A BIG SHOUT OUT to Veterinary Technicians

This week is National Veterinary Technician Week.  It is meant to be a week to give recognition and gratitude to the thousands of veterinary technicians that work in the industry.  I would like to take this opportunity to give a big shout out to veterinary technicians.

 Many people in the general public have this idea that a vet tech spends their day playing with cute and fuzzy kittens and puppies, or that they are nothing more than glorified kennel cleaners.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

 On a daily basis, veterinary technicians are expected to be able to draw blood, place IV catheters, run lab work, provide excellent nursing care, anesthetize an animal and monitor them under anesthesia, perform dental cleanings, take radiographs, manage wounds, give medications, fill prescriptions, assist in surgery and take an initial client history.  In addition, they are often called to be receptionists, schedule managers, bill collectors and grief counselors.  They are peed on, pooped on, bit, scratched, banged up and of course, covered with the lovely scent of anal glands.  They do all of these things while working long hours, often missing lunch, and for dismally low wages compared to what their human nursing counterparts receive.

 It is physically demanding to be a veterinary technician.  They lift and restrain heavy dogs.  They are on their feet most of the day. Many veterinary technicians have back and neck problems from all of the lifting, squatting and restraining.   They are the ones that do the back breaking work in veterinary medicine.  They often suffer from neck and back problems from the physical part of their job.

 If you know a vet tech, ask them to see their hands and arms.  Changes are very high that they are covered in bruises, scratches and bite marks.  I have been a veterinarian for 8 years, and I have one scar from a dog bite.  This is not because I am particularly talented, but because I have had awesome technicians. 

 On top of all of that, they also deal with rude clients and grumpy doctors.  It is not terribly uncommon that a client will be snide or rude to a technician, only to be full of praise and fawning when the veterinarian walks into the room.  I have witnessed stressed out doctors yell, snap at and sometimes actually throw surgical instruments/syringes/a Mayo stand at technicians.  I have to admit that unfortunately there have been more than a few times I have taken out my frustrations on the closest target, which is usually the poor tech.

 You may be asking yourself why on earth anyone would choose this profession.  I’ll tell you why…it is because they love animals.  That really is it.  They don’t do it for the money, or fame, or glory, or the fat retirement package waiting for them after a cushy desk job.  They do it for the animals.  Vet technicians often have a herd of animals at home, many of whom have been adopted from the clinic they work at, or rescued from a shelter.

 When there is a sick dog or cat in the hospital, it is usually the vet tech that is keeping them warm, dry and comfortable.  I have seen vet techs sitting patiently next to a sick anorexic dog, hand feeding them pieces of a rotisserie chicken that they bought at the store.  I have seen vet techs patiently bathing Parvo puppies that are covered in foul diarrhea.  They are the ones that will request more pain medication for the dog with the broken leg, and cuddle the chilly kitten. 

 Because veterinary technicians generally spend much more time with the patients than the veterinarian does, they will often be more affected by the death or euthanasia of the patient.  They care deeply about their patients.  They are offended when they see cases of neglect and abuse.  They often are involved in and passionate about animal rights. 

 If I do an amazing surgery to save the life of an animal, I get the gratitude and praise of the client.  What the client doesn’t often realize though, is that it was the technician who placed the difficult IV catheter, who saw their critical animal safely through a risky surgery, and who did the most important nursing care in the recovery days.  Often times it has been the vet tech who tells me to breathe and calm down in surgery when an artery starts gushing blood up to the ceiling.

 I always secretly laugh when clients insist that the DOCTOR trims their dog’s toenails, or when the DOCTOR cleans the cat’s teeth.  In all honestly, I suck at toe nail trims and technicians are much faster than I am at dental cleanings.  If a skilled technician is having a hard time drawing blood and turns to me, I am secretly afraid.  How on earth will I get it if they can’t?

 A good technician is a lifesaver for a veterinarian.  There are days at a vet clinic where the schedule is triple booked, an emergency is on its way, the phones are ringing off the hook, and it looks like a bomb went off in the treatment area.  On those days, I am comforted if I have good technicians surrounding me.  They have brought me lunch when I didn’t get one, boosted my confidence after a screw up, and consoled me when I felt like everything I touched was dying.  If you are a lucky veterinarian you have had a technician stroll into your office with a big coffee, soda or hunk of chocolate when you are having an awful day.

