Veterinary technicians embrace their roles
National Veterinary Technician Week focuses on the professionals who play a vital role in caring for animals in a veterinary practice.
It's National Veterinary Technician Week! This week is dedicated to recognizing these professionals’ contributions to veterinary medicine. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), they are critical to the function of veterinary practices and play an important role in the welfare and health of animals in their care.1 Additionally, AVMA says, veterinary technicians drive practice efficiency and well-being, allowing veterinarians to focus on work requiring a more advanced veterinary education.1
First observed in 1993, National Veterinary Technician Week is held annually during the third week in October, according to AVMA.1 In celebration this year, dvm360® asked veterinary technicians about their roles and what motivates them most. The responses came by email and through the Veterinary Support Staff Career Group on Facebook. They include the following:
Q: What inspired you to become a veterinarian technician?
Stephanie Adams, LVMT; Family Pet Health, Murfreesboro, Tennessee: I have always loved medicine, science, and helping [individuals]. I grew up with various pets and combined my interests in animals and medicine to be an LVMT [licensed veterinary medical technician].
Zoey Smith, LVT; Family Pet Health: I was inspired to be a veterinary technician because I love how animals touch our lives. There is just something about the human/animal bond that has always moved me. [Although] the pandemic continues to be a challenge for us in the profession, one aspect that has touched me deeply is how important pets have been to so many who needed connection and love this past year and a half.
Alexia Minschwaner, CVT; Dresher, Pennsylvania: My love for animals and natural curiosity inspired me to become a veterinary nurse. Animals can be so different from us regarding diet, health, and mannerisms. Becoming a vet nurse has enabled me to learn so much about our pets.
Bash Halow, BA, CVPM, LVT; Halow Consulting, New York, New York: My first position in an animal hospital was a kind of veterinary attendant. I was supposed to do whatever anyone else on the staff told me to do. Sounds terrible, but I loved it. Then after enough [individuals] quit, I got to work the front desk. I got [chewed out] by clients, doctors, techs, you name it. I loved that job too. It didn’t matter that I got [chewed out]. I just loved it. I loved the multitasking; I loved learning about the medicine; I loved gabbing with my coworkers and the clients.
Still, the real siren song was “the back.” If you were a technician who worked in “the back,” you got to answer the hard questions, you got to do the cool jobs, and you were directly associated with patient outcomes. I wanted to be a technician. And after enough callouts, enough staff shortages, and enough pleading, I learned some technician skills.
Many years later, New Jersey offered technicians a chance to be “grandfathered in” if you could pass a licensing exam and could get letters from vets vouching for your skills. I studied for weeks to pass that test and pass it I did.
That’s how I got to be a licensed tech, but now that I think about it the license is almost an afterthought. The thing that has always turned me on about my position is the learning, the care, and the client education. The knowledge and experience I have had as a tech has made an impact on my own animals’ lives and the lives of countless other pets and pet owners I have enjoyed meeting over the years.
Tasha McNerney, BS, CVT, VTS (anesthesia and analgesia): The movie Turner & Hooch. I wanted to be the veterinarian in that movie. When I realized there was a career [like] being a veterinarian but with more hands-on nursing skills, I went for it.
Alyssa Mages, BS, CVT; Empowering Veterinary Teams LLC: To be a voice for the voiceless and to lend my skills and compassion to those who truly need it.
Kelly Piedrahita, LVT; Bond Vet, New York: I would say my passion for animals inspired me to become a vet tech. Since a little girl, I was obsessed with animals. When I discovered there was a profession to help and save them, I was sold.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a vet tech?
Adams: I love nursing sick pets back to health and reuniting them with their pet parents.
Minschwaner: My favorite part about being a vet tech is being able to provide quality pet care and seeing our patients thrive. Seeing patients with illnesses come in for treatment and being able to help make them feel better really makes my day.
Smith: My favorite part of being a technician is the constant opportunity to grow and improve. There is always a new skill or some new knowledge or information that comes up that improves our level of patient care. I strive to be a lifelong learner and I love that there will always be something to learn in the veterinary profession.
Halow: I love learning. I love helping clients understand the value of veterinary care and oversight by a veterinary medical team.
McNerney: The constant learning, from new techniques to new anesthetic drugs...I love being able to learn new things to make anesthetic events safer for my patients.
