A Day in the Life of a Veterinary Technician
Veterinary technicians are critical to the day-to-day function of veterinary practices, and play vital roles in preserving animal health and welfare. National Veterinary Technician Week provides an opportunity to recognize veterinary technicians’ contributions. Because we value veterinary technicians every day of the year, we take this week to honor their commitment to compassionate, high-quality veterinary care for all animals.
First celebrated in 1993, National Veterinary Technician Week takes place in the third week of October each year. Thank you, veterinary technicians, for all you do!
Below is a day in the life of one of our veterinary technicians:
It’s Wednesday morning, 5:30 am, and the sound and smell of my coffee pot wake me. My dog, is standing over me, I can feel her breath. She acts as if she is starved for breakfast (and attention), but she has to go potty outside RIGHT NOW! Our trusty kitty companion, is in tow as we make our way to let her out.
As I ready my family and pets for the day, I begin thinking about my caseload for the upcoming day at the veterinary hospital. I know my clients very well and smile as I think about seeing them and their four legged kids today. I will also meet about 3 or 4 new client families today, and I think about how I may make a great first impression on them.
On my way into work, I recall a continuing education wetlab I attended last week where I learned a better technique for taking dental x-rays, and how the professor was explaining why educating my clients about the risks associated with dental disease and the tremendous benefits of maintaining a healthy mouth can help their dogs and cats live longer. I need to be sure to pass this information along to all of our pet owners.
I arrive at work at 6:45 am, and before I am settled in, I hear the clicking of toenails dancing around in the hospital suites. My canine patients are waiting to be taken outside too! Once I walk our hospitalized patients, I begin triaging each one. I read their medical record which contains the attending doctor’s orders, give them their treatments and their medications, and refresh their food and water. I make notes in each patient’s medical record and get prepared to call their owners this morning to give a progress report. Before I can begin my next task set, I have a kitty this morning that is not interested in eating, so I will sit with her and try to feed her by syringe. She has Kidney Disease and is feeling poorly. As I brush her coat, I talk softly to her so she may relax a little. I dampen a wash cloth and wipe her coat down to simulate grooming because sometimes this helps patients feel more like eating.
I have much to do today in between working with my patients. I need to restock our patient examination rooms, surgery ward, treatment ward, and turn on our laboratory equipment. I also need to download the outside laboratory results that were processed overnight into the corresponding patient records. Clients begin to drop their pets off for early admissions appointments for dentistry and surgery and I will meet with each one of them to review what we will be doing for their pet today. Most of these patients will need to have an examination by the veterinarian, have an IV catheter placed, have their blood drawn for lab testing, and be given a medication to help them to relax a little, before they have their procedure started.
Outpatient appointments are starting now. Yay! A new client with a new puppy! I love puppy breath! Is that weird?.. Next appointment, a limping chocolate lab, go figure! They have so much energy, the client reports the she was outside running and playing and heard a ‘yelp’! Yes, we need to take x-rays of her knee, the veterinarian’s exam shows there is likely a serious injury. Next, a healthy senior kitty that needs to have his blood pressure checked and his senior blood and urine tests. All clear there, I love to see good results and a healthy baseline. Back to the chocolate lab’s x-rays. We had to sedate her to get good images, the radiologist report comes back as a torn cruciate ligament. She will need surgery to repair it and 8 weeks of physical rehabilitation. It is time to get our dental procedures started. The dental radiographs show that the tooth roots are in great shape and are all good, with the exception of a premolar that needs to be extracted. The teeth are scaled, polished and given a fluoride treatment, then the veterinarian completes a thorough mouth exam before pulling that tooth. This patient is given pain medications and antibiotics, is woke up from anesthesia, and will go home today around 3:30. Lunch? I wish! I will eat a quick turkey sandwich while I am writing up my medical records from this morning, and filling prescriptions that were ordered this morning.
My midday starts with our next patient, a dog that needs a cystotomy. This is a surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia, that opens up the patient’s bladder to remove some bladder stones. She had been urinating inappropriately and this is the reason. We saw the stones during an xray appointment from earlier this week, and now we are removing them for her. She recovers very well from the procedure, and will stay overnight so we can check her over really well for the next 24 hours.
I recheck my hospitalized patients again, perform all of the treatments, medications, walkings and feedings again, and hand feed the kitty again that will not eat on her own. I repeat the brushing and wash cloth wiping.
Afternoon appointments bring many more patients! A dog newly diagnosed with cancer, a kitten with diarrhea, a cat for a wellness check up, a dog with itchy skin, a dog with a growth that is getting larger, a cat that is urinating outside the litter box, a cat that is vomiting, and a puppy that broke her leg.
5 pm comes and it is time to work on our hospitalized patients again, discharge our dentistry patient, return the clients’ calls who have questions, fill prescriptions, and, uh-oh, here comes an emergency! A seizing dog! Everything stops and all veterinary staff focuses their attention on this little one to keep her alive. The patient’s owners are devastated and scared. Luckily, we got her under control, but she will need to be on medications for the rest of her life now.
7 pm, closing time. I have a lot of cleaning and organizing to do before I get home to my family and pets. I am tired and have a lot on my mind, but I think to myself, this is sooo worth it! I love my career as a veterinary technician and love caring for my patients. It takes a lot to keep up my skills and my knowledge base, but I feel very lucky and grateful to be a part of this team and to work in this field of medicine!
Somebody asked, “You’re a vet tech? That’s cool, I wanted to do that when I was a kid. How much do you make?”
The tech replied, “How much do I make?”
I make holding your hand the most important thing in the world when you are forced to make “the decision.”
I make your pet breathe again when it stops.
I make it my duty to comfort your animal through frightening seizure episodes.
I make myself get up at 4AM to make sure your sick cat has the medicine she needs to live.
I make time every day to protect the lives of a stranger’s pets.
I make myself learn the newest and latest information (and pay good money doing it) so that the medical advice I convey is accurate and helpful.
I make my heart break on a daily basis for animals with no family or owners who just don’t care.
I make myself miss dinner with my family to ensure a member of your family is well cared for.
I make myself skip lunch so that I can make sure everything I did for your dog is done right and each step is documented.
I make myself work nights, weekends and holidays because dogs, cats, horses, lizards and birds don’t just get sick Monday through Friday.
Today I might save your pet’s life.
How much do I make? All I know is, I make a difference.