"WHAT??? WHY CAN'T YOU HIT THAT VEIN? MY DOG DOESN'T LIKE HOW YOU ARE HOLDING HIM!!!! HE'S IN PAIN!!! CAN'T YOU DO THIS QUICKER? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING?"
It may be hard to believe, but unfortunately I hear this type of abuse hurled upon my veterinary technicians quite often. Vet techs, in my opinion, are some of the most underappreciated people on the planet. They have hard jobs and they don't get paid well, but for some reason most of them absolutely love what they do. I thought I would write an article in tribute to the great vet techs I have worked with and clue you in on things you may not know about these wonderful people.
Here are 5 things that you may not know about veterinary technicians:
I cringe when I hear clients say to technicians, "So, do you want to be a veterinarian when you grow up?" Seriously! Techs are not vets in training. They have their own set of skills and they have worked extremely hard to develop those skills. Most vet techs will go to college for two or three years to get their degree.
According to Payscale.com, the average veterinary technician in the United States makes $9.66 to $17.64 per hour, or $20,000-$39,000 per year. Here is a graphic I made which shows how veterinary technician salaries compare to other professions. Take note that a vet tech performs the same tasks as ALL of these professions combined!
<img src="http://www.askavetquestion.com/images/vettechsalaries.jpg" /><br/> <div style="font-size:80%">Graphic from: <a href="http://www.askavetquestion.com/veterinary-technicians/">5 reasons why veterinary technicians are so great</a>. Courtesy of <a href="http://www.askavetquestion.com/">Ask A Vet Question.</a></div>
No really...unbelievably gross. I'm sure none of the vet techs I have worked with got into their career with a desire to see disgusting things each and every day, but most days contain at least one distasteful task. Here are some of the gross things that vet techs can face:
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you are a vet tech, I would love for you to leave a comment telling me of the gross things that you do every day! A lot of people ask me on Ask A Vet Question about what it's like to become a tech or veterinarian, so your comments will be helpful for aspiring veterinary technicians and vets alike.
A small animal veterinary technician is constantly avoiding injury. Burned in my mind is an image of one of my vet techs who was helping me with a nasty aggressive beagle dog. The dog bit through her thumb and would not let go. I can still see the image of the tech holding her hand up in the air and the beagle hanging there with teeth lodged in her thumb. Ouch. Cat bites and scratches are par for the course and can be very dangerous, especially if they get infected.
Most vet techs I know are really good at dealing with aggressive animals. They know how to get a muzzle on a landshark chihuahua. They know all of the tricks that can be used to calm a fractious cat. I've had some interesting experiences with vet techs helping me trap and examine cats that are all claws and teeth and literally climbing up the walls howling and screaming. Usually the techs can subdue these animals without anyone getting hurt, but I've seen several battle wounds after incidences like these.
Have you ever had a nurse have difficulty getting a blood sample from you? Well, imagine getting a blood sample from a two pound kitten that is squirming and biting and has veins the width of a pin. This takes skill.
Vet techs can place a urinary catheter in a tomcat who is close to being blocked. They can take perfect xrays on a dog with a broken leg even without an anesthetic. Speaking of which, most vet techs will be able to fully administer an anesthetic to an animal whether it is by intravenous injection or a gas anesthetic via an endotracheal tube.
Have you ever tried to bandage a paw? Or better yet, put a bandage on a tail wound and get that bandage to stay on? It's not as easy as you think. A good vet tech knows exactly how tight it needs to be an how much material needs to be used.
Vet techs have incredible medical knowledge skills as well. While they don't prescribe medications they are knowledgeable about a great number of drugs, how they are used and what dosages are necessary. A vet tech can do all sorts of laboratory tests such as identifying parasites on a fecal exam or looking for abnormalities on a blood smear. They can tell you what cells are normal to see on a urinalysis and which ones can be indicative of a serious problem.
On top of all that, most vet techs have great people skills as well. They often act as grief counsellors while discussing euthanasia with distressed owners. Vet techs need to deal with anxious pet parents during emergency visits. They are also the ones who explain in great detail post surgical care instructions or directions for administering medication.
And in some cases vet techs are the complaints department of a veterinary clinic. If someone is disgruntled about their bill or the fact that they need to wait for the doctor, or has other complaints, it is often the vet tech who is the one to calm the client down and do what they can to make customers happy.
Are you a vet tech? If so I'd love for you to leave a comment below. What do you love about your job? What parts of your job do you dislike? Did I miss anything? What do you think makes a vet tech so awesome?
Angry cat image courtesy of frielp,flickr.