Mages: Being part of an incredible community that is constantly growing and evolving, all while helping animals and utilizing cutting-edge medicine and technology.
Athena Ojeda, LVT; Bond Vet: I love that there is practically no limit to what I can do to help my patients. We as technicians wear so many hats! From basic things like administering vaccines to doing blood transfusions, monitoring anesthesia, performing dental prophylaxis, taking radiographs, caring for wounds, and so much more. I am able to take care of whatever they need to keep them healthy and thriving.
Q: What is something clients would be surprised to know that you do as a vet tech?
Adams: I research for hours before performing anesthesia on animals that have underlying health issues. I want to be sure I know what to do in any situation.
Minschwaner: Many of us are passionate about training and behavior. I think clients would be surprised to know that we really do take our time and work with our patients and make sure they are not stressed. We want the vet office to be a happy place for every animal and client.
Smith: I think clients would be surprised to know that as licensed technicians, we do a little of everything. We draw blood and run analyzers, screen blood work and lab results before the doctor sees them, fill prescriptions, answer phones, monitor anesthesia, educate clients, clean up stinky messes, and in the best moments, we get to play with puppies and kittens.
Halow: I honest to goodness treat their pet like a thinking, feeling being. I don’t work with animals all day; I work with individuals.
McNerney: I think clients would be surprised to know the vet tech is usually the one monitoring your pet under anesthesia and is sometimes specialized in anesthesia.
Mages: Everything. All joking aside, there is a lack of understanding among the general public of all the things that veterinary technicians and nurses do—anesthesia, phlebotomy, radiology, etc—and we’re only limited by how much we push ourselves to learn to accomplish.
Dianny Felix, LVT; Bond Vet: I find it humorous that most people don’t compare both human medicine and veterinary medicine when they're actually very similar. Clients are usually surprised knowing that I've performed anesthesia on their pets, pulled blood work, helped doctors come up with a differential diagnosis, and [performed radiographs].
Q: What should veterinarians know about the veterinarian technician role?
Adams: LVMTs are the most valuable resource veterinarians have available. Use us to our fullest extent and show gratitude. You want us to be around and to stay around.
Smith: I wish all veterinarians and practice owners understood the value of their staff. Treating LVTs and assistants as valuable assets with knowledge, as well as being kind and supportive of them and their mental and physical health, goes a long way to retaining a staff that is loyal and wants your practice to grow and succeed.
Halow: Tell me what you need to get done, train me. I’m ready and eager to learn. You and I can make a great team.
McNerney: Hire more VTS [veterinary technician specialist] techs in private practice; they will help make your practice more efficient and elevate the standard of care
Mages: We’re here, we’re skilled, and we’re ready to be utilized. Let us do what we are capable of doing so that we can support you to do the amazing work you do.
Christina Clarke, LVT; Bond Vet: With all the roles and tasks that [veterinary] nurses have, it is imperative that our voices are heard and respected.
Q: What advice would you give aspiring veterinary professionals?
Adams: Surround yourself with kindness and positivity. Be the vet or LVMT that you want your pets to have.
Minschwaner: Although this field can be challenging mentally and physically, quality pet care starts with you. Always take care of yourself.
Smith: I would advise them to know their worth. Without a support staff, even the best doctor cannot succeed. Take what you know and use it. This is a hard job but it’s incredibly rewarding when you find a practice that values you. Don’t dwell on mistakes; own them and learn from them, but then move on.
Halow: Show up. Learn. Be ready to help. The profession is exploding with opportunities. As the world modernizes, there are fewer gatekeepers between you and your goals—but skip the entitlement thing. Be worth it and you will be treated as worthy.
McNerney: Go into it with eyes wide open. It’s very rewarding, but the field has some drawbacks such as lower pay compared with our human nursing counterparts.
Mages: Remember: No one is “just” anything. Own your awesome and advocate for it.
Kara Schaffer, LVT; Bond Vet: The advice I would give to aspiring veterinary professionals is to never forget why you wanted to enter the profession and how you have grown within your role. We work in a profession where you will never stop learning. There will be instrumental people who will help advance your skills regardless of their position title. It is important to always remain open to learning from others and remember to help empower the next generation to thrive as others did for you.
National Veterinary Technician Week. American Veterinary Medicine Association. Accessed September 22, 2021. www.avma.org/national-veterinary-technician-week
Editors note: All veterinary technician content for this month is supported by Banfield Pet Hospital.