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Veterinary Professionals: Under recognized superheroes?

Kat Milcke, RVT Apr 10, 2017 1:31:29 AM

When I was younger, I was convinced that I was the cat whisperer. I had a cat that had kittens and these kittens would follow five year old me around like little ducklings. Wherever Kat went, cats went, and that was just how it was. As I got older and went through high school, my love for animals never wavered, though my confidence in my intelligence and motivation to go through vet school, did. I was then convinced that I had a career as a writer ahead of me, a romanticised idea that I could move to New York, live in a loft in Brooklyn, and be an ultra hip, though most likely starving, writing sensation. So instead of following my passion for animals, I followed my passion for writing and went to Journalism school. After a couple, or rather many, bad decisions, including quitting school and working full time instead of pursuing post secondary education, I realized that something was missing. That’s when I started doing research and found a program at my local college called ‘Veterinary Technician’. After a little more digging, I found out that vet techs are a million and a half people in one.. Being a natural multi tasker, people person and self proclaimed cat whisperer, I knew that this program would be the perfect fit for me.

So I went through the application, boosted my marks by taking night classes, wrote my entrance exam and was accepted. But I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Getting through school was a struggle all in it’s own. I never was one for studying, so I really had to sit down and learn how to study. But study I did and while it took a bit (okay a lot) of blood, sweat, and tears, I made it through to the other side and was unleashed into the vet tech world.

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This sums up my demeanor before every test quite nicely.

As it turns out, vet techs are multi taskers galore. We anesthetize animals and monitor them while they get operated on. We clean teeth while making sure our patients heart rate’s are steady. We take blood and put catheters into tiny, or sometimes not so tiny, moving targets. We wrangle beasts so that our co workers, and often our closest friends, don’t get hurt. We answer phones while restraining because there just aren’t enough hands on deck. We play janitor at the clinic, sometimes so much so that we can’t be bothered to clean up at home. We advocate for our furry friends. We always eat on the go and put animals needs before our own, every time. We take xrays on patients that we can’t tell to sit still and we clean up after our four legged friends. We run diagnostics to find out what’s going on with our patients. We get bled on, puked on, diarrhead (is that even a word? #vettechlingo) on and peed on, and then we come back to work the next day and ask for more. We hold clients hands as they say goodbye to one of their family members and sometimes we hold your family members as they pass when you can’t be there. We cry and we laugh with our clients, we love the snot out of all of our patients, even the ones that want to rip your face off, and none of us would change it for the world.

When I was first starting off in my job as an overnight RVT at an emergency hospital, a client once said ‘well you’re just a vet tech, I want to talk to the vet’. The vet on staff overheard and politely informed the client that I had just been the one to pull the blood, put in the catheter, tuck her beloved dog into a comfy bed I made for him in a kennel and made sure that the vet prescribed pain medication because I felt that her dog was painful. He informed her that I had been the one to take the xrays, nudge the vet to see her dog first because I felt he was more critical and needed attention faster, and had it not been for me she could have waited another hour, so please, be careful who you call ‘just’ a vet tech.

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This experience taught me that there is very little education out there as to what a vet tech actually does. And I mean, I get it, it’s really hard to wrap your head around the fact that we can do all these things at once. If you compare it to human medicine, there are a lot of different schoolings that you would have to go through in order to be allowed to take xrays, do dentals, take blood, monitor a patient during surgery, and trim nails (read: talons). In human medicine that would be an xray technician, a dental hygenist, a registered nurse, an anesthesiologist and an esthetician. We vet techs are an all in one package, how neat is that?

And it’s not just vet techs, how about veterinarians? Who slave through medical school, only to have to be underappreciated and yelled at during appointments because they think the bill is too high. Think of how many doctors they are in one : dentists, anesthesiologists, internal and surgical doctors. And the vet assistants, who can not only restrain patients to make sure we don’t get hurt, but also groom them and care for them. Let's face it, we're all just basically superheroes in disguise. We're multi tasking maniacs to help our patients and our clients. 

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I really think that the perception of veterinary professionals is a little skewed, due to the lack of awareness. So how can we educate the public about who we are and what we do? Is it truly through attendance at conferences, or introducing ourselves during annual wellness exams in clinics? Can we write enough blogs online and hope that people will see them? Can we spread awareness through local communities and volunteer work? If you have any suggestions, I’d really like to have a discussion about this, because I do truly believe that there needs to be more recognition for all our hard work, not just for vet techs, but for all veterinary professionals!

Send me an email at kat@smartflowsheet.com or leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!