Back in the day I worked for a computer and general reference book publisher. We were working on the titles Dogs for Dummies & Cats for Dummies. I was able to bring my Australian Cattle Dog, Brisbane into the office frequently as inspiration. One day I said to myself, ‘why can’t I just work with dogs?’ That was the catalyst for me to go back to my Alma matter, Purdue University and get second degree in Veterinary Technology. The rest they say is history.
It’s the little things that make work enjoyable. No matter what you do, where you work it’s the who you do it with that makes stressful, fast paced daily challenges easier to work through. I’m am passionate about my job. I’ve been able to say that a few times in my career. This year I returned to my first real career love, Veterinary Technology/Nursing (more about that dual description later).
For me, the opportunity to work with the most well-honed group of Registered Veterinary Technicians I’ve ever experienced makes me doubly excited to celebrate National Veterinary Technician Week. Over the past 20 years many pet parents I speak to didn’t know that veterinary technology is a profession. Years ago, I started making the comparison by stating we are the nurses of veterinary healthcare. When I told people that “I’m a veterinary technician”, I’d get a blank stare. Compounding the confusion there is no national naming convention for our profession. Each state can credential and call us as they choose. When I started making the comparison of the RN’s of veterinary medicine, people had a frame of reference of what I actually did.
Veterinary Technicians/Nurses are credentialed professionals similar to human nurses. Veterinary Nurses are also anesthetists, surgery technicians, radiology technicians, medical laboratory technicians, and dental hygienists.
It’s Alphabet Soup
One reason it is confusing, even among the profession because of credentialing across the united states. There is an alphabet soup of credentials that fall under the title “veterinary technician”. Depending on the date you live in a credentialed technician could be:
- Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT)
- Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT)
- Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT)
- Licensed Veterinary Medical Technician (LVMT)
- And in some states, there’s no credentialing at all
A Vet Tech/Nurse must graduate from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited veterinary technician program, and then must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE), which is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). Whew! That’s a lot of acronyms, but each one represents a set of rigorous skills and standards that ensure the vet tech is prepared.
Veterinary Nurse Initiative
Currently there is an initiative to bring all credentialed professionals under one title, Veterinary Nurse. My alma mater has updated the degree program at the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine from Veterinary Technology to Veterinary Nursing.
The idea isn’t new; “veterinary nurse” is the official title of professionals working in the United Kingdom and Australia. But in the United States, the concept is gaining momentum for the first time. The Veterinary Nurse Initiative (VNI), seeks to unite the veterinary technician profession one veterinary nurse title. It also hopes to standardize credentialing requirements and define scope of practice.
Although Veterinary Technicians/Nurses have our interests rooted in science, medicine, and problem solving we have compassion for animals as motivating force. This annual event is celebrated beginning the second Monday in October, and the whole month of October in Canada (just another reason to love our northern neighbors), recognizes Veterinary Technicians/Nurses for their contributions in pet healthcare. Veterinary Technicians/Nurses work closely with your veterinarian, assistants, practice managers, and other staff to ensure the best quality care for your pet.
Outside of the traditional small, large, or mixed animal practice you’ll find Veterinary Technician’s/Nurses working in the following:
- Veterinary Teaching Hospitals
- Academic Institutions
- Research Laboratories
- Animal Shelters
- Veterinary Sales and Marketing
- Public Health
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers
Until this year, there has been almost a 17-year gap between my working in private practice. There are many things I missed about practice, some I haven’t. Primarily the relationships with a tremendous staff, wonderful pet parents, and long-lasting relationships with pets. Those are the patients who stay with you. For me it’s Duke Johnson, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The sweetest one I’ve ever met. He was just a big cuddle bug. He’s why I named our Pug Duke. Teddy, a Domestic Short Hair who had Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. He was a frequent flyer at hour hospital and was always ready with a purr. Finn, a Norwegian Fjording horse. The first Fjording I met outside of Norway and my connection to his homeland made me enjoy his sweet demeanor even more. I’m quickly adding to my list with my new hospital.
