Vet Tech Life

Some people see a Veterinary Technician’s life as non-stop puppies and kittens. Being a Vet Tech has its joys but it takes someone who loves what they do to fill a Vet Tech’s shoes. Here’s a typical day in the life of a Vet Tech as captured by one of our Union Lake Veterinary Hospital techs…

In First Gear

My day begins with an exercise in futility: trying to plan ahead. My job is to stay one step ahead, predict other’s needs, and most importantly, to be as flexible as possible (both literally and figuratively!) The real truth is it’s a constant improv act–sometimes a comedy, and at other times a tragedy. People frequently say, “Oh, you’re a vet tech? You must love playing with puppies and kittens all day!”, and I do! But, that’s just the icing on the cake. The true substance of a day in the life of a vet tech is a combination of sweetness and sorrow.

I wake up the clinic when I turn on the lights. The dark stillness erupts into the cacophony of sound I’ve come to expect. I hear a rush of greeting from the pets who stayed the night, “YOU’RE HERE, GOOD MORNING, WE’RE HUNGRY, WE MISSED YOU, WE WANT TO GO OUTSIDE!” Getting these overnighters up and about for a walk and their breakfast is especially enthusiastic and joyful because I’m the first person they’ve seen today. I chatter to them and tell them good morning, and what good dogs they are. I give extra pets and kisses, because I know they miss home. I trip over the clinic cats as they clamor for breakfast and love.

As I check in patients for surgery for the day, I take histories, I check ears, eyes, and coats, and note anything strange for the doctor. Even though the day can go any which way, preparation is key and I organize with my team so that we can work as smoothly as possible through whatever ups and downs come our way.

In Fifth Gear

My day officially “begins” now that the clinic is open for appointments and moves into fast gear. Past clients arrive with a new puppy and they are so excited to be back to see all of us at ULVH and show off their new family member. As I catch up with them, there is a call from the front desk that triage is needed at the front door. I hand off the puppy to his family.

An old dog–an old friend at this point really–who was unable to walk himself into the clinic–now perks up on adrenaline at the realization that he’s here at ULVH. I check his vitals and he’s okay to wait for the doctor. I get him into an exam room and try to reassure his mom. A good portion of my day is spent dispensing hope and confidence, and cautions where needed.

Appointments keep coming and the technical staff runs like a well-oiled machine, organizing, preparing prescriptions, vaccinating, drawing blood, explaining treatments, and teaching owners. I help with diagnostics for the sick ones, holding them close to keep them calm as best I can. I take a few X-rays, then I help the doctor explain to an owner that it’s not as bad as we thought! Just a sprain, nothing is broken. I dispense pain meds and send the client home with thorough instructions.

Emotional Support Mode

The next owner needs me, too. Their dog’s X-ray reveals a mass. The doctor goes over options with owner who has many questions for me after the doctor leaves, as it sinks in that this is serious. I tell them to take their time, and I check in on them between other duties. I make a kitten’s first visit as stress free as possible so it will be easier for everyone later on. I’m covered in catnip and squeeze cheese.

I then get called back to the treatment area for a quick clean up because the patient I’ve been working with all morning (the old friend that couldn’t walk) isn’t going home today. The owner asks me one more time if they’re doing the right thing. I explain what the doctor found and said once more–the mass is bad. It hurts him. It’s kind to ease his suffering. I wish I had medicine to help heal the owner’s heart as they give me permission to do the hardest part of my job. In a constant balancing act, I go from quiet strength through this sadness, to jumping right back in to the excitement of a young dog in for a happy visit. I’m an emotional chameleon, a maverick, a jack-of-all-trades.

Tech Team Mode

Back in surgery, I switch gears to recover a patient from anesthesia as another tech finishes cleaning her teeth and we begin to wake the patient up. Monitoring vitals systematically, we work as a team to move the semi-conscious patient to a recovery area, speaking calmly and softly to her the whole time. As we work, we discuss the new baby animals we saw so far today, and remember the ones we have lost, never losing focus, never losing track of a pulse.

With that patient settled, I begin anesthesia monitoring for a short procedure, carefully checking and double checking drug dosage calculations, conferring with the doctor, and checking the equipment. Even a routine procedure deserves the full respect of an emergency surgery. Every time we techs come to work, we have the weight of the lives of these sentient beings, these members of your family, in our hands. We’re a team, a community, a family of warriors and healers. We are strong because we have to be. We handle the weight and gravity of each situation with grace, because we go home gratified with feeling we are making a difference.

I leave surgery and jump back in where needed. Switching gears constantly makes my mind race. It jumps from  “Get the next patient in a room” to “Package and send out lab samples” to “Stock the pharmacy- we’re out of flea and tick meds again”. But, first, I need to check on my hospitalized patient. You need a hand drawing the patient’s blood? Be right there. Oops, I think there’s dog pee on my shoe!” It’s never dull, and never the same day twice.

Jack of All Trades

I take a break for a cup of coffee and wonder what that stain is on my scrubs. Could be food, bodily fluids…no matter, I’m used to it. I clean up and remove the pet hair that is never ending. I pull my hair back, finish my coffee and then finish my day strong. Or tired, achy. But I finish. In one day, I did the job of a counselor, nurse, phlebotomist, anesthesiologist, dental hygienist, radiology tech, not to mention custodian, groomer, receptionist, and maintenance. Time to go home and take care of my own pets. We don’t see it as taking our home home with us–it’s more of a lifestyle choice, really. Some days it feels like this life chose us.

This is a normal day in the life of a Veterinary Technician, here at ULVH and probably all over the veterinary world. No, it’s not all puppies and kittens, but we vet techs wouldn’t have it any other way. Hug a vet tech today! (But maybe check our scrubs first…)