressure, helping us to heal and inspiring us to laugh. The fact that vet techs have the ability to keep these precious little lives healthy and happy, is all the reward we need. We don’t need a “thank you” or “great job,” usually just a lick on the face or a purr in the ear will do.
We Receive More Than We Give
Animals do not judge, they do not hold grudges and they love unconditionally.
Naomi Strollo, an RVT from Cleveland, OH, vividly remembers the passing of a patient she and her team tried desperately to save. A dog was savagely stabbed by his owner over 20 times. The pup entered Naomi’s clinic wagging his tail, and she stayed at the clinic till 4 am trying to save him, but sadly without success.
She remembers this case because of the dog’s ability to still wag his tail and trust humans, despite the horrible things his owner did to him. We have all been there, witnessing cases that break our hearts, diminish our faith in humanity and bring into question our ability to trust. We all remember that single case that broke our hearts, made us love again, or brought us to tears from laughter. Vet techs have the unique ability to walk out of room where a geriatric dog took his last breaths, then into the next exam room to welcome the new 12-week-old puppy to the practice. We witness the odd, the crazy and the unexplainable during each work shift. But most of all, we are human, and we have a large capacity for love and compassion. Veterinary technicians are here to help you and your pet, we listen without judgment, heal with compassion, and love without limits.
This week (October 16- 22) is National Veterinary Technician Week. The American Veterinary Medical Association dedicates the third week in October to recognize and, “honor (vet tech’s) commitment to compassionate, high-quality veterinary care for all animals.” If you get the honor to meet your veterinary hospital’s techs, say “thank you.” It will mean the world to them and give them strength to face the next adventure.