When you think of a person who helps your pet when they’re sick, you probably picture a veterinarian in a white coat and stethoscope. While it’s true that the veterinarian is ultimately responsible for helping you make important decisions regarding your pet’s health, you may not realize that there is another member of the veterinary team that is essential to providing medical care for your four-legged family member: the veterinary technician. Vet techs are the passionate, hard-working nurses of the veterinary world who handle all of the aspects of veterinary medicine that allow the veterinarian to do his or her job.
You might be surprised at how much of your pets’ medical care actually falls under the responsibility of the veterinary technician. The list of tasks a vet tech is responsible for is seemingly endless. In fact, it is much easier to simply list the three things vet techs are NOT legally permitted to do: diagnose disease, perform surgery and prescribe medications. This doesn’t mean that technicians aren’t involved in these aspects of veterinary medicine. On the contrary, without skilled technicians, it would be nearly impossible for the doctor to effectively do these things!
For instance, while a technician cannot officially make a diagnosis, they are responsible for performing all of the tasks necessary to help the doctor reach a diagnosis for the patient. Just a few examples of this include drawing blood, taking x-rays, processing samples in the laboratory and obtaining thorough medical histories from clients. A technician cannot perform surgery, but they are responsible for administering and maintaining anesthesia, performing full dental cleanings, monitoring vital signs on anesthetized patients and even scrubbing in to assist the veterinarian during surgical procedures. And while technicians cannot prescribe medications, they can fill orders in the pharmacy, dispense medications to clients, calculate dosages and administer medications to patients in all kinds of ways, whether it’s a pill, an eye drop, an ointment or an IV injection.
Because they are responsible for such a variety of tasks, a day in the life of a veterinary technician is never dull. Techs are constantly busy, usually multitasking and performing jobs that are physically demanding and occasionally dangerous. They are frequently managing multiple cases at a time, working quickly and efficiently to keep everything running smoothly. If you were to walk through a veterinary hospital you would find technicians performing all sorts of tasks in every area of the clinic and working with patients of all shapes and sizes: They could be trimming nails on a dog, calculating an IV fluid rate for a sick puppy, taking x-rays on a cat’s leg, using the microscope to examine a urine specimen or calling a client to find out how a patient is doing at home. If there is a test or treatment that needs to be performed, a technician is prepared to do it! But technicians provide even more to their patients than a versatile skill set. They give your pet love and care when they are away from you. Technicians are often the members of the veterinary team who spend the most time working hands on with your pet and are therefore especially in tune with how they are feeling. They can tell when your pet is feeling stressed, can identify signs of pain and are responsible for making sure patients are comfortable, calm and clean. Technicians are, above all, advocates for animals and strive to treat each patient with the same compassionate care that they would want for their own pet.
While it may be surprising to learn how much veterinary technicians actually do, this is just a small percentage of the tasks you’ll find them performing in a small animal general practice, which is still only one branch of veterinary medicine! Whether trained on the job, licensed by the state or even certified as a specialist in a particular field, technicians can be found in every aspect of veterinary medicine. There are techs in emergency facilities, at zoos, in specialty hospitals, government agencies, rescue organizations and many more. Where there are animals receiving medical care, there are veterinary technicians making it all possible.
No matter the setting or how varied the job, veterinary technicians are united by one common calling: to improve the lives of animals however they can. These dedicated medical professionals are extremely passionate about their job and invested heart and soul in their patients. The job can sometimes be stressful and emotionally difficult, but to the special people who choose this career, there is no greater joy than seeing the difference they make in the lives of their patients and the fulfillment that comes from knowing they have helped an animal in need. So the next time your pet pays a visit to the vet, don’t forget to thank the veterinary technician, because they recognize how much your beloved family member means to you and their skill and dedication helps to provide the quality care they deserve.