Techs just wanna have fun
Kristina Guldbrand, CVT, BS, CSP
Kristina Guldbrand grew up in Austin, Texas, and graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in biology with a concentration in neuroanatomy and physiology. She worked as a certified veterinary technician for 12 years before becoming an account manager for Veterinary System Services. In her role as a manager and helping clinics with their staffing needs, she discovered her love of leadership and wellbeing. Since starting work with VSS, she has received training through the International Coaching Federation and provides workshops, leadership and wellbeing coaching as well as teambuilding for practices. She continues to expand her knowledge on perfectionism, neuroleadership, adult learning techniques, communication and organizational psychology to provide up-to-date and effective techniques to her clients.
Being a technician is challenging, but a little fun can help get you through those tough days. Find out how these clinics added creativity and fun to their workplace.
One Tuesday, I agreed to help run anesthesia for a local practice. Pre-meds were ready, blood work supplies were out and neatly aligned, and treatment sheets were filled out.
A 5 ft-tall string bean named Laura was my technician assistant for the day, and the first patient on the list was a 160-lb Great Dane named Brutus. Laura’s scared eyes told me that she had no idea how we were going to restrain this patient. I laughed and said, “well, let’s give it a go.”
After backing Brutus into a corner, Laura used all her strength to hold his arm up, so that I could place the catheter. I was kneeling when I placed the catheter, drew blood and just as I was finishing taping the catheter, I felt a huge drop on my head. It was drool – long and stringy, in my hair at 8 am!
What I learned from this experience and others like it: the No.1 skill needed to persevere in this field is learning how to laugh and have fun, even when you get drool in your hair first thing in the morning. Here are a few stories from veterinary professionals who know how to have fun and get the job done.
During my time at a spay and neuter clinic, we celebrated every Friday for surviving the week together. We decided to make Fridays a potluck style lunch, as we were accustomed to ordering out. A quesadilla maker we named ‘El Queso Guapo’ was donated to our cause and thus, sparked Quesadilla Fridays. It became a weekly tradition that inspired and connected the staff. When the going gets tough, the tough make quesadillas.
Downtime fun time
Days in the veterinary emergency room are typically either crazy busy, or you’ve just deep cleaned the hospital for the second time on your shift. One slow night after working hard to get the hospital completely stocked and sparkling clean, there was little left to do.
One of the overnight technicians named Michelle owned a large English Mastiff named Max, who would hang out on the floor when things were slow. We speculated that he was more bored than lazy, so we got creative. Grabbing anything that wasn’t tied down, we made an elaborate obstacle course. It was made with jury-rigged high jumps, weave poles, and a tunnel. The next challenge was getting Max to go through the maze. After several attempts to find the right incentive, Max trotted (slowly) through all the obstacles. It was a victory that was retold in the hospital for months.
Singing for animals
When you work with animals day and night, you begin to wonder what they’re thinking. I once worked with a woman who thought animals sang songs for every situation.
- When an anxious dog wants to get away, instead of singing “Let it go” from the movie Frozen, she would sing (in her dog voice) “Let me goooo, let me goooo. I want to be one with the wind and skyyyyyyyyyy!”
- When a Corgi waddles in looking cute, she sings“Are you gonna take me home tonight? Ah, down beside that red firelight. Are you gonna let it all hang out? Fat-bottomed girls. You make the rockin world go round.”
- When an aggressive cat is ready to swat at you at any given moment, she sings, “Cause, you got me, baby, I’ll get you. Babe, I’ll get you, babe. I’ll get you, Babe.”
One technician reminisces on what it was like working alongside Dr. B, who was notorious for pranking staff members. His signature joke: using washable markers to color-in the talking piece of the phone. After taking a call, you would have a colorful chin. “You got B’ed” became a polarized expression at that hospital.
Dr. B especially enjoyed pranking new staff members who didn’t know how the phone system worked. He would ask for their assistance with Mrs. White on extension 4 (which was actually the overhead page). “Hello Mrs. White, my name is Becky, how can I help you today?” was echoed throughout the halls of the clinic, leaving a trail of laughter as everyone knew Dr. B was at it again.
One hospital loved scheduling enucleation procedures— not because the doctors enjoyed performing them, but because after surgery, the technicians would use the excised eye to write letters to each other. Notes like “eye love you” or “I have my eye on you” would appear throughout the hospital.
Fun and games
In one hospital, the overnight crew invented a game called “Musical Mats.” They would pull out a black, non-slip mat and place it in the center of the floor and, if you walked over it—you’d have to stop and dance. No one was safe.
Other clinics are bringing back a childhood classic, “The floor is lava.” To play this game, someone yells, “The floor is lava,” and everyone has to quickly get their feet off the floor — the last one standing is ‘dead.’ In one clinic, a technician dove into a top kennel to avoid being the last one off the floor.
An internal medicine specialist I worked with invented “ultra-sound karaoke.” Once we were ready to perform the ultrasound, she would ask, “What songs were on the list for the day?” Not only did I prepare for the ultrasound, but I also thought about what songs would be funny to sing. Soon after, the other technicians wanted to join in on the fun.
Overall, my favorite teams and work shifts were the ones infused with fun—especially when the job gets challenging. Finding a way to keep things light helps foster teamwork and cohesiveness in the clinic.