Top tech for techs
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.
From head to toe to exam-room ready, heres everything a veterinary tech needs to get through their day.
Photo: Shutterstock.comAs veterinary professionals, we endure long days filled with activities that include standing still for hours in the operating room, wrestling dogs on the floor and running around the hospital tending to patients. We all have some things that get us through those long days, and here are mine. Let's start at the top and work our way down, shall we?
What's on my head
Scünci No Slip Grip Hair Ties
Until about a year ago I had thigh-length hair; it's now shoulder-length. In both situations, I do braids, buns, ponytails and sometimes this kind of weird Princess Leia thing. The only hair ties that are able to keep my locks in place through the day without causing a lot of breakage were these. They also come in enough colors that I can match them to my scrubs.
It keeps my lips from drying out and cracking during long days in the operating room when I don't get a lot in the way of fluids. It's also not sticky like some lip glosses, so the cat hair doesn't stick to my lips. That's not a good look on anyone.
What I'm wearing
Lydia's Select 4-Pocket V-Neck Scrub Top
I heart scrubs. Not gonna lie, wearing scrubs played into my decision to leave office work. I don't have to think about what I'm going to wear each day beyond what color I feel like putting on. I've tried a lot of different brands, but this brand keeps me coming back for more. I also like S.C.R.U.B.S. brand because they come in a lot of fun patterns, but they can be pricey. Lydia's scrubs are about half the price, and there's a wide variety of colors to choose from that changes with the season. I hate feeling all fidgety and pulling on my clothes throughout the day, and these feel comfortable enough that I can forget they're there. They do tend to run small, so I suggest ordering a size bigger than you usually would. Don't let a number define you, ladies; no one's going to know anyway.
I used to have a Prestige Medical stethoscope with transparent green tubing, but something happened and it started growing some kind of fuzzy gunk inside the tube. One of the doctors and I tried to MacGyver a cleaning device from cotton-tipped swabs, but it was useless. So I bought a Littmann Classic II, and I really like it. I'm not sure what the difference is in the material used in the tubing, but it doesn't slide around on my neck and give me hickey marks anymore. I can hear really well with it and the ear pieces are very comfortable.
What's in my pockets
I carry a lot of stuff around with me. Here are the must-haves.
I like Knowles Bandage Scissors by Miltex Co. They're offset just a little, and the blades are more slender than other scissors, allowing me to slip them under those little cat bandages. They're also a nice matte finish, so I don't get a lot of icky tape residue that stays on them.
Sharpie Accent Liquid Highlighter is my favorite of all time. I used these through school, so they hold a sentimental value for me as well. But their performance stands on its own. They work very smoothly, and the tip keeps a sharp edge so I can make clean marks on treatment sheets. I also like that I can see the liquid sloshing around inside so I know when it's time to buy a new one.
Fun fact: if you use a highlighter like this one with that neon yellow color (not just the plain yellow) you can write “Original-use to make copies” on things and it won't show up when you copy it!
We've all worked for that doctor who comes over and is all, “Fluffy's gonna need a heartworm test, get some urine from Fido, the dog in room three just threw up, order some lepto vaccines, call Mrs. Jones to let her know she needs to bring Fifi back in and tell me when you have fecal results on Baxter.”
Post-its help. In my early days as a tech I wrote everything on my hand. That only works until the first time you have to wash. I moved on to writing things down on paper towels, but if you drop it someone will think it's trash and pitch it. I have finally graduated to using actual paper. My pocket notebook comes in handy (more on that later), but Post-its are nice because I can stick them on things.
I start a heartworm test, set my timer, and BAM! Post-it with the pet's name goes on the counter with the test. I start a load of laundry and BOOM! Post-it telling the team that the pink blanket belongs to Princess. I highly recommend them.
