Just a technician?
Here we are in the middle of October and we have landed smack dab in the middle of National Veterinary Technician Week. Always celebrated during the third week of October since 1993 this week provides an opportunity to recognize veterinary technicians’ contributions to the field of veterinary medicine. Although we value veterinary technicians every day of the year, we take this week to honor their commitment to compassionate, high-quality veterinary care for all animals. I could spend the next few paragraphs describing what a veterinary technician is, and how to become one; but instead I would like to take a brief second to honor a handful of veterinary technicians that I have worked with over the past ten or so years. These technicians helped me learn to become the doctor I am today, and make my job so much easier day in and day out.
Before 2007, the majority of my animal medical experience was predominantly made up of large/farm animal work. Blood draws and medication administration to horses and cows is a whole different ballgame than working with a 4lb chihuahua, and therefore I owe a great deal of gratitude to the technicians I encountered during the two years I worked in research. These technicians taught me the majority of small animal skills I am expected to know as a veterinarian. Each of those technicians had a different style of teaching, and a different area of expertise. Skills that I was tested on during veterinary school were comfortable to me thanks to their patience in teaching me catheter placement, phlebotomy techniques, proper restraint, surgical preparation, and surgical recovery. Some of those technicians still work at CorDynamics and I know that the success of that company is largely due in part to the attention to detail that these particular staff members paid to the animals in their care. I am thankful that they each took the time to work with me and never seemed to grow impatient as I attempted to master each of those skills.
I like to think that a veterinary clinic of any size is similar to a race car. Think of the veterinarian as the driver, and the technicians as all the components of the car. You may have the Dale Earnhardt of veterinarians at the wheel, but if all the pieces of machinery don’t function properly (or are missing entirely) your driver won’t be very successful regardless of ability. The University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching hospital is a great example of this analogy. In a hospital that size you have multiple departments with specialists in nearly every field imaginable, and frequently it is those specialists (and often the veterinary students) who receive gratitude from a client. However, often times it is forgotten that the technicians are the ones behind the scenes day in and day out who are helping the students do treatments, and monitor their patients. Although it was the clinicians who taught the majority of classroom material and “book” knowledge, the technicians at the hospital were equally as important in fine-tuning my technical skill set. I saw technicians help students figure out problems so that he/she would be spared the wrath of the overseeing clinician, these same technicians would help with drug calculations, re-assure nervous students prior to procedures, console a student during the loss of a patient or lecture from a clinician. The list is endless. The technicians there were more than just “support staff” many of them became my friends, and on the occasion that I return to U of I (be it for business or pleasure) it is frequently the technicians who remain there that I seek out first to chat with and reminisce. Each one takes genuine pleasure in hearing of my successes, and sympathize with my failures and heartaches. Those four years would have been near impossible if the technicians there lived up to a stereotype of “just a technician”.
For any veterinary student the idea of your first job is intimidating, and my first job at Best Friends Vet Care was no different. I remain very grateful to my first boss for teaching me a great deal about veterinary medicine, but my first few years as a veterinarian would have been much more stressful had it not been for the techs at that particular clinic. A group of talented and compassionate ladies who took the time to help me get my bearings not only with the new title of “Veterinarian” but also as an associate at that practice. These girls knew which diagnostics I wanted to perform sometimes even before I did, and they knew exactly what supplies were needed and where to find them for each test allowing me to become more efficient with each passing day. These same individuals would be called in to assist me on occasion with emergencies that presented overnight working endlessly on the same lack of sleep before turning around and starting their regular day just a few hours later. They were available for me to bounce ideas off of, they cleaned up every mess you can think of, and they cared for every single patient that walked (or was carried) through the door. My boss and I were frequently relying on their skills to allow us to carry out our treatment and diagnostic plans. They laughed and cried with me and helped develop my confidence over those first few years out of practice. I continue to think highly of each of them to this day.
The current chapter of my life brings me to SportsVet, and the lovely ladies I work with today. Changing jobs is never an easy task but these amazing technicians made the transition as smooth as possible. From day one I could see the confidence and expertise each one of them brings to the clinic. Rather than finding myself adapting to a whole new style of practice at SportsVet, I found a great fit with the staff here. The few variances in my particular style of medicine was adapted to quickly by each of the technicians here. They know what each doctor on staff needs (even though we all vary a bit in our styles of practice) and adapt quickly to ensure that each patient is being cared for as efficiently as possible while continuing to maintain the highest standard of care for each individual patient. The array of veterinary medicine we are able to practice at SportsVet requires each of these ladies to be not only familiar with, but well versed in everything from dental radiology, orthopedic surgery, and traditional medicine. The amount of veterinary knowledge that each of these ladies possess is astounding, and they continue to engage in learning practices whenever available. They become engaged in interesting cases that walk through the door and are required to attend continuing education in order to maintain their certification. The job of a veterinarian is never EASY but these outstanding technicians make my job much less difficult. They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, and are ready at a moment’s notice to pitch in during an emergent situation. My story here at SportsVet is still being written but Ashley, Emily, and Rachel will certainly continue to be key characters in each chapter.
So I ask any of you that read this to take a moment the next time you are at your veterinarian’s office to not only thank your veterinarian, but thank their technicians as well. You may not directly see their impact on the well-being of your animal, but know that if a concern arises with your pet in the hospital it is frequently a technician on the “front-lines” that will first notice and address the problem. When your pet is antsy in a cage because it needs to go to the bathroom and can’t bear to soil the cage, a technician is there. As each patient recovers from anesthesia and is scared and confused a technician is close by to provide warmth and any necessary pain control. They are likely the first member of the staff you see in the exam room, and the last one you see when you walk out the door. They care for your pets as if they were there own, and they are downright irreplaceable. To all the techs I have encountered during my journey to become a veterinarian to the technicians who are one step ahead of me on a daily basis; Thank You!