October Is National Vet Techs Month!
Here’s what the American Veterinary Medicine Association, the major US organization of professionals in the field, has to say about the wonderful people we call “vet techs”:
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, which this year means October 14-20.
A bit of history
The first organized paraprofessional veterinary workers were those trained by the (British) Canine Nurses Institute in 1908. According to the founder, they would "carry out directions of the veterinary surgeon, meet a genuine need on the part of the dog owners, and at the same time provide a reasonably paid occupation for young women with a real liking for animals" [!].
By the 1930’s, veterinary nurses (as vet techs are called in Britain) requested official recognition from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons; it was granted in 1957. The first formal cohort of veterinary professionals in the United States was brought together in 1951 to serve in the US Airforce.
In the United States and Canada, the veterinary paraprofessionals include veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians. Veterinary assistants work under the direct supervision of the vet, doing work that does not require formal training. Veterinary technicians, on the other hand, have considerable autonomy to work on their own (although they likely will have a supervising veterinarian), they will have had formal training, and in most places they are required to be licensed by an official body. In addition to the required education and training, a high level of practical experience is also normally required.
Some veterinary technicians obtain advanced training and become qualified as specialists in a long list of medical specialties that include emergency & critical care, anesthesiology, dentistry, internal medicine, cardiology, oncology, neurology, surgery, behavior, nutrition, clinical practice (e.g., canine) and clinical pathology. Veterinary Technician Specialists can put the designation “VTS” after their name, with their specialty indicated after it in parentheses.
What do vet techs do?
Vet techs perform many tasks that require considerable expertise and which are very important to the effective functioning of animal hospitals and clinics. Commonly, vet techs do the following:
- Draw blood, insert IVs an obtain urine and tissue samples
- Give medications (pills and injections),
- Assist in surgery (clean the surgical site, monitor vital signs, hand instruments, etc. to the surgeon and maintaining sterile conditions in the surgery
- Keep good records (take health histories, keep appropriate, complete and accurate records of everything they do for the animal
- Take X-rays (properly position the animal, shielding themselves and the rest of the animal, keeping the animal still)
- Interacting with animals and their owners (vet techs must be able to handle the animals sensitively and safely and communicate effectively and respectfully with the owners
It’s a rewarding job, but it is also very challenging and sometimes difficult. Of course, the work sometimes involves gory tasks, sometimes giving necessary pain to dogs who are very frightened and therefore may be aggressive.
It also involves giving care and comfort to owners who are anxious and frightened too, and who may therefore behave rather irrationally at times. And one of the greatest strains occurs when the dog’s owner is not very dedicated to its health and welfare but instead treats the dog like useless property.
As dog owners, we sometimes feel that emergencies usually arise just before 5pm on a Friday (or at 3am or just when we’re about to leave for vacation). Vet techs sometimes feel this way too, and they know that some days will be so busy they’ll have to go without lunch or without a chance to go to the restroom
Some ways to thank your vet tech
So, if you have a favorite vet tech and want to do something special to show your appreciation, here are some ideas:
- Give your vet tech a “survival kit” with things like a coffee mug or wine glass, a gift card to a coffee or ice cream shop, real or fake “headache pills,” items that could reward or distract your Kerry when he’s getting medical care, or maybe bake up a bunch of sugar-cookie “milk bones” with a “thank you” or “I love you” note from your Kerry.
- Write a note telling your vet tech about something they have done was that was especially appreciated by you or your Kerry.
- Send your vet tech a note with this URL: “Happy National Veterinary Technician Week” (a song) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Wu89VajhSo
- Look at Pinterest for more ideas: https://www.pinterest.com/mayosoup22/vet-tech-gifts/?lp=true