Veterinary Technicians: Pillars of the Practice

Some call them vet techs, others call them veterinary nurses. We just call them: superheroes! They have many responsibilities at an animal hospital, and are often your pet’s primary caregiver and closest advocate. But what IS a veterinary technician? The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) defines a Veterinary Technician as a graduate from a two-year, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited program from a community college, college or university.  In addition to this education, almost every state requires a veterinary technician to take and pass a credentialing exam. All of this prepares the vet tech to perform the duties required of an attending nurse, laboratory technician, radiography technician, anesthetist, surgical nurse and client educator. Vet techs may also be the first team members to assess and triage emergency patients, and the last team members to give those all-important snuggles when your pet is ready to go home!

In honor of National Veterinary Technician Week this year (October 16 – 22, 2016,) we asked a few of our veterinarians to tell us what they love about vet techs, and especially what they love about the veterinary technician team here at Bellevue Animal Hospital PC.  Dr. Tammy Pfeiffer replied that “I appreciate the ability of our technicians to multi-task, as well as help multiple doctors all needing their attention at the same time. They are great at interacting with our patients. And they are all far more tech savvy than I am, and I can rely on them to keep me functioning in this tech savvy world!”

The professional life of a veterinary technician is certainly not the most glamorous in the world. (Can you name another career that gives you the opportunity to work with ear gunk, skin mites, urine samples, feces, fleas & ticks, roundworms, maggots, anal glands, and abscesses … sometimes all in the same day?!)  However, for those who are called to it, the work definitely has its rewards . Our team member Rachel Scholting, LVT, was asked why she became a veterinary technician and what she loves about her job, and responded,

“I love meeting new people and their pets and being able to see a pet bounce back from sickness. I do what I do because I love being a voice for the animals. A vet tech was once the difference for my dog between life and death, and I never forgot how she saved my dog.”

Christie Shenfield, LVT, another of our terrific team members, said that there are “so many things I love” about being a veterinary technician. “Knowing that we are keeping pets healthy and happy with preventative medicine” and with patients that are in the hospital for a few days “it is heartwarming to watch them get better each day. To see the wag come back to their tails, or the purrs return, gives me so much joy! That and the look on the owner’s faces when we bring those pets back to them healthy is priceless. For the ones that, unfortunately, don’t get better, knowing that I was able to give them love and the best care possible is consoling.”

Sometimes, it’s hard to put into words what it is that keeps a vet tech coming back to work day after day, sometimes 50 or more hours a week, getting up before dawn and working far past closing time for the hospital. Our Patient Services Director, Jenni Riha, LVT, found that “it wasn’t until I left practice for 3 years that I really recognized what I was supposed to be doing. Even though I was still in the medical field, I just didn’t have the same passion for it.” Going through her senior dog Bandit’s last year “really helped me realize why I do what I do. He taught me so much about compassion and giving him what he needed, and our bond, I’m sure, was so much like many others.”

For all they do day in and day out, week after week, with passion, enthusiasm, dedication, intelligence, laughter, and sometimes tears, we’d like to thank all of our veterinary technicians, and vet techs everywhere.  Dr. Aaron Truax enthuses that “Our techs are truly one of the essential pillars of our practice. They are passionate, thoughtful, well-educated, and just all-around great folks that take care of our patients and their parents! They have a vastly diverse skill-set, allowing them to troubleshoot and repair equipment, maintain needed supplies, look at any number of samples under the microscope, place IV catheters, give medications, perform dentistry … you name it … they do it. And our hospital couldn’t do what it does without them!”

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