 So, here’s a shout out to all veterinary technicians…especially the ones that I have worked with over the years.  Thank you for the amazing, compassionate work that you do.  You will never receive the pay or recognition you deserve.  Please enjoy this week that is meant to honor your hard work, compassion and dedication.  You are the unsung heroes, and whether you know it or not you touch countless animal and human lives on a daily basis.


About hteyler

I decided in 8th grade that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I never deviated from that goal, and after a ton of studying and hard work I graduated from Colorado State University with my Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2004. I spent the first few years out of vet school in the southern California desert. After a few years I missed the mountains, so I took a job at a small animal practice in Park City, Utah. Somehow, in the middle of all of that the teaching bug bit me. I am now the Resident Veterinarian at Broadview University, West Jordan. Also, I have four cats, Pete, Sally, Tommy and Roger. If I told you much more, you would decide I am a hopeless nerd. For example, I am obsessed with the TV shows LOST and Supernatural.

Posted on October 16, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Thank you! This article is all the appreciation I need! Couldn’t have said it better!

  2. Don’t forget about those of us working with the horses!!! Kudos to all my fellow technicians and the awesome doctors that we not only call our boss, but also a friend!

  3. Thanks for these lovely words of praise to our profession! And you’re welcome! 🙂
    Erin W. BS, RVT

  4. THANK YOU!! 🙂 Vets are truly grateful for us, make our lives even more fulfilling!! 🙂

  5. Big Hugs to the amazing vet techs at Redwood Animal Hospital in Redondo Beach, CA…Miss Mollie send her crew woofs and love!

  6. I am going to school to become an RVT and this article makes me tear up. I am so excited and blessed to be entering this amazing profession.

  7. I have been a veterinary technician for most of my adult life and I’m rapidly approaching my 5th decade. I’ve worked with almost every creature there is, from reptiles, birds, exotics, horses as well as dogs and cats. I work in a feline-only practice now and still have a sore neck and back from wrestling unruly patients and dancing around my co-workers as we scurry from task to task. I rejoice when the cat with pancreatitis eats a morsel of baby food and I cry when a client’s beloved pet dies in my arms. You’re right, most people don’t know that we perform the tasks done by several departments in a human hospital, often without any training other than years of experience and for a quarter of what an RN makes. We are teachers, counselors, hazmat team, lab technicians and so much more, often all at once. Thank you for the recognition for what is often a thankless job.

  8. Thank you for recognizing these often overlooked people who care so much. If only more people realized how important vet techs are to animal welfare. Nice to be noticed

  9. Juliet Maurukas

    Even after reading this, I am still VERY primed to working to get a vet tech position! Thank you to all the vet techs out there! 🙂

  10. This made me cry. Well, tear up a bit anyway. I loved, loved, loved being a vet tech for over 20 yrs. Lived it, breathed it, loved it. And I miss it so very much. It is so nice to hear that what vet techs do is recognized because sometimes it doesn’t seem like all we do is seen.
    Today I have a rescue/sanctuary for kitties and farm animals. I take what the othere rescues can’t take. ie Grandma’s 13 yr old cat in renal failure, The FIV/FeLV cats, the chicken with one leg, the thoroughbred that was beaten, neck broken and then starved. We rehab them, try to find good homes for them (many times continuing to pay the vet bills and do the treatments in their new homes) and if we can’t find them homes we love them until life is no longer an option, then we cry as we hold them in their final moments. My years as a tech gave me these skills, God gave me this heart. Forever grateful.

  11. Thank you for such an appreciative article about veterinary technicians. Your account of our daily lives truly shows how much you respect the profession. Having a team people who admire each others contributions only helps to provide optimal patient care.
    Jessica CVT, VTS (ECC)

  12. This was such a nice article, I have been a tech for 9 years in the Icu/Er and I still love what I do. Thanks so much for a well written shout out,
    Abby CVT, ABCDT

  13. I love that you recognize the people that help you make it happen! Great job!

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