Back to Practice
Currently I’m working in a small animal private practice that rivals any I have ever worked or visited as a sales rep or marketing manager. Why, you ask?
- First, this is a practice where they utilize their technician/nurses appropriately. We get to do what we do best and veterinarians can do the three things they should do (perform surgery, diagnose disease, prescribe medicine).
- Second, they have several Fear Free Certified Professionals on staff and will apply shortly for Fear Free Practice Certification.
- Third, I’ve hit the jackpot as I am fortunate to work with the strongest group of Veterinary Nurses I’ve ever worked with.
Patients here get compassionate care rooted in best medicine. I am in awe of the command my colleagues have for pharmacology, dentistry, surgical nursing, being a nurse anesthetist, and they have mad microbiology and cytology skills. I haven’t always worked with people with whom I care to spend time with outside of work. This team, I have! Not often because I’m the old lady of the group but I have fun when I do.
Good, Bad, & Ugly
I’ve had great jobs in the past. I’ve worked for supportive bosses and an alcoholic one. It’s run the span of good, bad, and ugly. I relished working for a former company with the best group of animal health marketers in the industry, then the company broke my heart. Two years later I still haven’t fully recovered. I’m fortunate to have found my hospital.
I’m learning to believe in my nursing abilities again and revel in every minute of helping first time pet parents learn about the wellness process of puppy & kitten hood. Answering questions about nutrition and the top things to consider when choosing food. Successful peripheral blood draws, and ultrasound guided cystocentesis, yea me! I’m having such a good time doing all of these nursing responsibilities in a job I have seen and essential and supported for nearly 20 years.
The veterinary medical field attracts individuals who demonstrate a high level of compassion, empathy, and drive to care for others. Compassion Fatigue also known as secondary traumatic stress results from is the result of a medical caregiver’s unique relationship with a patient, through which empathy allows the caregiver to “take on the burden” of the ill or dying patient. Many inside our industry have stated we are having a crisis with Compassion Fatigue among veterinary professionals. We need to not just care for our patients but for ourselves. There are several new initiatives to help veterinary professionals to seek help when it is needed.
Utilization of Nursing Staff
I’ve moved around a fair amount and have I’ve always been in the animal health industry but I haven’t always had the inside dirt to pick a vet clinic for my four-legged kids.
Veterinary Technicians/Nurses are educated to assist veterinarians in many ways. They compile patient case histories, collect specimens, perform laboratory procedures, provide nursing care, assist in medical procedures, administer anesthetics, take radiographs, advise and educate animal owners, supervise and train personnel and much more. Pets get the best care when hospitals are staffed appropriately with the right team members doing the jobs they were educated to do.
Some of the things you might not see that a veterinary technician does for your pet:
- Assist in surgery and monitor anesthesia
- Perform lab work including Microbiology, Parasitology, and Hematology
- Take digital and film radiographs (x-rays) and perform ultrasounds
- Perform dental cleanings and dental radiology
- Post injury/surgery rehabilitation
- Provide emergency/critical care
- Handle and safely restrain a wide range of animal patients
- Educate pet parents on home care
When a clinic has the right formula for utilization of veterinary technician/nurses, your pet is going to have the right care for their particular medical or wellness needs. If you are looking for a new veterinary practice. Look for ones with credentialed nursing staff.
Thank Your Team
Veterinary Nurses are critical to the day-to-day function of veterinary practices and play vital roles in preserving animal health and welfare. High quality veterinary care occurs when Veterinary Nurses are utilized to the best of their abilities.
Veterinary Nurses are a fun lot to work with (If I do say so myself) we aren’t in it for the money or glory – none of that comes with the job. A simple thank you is an easy way to help celebrate National Veterinary Technician Week (we are always happy to accept sweets too).
Cheers to my colleagues around the world!
Happy National Veterinary Technology Week!