I have a notebook that I keep with me always. It has notes on which tests are included in which blood panels, how much our most common products cost, preferences for each of our doctors (Dr. A likes country music in the OR. Dr. B likes to take vitals himself), and other things that I need to know on a pretty much daily basis. I got mine from some bank or mortgage company-I can't remember who-but it has a nice plastic cover on it that protects it from my other pocket goodies. I have another handy notebook I keep in my locker called a Nerd Book. Some of you might be familiar with this concept. My lab tech teacher had us make one in school, and it has proven to be extremely valuable throughout my career.
In this book are procedures for tests (ACTH stim test, LDDS test, clotting time tests), info on detection and identification of internal and external parasites, hematology parameters for multiple species, microbiology procedures and a bunch more stuff. This little gem has been coveted by many and is something I've even had my students create on their own. It's impossible to keep everything in our heads all the time, so my nerd book has really proven to be invaluable.
Suture removal scissors
I keep my own around because you can never find a sharp pair when you need one, am I right?
I keep a little cat nail trimmer and a small dog nail trimmer on me. I actually prefer a small trimmer for dogs-even the big dogs-because I can take little nips at different angles to round off the nail, leaving less sharp edges and avoiding cutting the quick.
I can't count how many times I've seen a dog slip out of its collar or come in on a flexible leash. I've learned to keep a slip lead on me all the time so I don't lose a dog while I'm walking it to the treatment room. It's flat enough that it doesn't take up a lot of room in my pocket and it's machine washable if it gets something gross on it. My personal lead is kind of an obnoxious rainbow color so I know it'll make it back to me. Plus I like rainbows.
Photo courtesy of Julie Carlson, CVTThermometer
There are lots of thermometers out there, but this is my fave I got this one during my internship and it's still humming … same battery, even! I think it may be immortal. I like it because it has a flexible tip, it takes an accurate reading in only six seconds and the whole body of it is smooth, which allows me to clean it thoroughly.
When I'm in surgery, I always keep a cuff syringe in my pocket next to my bandage scissors. You don't know panic until your surgery patient goes from completely unconscious to standing up and chewing on the ET tube in one second. In emergencies such as this, I don't want to be looking around for a cuff syringe. I also have my bandage scissors at the ready so I'm not wasting time trying to untie the tube and having it knot or get caught in the pet's hair.
I keep two pens and a fine point Sharpie in my pocket. One pen is a really slick gel pen. I'm constantly finding new ones I love, but my current infatuation is with Pentel EnerGel pens. They have needle point ones and big fat ones, so everyone gets the size they like.
I keep a generic click-y pen in my pocket for times when I have to hand it over to a client to sign paperwork. I've had good pens walk off with clients, so I make sure to keep a different one just for them. The fine point Sharpie works great for writing on blood tubes and labeling slides.
Photo courtesy of Julie Carlson, CVTCalculator
Office Depot makes this really small, incredibly lightweight calculator that is perfect for carrying in my pocket. It only costs $4, which makes it even better. You never know when you'll need to calculate a drug dose or convert a weight or temperature, so having a calculator at the ready is a must.
What are thoooose?
Photo courtesy of Julie Carlson, CVT Crocs
I tried the Dansko shoes that everyone swears by, but they hurt my feet like crazy. I started wearing Crocs years ago and they feel phenomenal, especially on those really long days. They're roomy enough that if I'm having a flare-up of plantar fasciitis I can slip an insole into them, too.
Crocs recently came out with a new line called “Crocs at Work” that have a slip-resistant sole and closed toe and heel to be in line with safety standards. I also don't get shocked on everything metal like I used to with my regular Crocs. The Crocs at Work line has a bunch of really fun patterns to choose from; my favorites are the tie dye and the flames. I joke that my flame shoes make it look like I'm walking really fast.
Last but certainly not least ...
I know that granola bars aren't a lot better than a candy bar, nutritionally speaking. But they fill my belly when I only have a quick break. I like the chocolate chip variety. I also like Armour LunchMakers. They're basically Lunchables that are half the price. They're quick to eat and have meat, cheese and crackers that keeps me full for a long time. There is also a bite-sized candy bar in them that's a nice touch.