My Top 20: Words of Wisdom from a Marinated Vet Tech

So am I seasoned vet tech now? July 2015 will mark my tenth anniversary of graduating from the veterinary technology program. I still feel like I have so much to learn and experience. Perhaps I have only been marinating and will become well seasoned when I reach twenty years…

It is ironic to me that the main reason I chose this profession was because I was scared of committing to the years required to become a veterinarian. I questioned whether or not this field would capture my interest for that long. The formula in my head was something like this: cost + years + $ + questionable acceptance into vet program + years needed = no way.

photo courtesy of someecards,user Sharon 1690493
photo courtesy of someecards, user Sharon 1690493

I feel fortunate that, after a decade of dedicating myself to said profession, that I still love my job. It is emotionally, mentally and physically challenging. No two cases are exactly the same and no day is exactly like the other.

Thus, after reaching the first milestone of my life, I felt it prudent to impart some words of wisdom to all other vets, techs, assistants and volunteers that are involved in the animal health industry. Here is my list, in no specific order:

1. Never cuddle, cradle and nuzzle your face with a pet while it is recovering from anesthetic. You may think that Mrs. Fluffers is super cute and really drowsy but she can still bite you.

2. Sometimes, even bunnies can be intimidating.

3. Ferrets are really hard to catch and/or corral. They are also really smart. I mean, how do you handle a two-pound ball of fur that is the equivalent of a slinky and can dart into places smaller than your arm? Please remember to tape the kennels shut.

4. Never put a patient into a kennel without giving it some love before you close its door. Sometimes we are so busy that we forget to do this but it’s important for them to know that we are their friend. They will remember it when you go to retrieve them.

5. The best thing for a fractious cat is a ketamine cocktail. A frightened dog will respond to soft tones and body language. Cats don’t. Hissing at them only makes it worse.

5.5. Some cats don’t really enjoy seeing other cats as they are being put in their jail (*ahem* I mean kennel). Please try to avoid that visual stimulation.

5.75. Also, if you have a howling, screeching cat, move it to another room far away from the others. It will only stress everyone (including yourself) out. This can be applied to dogs as well.

6. NEVER EVER believe an owner when they say “Oh, he’ll never bite.” This is also true of wild boar owners who think their animals are non-aggressive.

7. It’s okay to cry.

7.5. It’s okay to become attached to our patients. It proves we are human and enhances how well we treat them.

8. If you ever have the unfortunate privilege of being a receptionist, be patient. Answering phone calls and booking appointments sounds deceptively easy. It isn’t. From a typical Tuesday call, you can find out that the owner has company coming on Friday; a sister-in-law arriving on Thursday (‘she doesn’t know why she is coming early because they don’t really get along’); Wednesday is supposed to be the day she does the baking for the weekend festivities; and the week after she will be too exhausted from hosting to bring her dog in.

8.5. Also, you need to realize that nobody wants to bring their animal in. They want free advice. And, even if you give them some advice, they won’t believe you.

9. Brace yourself if you hear “I was reading on the internet…” Suddenly, they are an expert. It is wonderful that people want to educate themselves. It is not so wonderful when they want to dispute or argue with you over their internet finds.

10. I cannot think of a single working day where my scrubs didn’t have any fecal material or urine on them. Please note that you should never stand too close to the back-end of a cow/bull – that sh** really splatters.

11. All bottle fed babies are cute until they bunt you in the crotch.

12. Paper gets lost. Some files are permanently MIA.

12.5. Just because your alphabetized or numerical system for filing is simple to you, it really isn’t. Some people don’t know the alphabet. Some people don’t know how to count. Trust no one.

13. We all make errors. Please take time to share your mistakes with your peers. I have learned so much from other people’s follies.

14. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, animals can die pre, post or during surgery. Accept it. And don’t let the guilt eat away at you.

15. If you handle an animal that is loaded with fleas and ticks, chances are you will find these pests on you. This usually occurs when you are driving home and trying to change lanes.

16. Laugh, laugh, laugh! I still break into a fit over the jokes I cracked when one of the vets was obtaining a semen sample from a dog. C’mon, just take a minute to think of the possibilities.

17. Owners need you. They need your knowledge and your expertise when handing out instructions. They need to see how you perform tasks like ear cleaning and nail clipping and administering insulin. And sometimes they need you to suggest obedience classes.

17.5 They will also need you to hold their hand and tell them it is time to let go. Help them to come to terms with their decision.

18. Keep a copy of all of the thank you notes you/your clinic receives. I pull them out when I am having a horrible day. Yes, most of these animals are gone, but I still smile when I think of them (like Snowbelle, the American Eskimo that would bite everyone but me.)

19. Be strong enough to stand up for yourself and what you believe in. People will respect you for it.

20. You have to pause to enjoy those special, affectionate moments – the licking dog, the head bunting cat, the horse that respectfully comes in for a nuzzle. It is in those moments that we are able to connect to a different species soul. They are precious and rewarding. And it provides us with the fuel we need to get up the next day and do it all over again.

Happy teching.


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