October 16th-22nd 2016, is National Veterinary Technician Week. This annual event recognizes veterinary technicians for their contributions in pet healthcare. As a proud and certified Veterinary Technician, I would like to take this opportunity to explain what we do and why we do it. A typical day as a Vet Tech is never typical. We have many different responsibilities and no two days are ever the same. To assist help clients understand our role in their pet`s visit, we often compare ourselves to nurses. In human medicine, for example, there are anesthesiologists, radiologists, Laboratory Technicians, Pharmacy Technicians, Dieticians, Dental Hygienists, Managers, etc. However in veterinary medicine, all of these tasks are the responsibility of the veterinary technician. I might start my morning off with surgery admissions and pre consults, followed by anesthetic monitoring during the afternoon surgeries. I may also perform a dental cleaning and then finish my day running tests in the lab or working at reception. Depending on the size of the clinic, the vet tech is often the one answering the phone, answering your questions and booking appointments. We also assist the vet by restraining fractious patients. I wish I could explain to our patients this will only take a second, and that we are doing it to help them, but the 120lb dog doesn`t understand or appreciate us trying to clean his wound. I am the one taking and developing x-rays, running blood and urine tests, staining cytology slides as well as preparing prescriptions. I am the one responsible for triage when we get multiple emergencies and I perform life saving skills such as catheter and breathing tube placement. I am the first face your pet sees when waking up from surgery and sometimes I am the last person the pet sees when comforting an ailing pet who`s owners couldn`t be present for their last breath.
Educating our clients about their animal`s health care and the vet`s recommendations is our primary responsibility. Which is why to work as a vet tech I had to complete a 3 year technical program at Vanier College. And since I needed a higher level of science and chemistry just to apply, I completed a year of adult education to meet the requirements before applying to the program. Amidst the 40 students I started the program with, only half graduated with me. (Many of which have already changed careers.) After completing two (unpaid) 5 week internships, I was hired as an animal health technician! I then voluntarily signed up for the VTNE (vet tech national exam) and after 3 months of studying, I became a Certified Animal Health Technician. It is not a requirement in Quebec to be certified and this title will also require me to complete 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years to maintain my certification.
In the past, a post secondary education was not required to work in this field. In Quebec, it has been less than a decade since a DEC in Animal Health Technology is required to perform our delegated acts. The average wage for this profession has yet to reflect this milestone. The salary for this profession is still significantly lower than that of graduates with other technical degrees. All this to say, “I do it for the money” is one phrase you will never hear a vet tech say. Our job is physically, mentally and especially emotionally challenging. It is dirty and sometimes dangerous. So the answer to why I do it may be difficult to understand. As it often is for family and friends, who wonder why I don’t become a “real” nurse and earn a better salary. I do it because it’s who I am. Helping animals is just something that’s in my blood, ever since I was a kid rescuing toads from pool filters and ringing my neighbor’s doorbell when their cat wanted in. It is what I am meant to do, to advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves. And at the end of the day, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.
So to my fellow Vet Techs,
Happy National Veterinary Technician Week!