By Robbi Hess ~ Managing Editor Pet Calendar, Crimeless Cat Executive Story Editor, Chief Cat Herder
As a pet parent you may not understand what goes on behind the scene at your trusted veterinarian’s office. You trust your vet and his or her staff, but do you understand the level of training the veterinary technician at your vet’s office undergoes? Not many people do.
We spoke with Lisa Eshman, DVM, Program Director in Veterinary Technology at Foothill College about the important role veterinary technicians play in a veterinarian’s office. “The more the public understands and appreciates the level and intensity of training a vet tech goes through, the more they appreciate the goings on in the backroom of a vet hospital,” she said.
Lisa teaches at a college that offers emergency medical nursing programs, respiratory therapy, radiology technology, dental hygienist and dental assistant programs. She said, “When Foothill’s programs are mentioned, veterinary medicine goes last. I always tell the audience the reason for that is because all of the things that everyone else is trained for at our college for humans is what our veterinary technicians do. In addition, vet techs support surgical procedures, help with medical diagnostic care for a vet patient. They bring an extremely high level of skill to a practice.”
Pet Calendar: National Veterinary Technician Week
How many vet techs are at the practice to which you take your pet?
Lisa said not many pet parents know and many haven’t even thought to ask. “Veterinarians couldn’t practice at the level they do without the assistance and support of a vet tech by their side,” she said.
When you’re looking for a new veterinarian for your pet, you want to ask how many vet techs are in the practice. “The number of vet techs in a practice speaks to the level of care your pet will receive,” Lisa said. “The practice, if it’s small though, doesn’t need to have a lot of vet techs in order to make it a great practice for you to take your pets.”
The veterinary technician career path
Lisa said the veterinary technician career is one with a high employment rate. “When our students graduate, 100% of them have a job, if they want it.”
She explained the level of care a vet tech can provide in a clinic is sometimes mandated by local or state law. In California, for example, a licensed vet tech is allowed to induce anesthesia, apply splints and casts, suture wounds and extract teeth. The only things a vet tech can’t do by law in California is perform surgery, prescribe drugs and make medical diagnosis or prognosis. “The level of care a vet tech provides to the patient and the attention they supply to the patient is one of the reasons your pet will do so well while in the care of your veterinarian,” she said.
The unsung heroes
It may be the vet tech is the unsung hero in the practice you take your pet. “Clients (the pet parent) may not always understand what a vet tech does and in the industry right now there is a push to classify vet techs as veterinary nurses,” Lisa explained.
Lisa celebrates vet techs because even though she is no longer in full time practice she couldn’t have been as effective a vet without the support and insight of the veterinary technicians with whom she worked. “I want to stress the level of critical thinking they bring to a practice. If you’re a vet you see patients every thirty minutes, have patients who are hospitalized and patients getting ready for surgery. The vet tech may be the one to say, ‘this animal isn’t looking right’ or ‘this animal is looking great.’ The vet tech will bring to the attention of the vet their insight about the patients’ individual state.”
A vet tech can find a job in myriad areas including: a surgical setting in a university, in a shelter setting, in a veterinary practice. “Any where animals need care or an advocate is an ideal setting for a veterinary technician,” she said. “I have a student right now who wants to work with fish, another who wants to work with wildlife and others who want to go into specialty practices. Those are all possibilities for the vet tech.”
What are the characteristics of a great vet tech?
- Good with clients (the pet parent)
- A high level of curiosity
- Problem solver. They want to get to the bottom of things and look at “problem X” and say, this just doesn’t fit. The vet tech will go down a path to make certain the patient is responding to treatment.
- “It’s a delicate balance,” Lisa said.” A vet tech can’t take on all of the problems of the clinic. It’s a challenge for people and burn out is high.”
- A deep love of animals
If you go to your veterinarian’s office this week, thank your vet tech!
Check out the rest of our October Pet Holidays and Celebrations.