Contrary to popular belief, veterinary technicians do a great deal of the work in a vet clinic. Technicians do much more than clean kennels and restrain animals during their exams. If you want a hands-on job that dumps you right into the involved care of a variety of patients, then perhaps becoming a veterinary technician is the perfect career for you.
Becoming a Certified Veterinary Technician
The career trend is moving away from on-the-job trained technicians towards degree holding techs. While clinic experience is invaluable in your training, attending an AVMA accredited program is the key to almost endless career opportunities. Some community colleges have vet tech programs, but there are also independent colleges that specialize in educating and training technicians. Most of these are two year programs where you’ll graduate with an associate’s degree, but there are a small amount of schools where you’ll get a bachelor’s degree.
After graduation, most students sit for the National Association of Veterinary Technician Exam. It’s a comprehensive exam that ensures your knowledge of every area of vet medicine, from pharmacology to hematology to sterile techniques.
Front of the Clinic Tasks
A vet tech has a job similar to that of a human nurse, but it’s much more involved. A properly trained technician will have a slew of tasks they’re responsible for. If you work in a day practice, a lot of your day will be spent in the room with clients. You’ll go in before your doctor and take a basic TPR (temperature, pulse, respiration) on the animal and get a quick history of the pet’s overall health at home. You’ll restrain the pet for the vet as they do their own exam and administer vaccinations or medications.
Some clinics will give you “technician appointments” where you’ll give vaccines, draw routine bloodwork, trim nails, or express anal glands without the supervision of the doctor.
Behind the Scenes Tasks
It’s in the back of the clinic where things get fun! Behind the scenes, you’re basically in charge of performing your patients’ treatments. You’ll draw blood, run lab work, and perform x-rays. For hospitalized patients, you’ll start IV catheters, administer IV fluids, and give your patients medications as ordered by the doctor. You’ll prep animals for surgery, run and monitor anesthesia, and assist in surgeries if the doctor needs it. You’ll also do basic tasks like clean up the surgery suites, sterilize surgical equipment, and clean up after your patients.
Becoming a veterinary technician means you have a job where you’re always stimulated, busy, and satisfied. While it’s so much more than loving animals, a love for every creature will carry you through this difficult but rewarding profession.