Pets and Vets Need Techs!

Westgate's Veterinary Technicians 2011"Pets and Vets Need Techs" is the theme of this year's National Veterinary Technician Week, lasting from October 9th to October 15th. 

National Veterinary Technician Week is a week-long celebration every October that honors the hard work, skills, and compassionate care fostered by veterinary technicians as they work alongside veterinarians to give pets the best medical care possible.

Here at Westgate Pet Clinic, we are doing our yearly "Tech Appreciation Dinner" as well as collecting notes of appreciation from our staff for each veterinary technician.  Through this article, we wanted to highlight what our technicians do for us on a daily basis and elaborate on their training and credentials. We also wanted to find out some of the reasons they might have chosen to become veterinary technicians and what they love the most about their jobs.

Westgate technicians have numerous responsibilities throughout the day as they fill an essential role to fulfill each patient's unique needs.   Some of their jobs include drawing blood for laboratory samples, placing IV catheters and making fluid therapy assessments, performing x-rays, running in-clinic lab work, interpreting cytology samples, administration and monitoring of anesthesia before/during/after surgeries or other procedures, performing regional nerve blocks, monitoring for symptoms of pain after surgery, providing patient care for sick and hospitalized patients, performing dental cleanings, administering medications or injections, and filling prescriptions.

Other advanced skills of Westgate veterinary technicians involve client communication and client education, whether it be explaining surgical or dental procedures, giving discharge instructions, or having a comprehensive discussion about the treatment and care of a newly diagnosed diabetic patient. 

All of our Westgate veterinary technicians have a 2-year associate degree from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-accredited community college program in veterinary technology.  There are 60 accredited programs throughout the United States that provide the intensive study of skills and knowledge that are needed as a veterinary technician.  In Minnesota, there are veterinary technician programs at Argosy University, Globe University/MN School of Business, and Ridgewater College.  Studies encompass anatomy, physiology, microbiology, clinical techniques, pharmacology, anesthesiology, surgery and medical nursing, radiology, and clinical pathology. 

A path taken less towards becoming a veterinary technician are programs that culminate in a 4-year bachelor's degree in veterinary technology.  Westgate technician Sarah is currently pursuing a 4-year degree. Graduates of the latter pathway are called veterinary technologists—they can either work in private practice or may seek research-related jobs.  After their coursework and degree, all veterinary technicians must maintain certification, registration or license through national and/or state exams.

Veterinary technicians that want to attain a higher level of recognition for advanced knowledge and skills in specific disciplines of veterinary medicine can go beyond the associates or bachelor's degrees in veterinary technology by pursuing a specialty in veterinary technology.  Every several years, more specialties are added to the list, and today veterinary technicians can pursue a specialty in Dentistry, Anesthesia, Behavior, Emergency and Critical Care, Internal Medicine, Zoo Medicine, Equine Medicine, Surgery, and Nutrition.  There is even now a specialty in Species Specific Clinical Practice (Canine/Feline, Avian/Exotic Pet, and Production Animals).  Westgate technician Jeni is currently working toward her specialty in Anesthesia by participating in and documenting 50-75 cases in anesthesia.  For each case she has to write up the anesthetic protocol, report on outcome and recovery, and note any special skills performed.  I took a look at the list of special skills that must be mastered for her specialty and was quite impressed!  Finally, to complete the specialty, Jeni must thoroughly focus on four case reports that will represent her strengths to those overseeing the specialty, document 40 hours of continuing education related to anesthesia, and pass an exam after her application is accepted. 

Our technicians have a variety of reasons for pursuing veterinary technology.   When asked what propelled her towards the field of veterinary medicine and veterinary technology, Westgate Veterinary Technician Jeni said, "Ever since I was a little kid I was always trying to care for animals.  If there was an injured or lost animal I would bring it home (much to my mother's and father's dismay) and try to help it. So there was no question as to what I wanted to do for my career."  Another Westgate Veterinary Technician, Leslie also feels that her desire to work with animals stemmed from childhood experiences.  She commented, "I have always had a special bond with animals, especially cats!!! They were my escape from my childhood. They were the only thing that was stable and they loved me unconditionally. I would take the wild cats that were pregnant into the house and help them have their babies where I could take care of them. My grandmother helped me to learn about the care and love of the cats. When I was 19 years old I started as a kennel worker at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter. Within 6 months I was the manager and had to make the decision of who had to go and who got to stay. We would put down 50 - 100 animals a week. It was not pretty!!!!. At age 25, I got the opportunity to go to school and there was no other choice except be a tech so that I could utilize my skill and love for animals."

When asked what they love most about their jobs, Jeni and Leslie shared the following answers:  Jeni--

"My favorite part of being a veterinary technician is being able to make a pet feel more comfortable about being in the clinic. Whether it is giving a warm blanket and some hugs and kisses to comfort them, or giving them a medication to help them feel better.  Another favorite part of being a veterinary technician is providing the highest quality of care possible for our clients and patients.  At Westgate Pet Clinic I feel that we do everything possible to accomplish that through every aspect of their visit." Leslie--"The ability to help the animal and their owners. There is nothing like the way someone's eyes light up when they look at their "baby" after you have gotten them through an illness or accident."


About our technicians at Westgate Pet Clinic, Dr. Porter commented, "They love pets, have trouble saying no to adding more to their homes.  They are proud to be among the leaders in their profession.  Their skills rival any clinic in the country."

Along with Dr. Porter, all of us at Westgate Pet Clinic salute the dedication, advanced skills, and work ethic that each of Westgate's technicians bring to Westgate.  We hope during National Veterinary Technician Week that you will feel extra proud of who you are and what you do each day for our patients and clients.  You are an integral part of the veterinary team!