Love, money and messes

July 9, 2016
Julie Carlson, CVT

Julie Carlson is a freelance author and certified veterinary technician in Phoenix. She is the founder of Vets for Vets Pets, a nonprofit organization providing supplies and medical care to the pets of homeless and at-risk veterans.

Confessions from the veterinarian (and from the team too!)

"I admit nothing!" (Getty Images)

Confessions from the boss (to the team): 

1. We can't pay you what you're really worth.

We know how hard you work; we see it every day. And we want to pay you for all that work-we really do. But the costs of owning and running a clinic are astronomical and we just can't afford it. We just hope you see how much we really do appreciate you.

2. We're not rich.

We know how it looks. We own the practice, so we must be living the high life, right? In truth, most of us are barely making it. Like you, much of our time is unpaid because we just can't go home until all the loose ends are tied up. We put our heart and soul into what we do; we certainly don't do it for the money.

3. It's extremely difficult to be a practice owner.

We know how to be a veterinarian; that's what we learned in school. But no one taught us how to run a business. We're trying to manage overhead, keep supplies in stock without overdoing it, pay the utilities, hire and train staff (including those who hire and train others), pay property taxes and rent, all while doing our regular veterinary work.

4. We don't always know the right answer, and that kills us.

Sometimes we just … don't know. Patients don't always follow the textbooks. We talk to our colleagues and to specialists, we look things up and ask for advice. But sometimes we just don't know what's wrong with a pet. That is not only extremely frustrating, but it's also humbling. We went through a lot of school and to have a case that has no clear answer isn't something that's easy to handle.

5. We care more than you know.

We see you sitting in that cage with the dogs trying to coax them to eat. We see you cuddling that scared cat. We see you carefully performing treatments in a loving way. We know how much you care about the patients. But did you know that we care just as much? We spend a lot of nights in bed staring at the ceiling because we're afraid we missed something or prescribed the wrong medication or treatment.



Kiss and make up! (Getty Images)

Confessions from the team (to the boss): 

1. We can't live on what you pay us.

We absolutely love our jobs. We didn't get into this field for the big bucks (LOL!), but we still need to pay our bills. We get that you're operating on a budget-we really do. Help us help you by providing us with scrubs, free or discounted CE, vacation time, insurance and discounted veterinary care and medications. When we make enough to be able to support our family we feel valued and appreciated.

2. It drives us crazy when you leave messes.

When you're drawing up and giving vaccines to a pet, don't even lay those empty vials down­-throw them away! It drives us crazy to walk into an exam room and see trash all over the counters.

3. When you do our job it makes us feel inept.

We went through a lot of training to learn how to do our job properly, effectively and safely. When you set IV catheters, take radiographs, draw blood and place bandages, it takes away the parts we enjoy most about our job. Utilize our skills and knowledge and let us give you all that we have to offer.

4. We have a lot more education than you might expect.

Veterinary technician school involves two years of intense work and study. We take classes that include laboratory procedures, parasitology, anesthesia and surgical nursing, diagnostic imaging, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, laboratory animal science and dentistry techniques. After graduating with an associate's degree, we are able to take the national and state board exams. Once we pass the exams and become credentialed, we are required to maintain our CE hours for relicensing.

5. Not requiring your technicians to be credentialed undermines those of us who are.

I know this can be touchy, but let's talk about it. Credentialed technicians not only have the hands-on skills they learned both in school and on their externship-not to mention from any previous clinic experience they may have-but they bring a whole world of knowledge and education from spending two years studying all the intricacies of veterinary medicine. When you pay us the same as noncredentialed staff (or less!), it tells us that you don't value us or the education and sacrifices we made to be the best technician we can be.

Julie Carlson, CVT, is a freelance author and the winner of the 2015 Hero Veterinary Technician Award from the American Humane Association. She is also the founder of Vets for Vets' Pets, a nonprofit organization providing supplies and medical care to the pets of homeless and at-risk veterans. Julie shares her Phoenix, Arizona, home with five cats, two Chihuahuas and one fish.