Here is part 2 of what you need to talk to family, friends, and romantic partners if you’re thinking about becoming a vet tech, or doing a four year university training program. This is a critical discussion that will facilitate those close to you in creating a personal support network.
If you haven’t read the first 5 items on the list you can find it here, Top 10 Things Family, Friends, and Romantic Partners Need to Know About Vet Tech Work, Part 1.
Some people might think that it should be ‘obvious’ to their inner circle of people what they need to do to support a vet tech. The fact is there is a lot that they just won’t know about.
You need to clearly and carefully lay out in your own head what you will say about a vet tech job’s general work conditions and the kinds of stress you will be trying to manage after each shift, and as time accumulates on the job. The responsibility is on the vet tech, you, to inform family, friends, and partners. Otherwise, it is harder for them to be patient, compassionate, and support you.
Here are the last five items that you need to talk about with your personal support network.
6. Compassion Fatigue– Seeing animals in pain and suffering, dying, and assisting euthanasias takes a toll emotionally and mentally on a vet tech. Tell your personal support network about compassion fatigue. Educate them that it is a real issue that medical professionals like doctors and nurses that treat human patients as well as vet techs face will help them realize the gravity of the issue.
Unfortunately, the odds are that a few/some/many (?) of your inner circle will not place vet tech work in the same large category of “medical professionals” like doctors and nurses that work with human patients. This often leads to diminishing and undervaluing what vet techs experience at work.
7. Burnout – This is a real and prevalent problem for vet techs. The industry average vet tech career ‘life span’ is five years. One of the reasons I wrote my book, So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech, and that I write this blog, is to try to help people prepare mentally before they start work as a vet tech and/or do the four year university program and licensing exam and then get a job . . . it may be the case that many vet techs are not properly informed about the working conditions they are about to enter.
More importantly, vet techs may not be given effective training on how to manage stress, assess their stress levels on an on-going basis, and how to ask for help and make changes in their stress management methods.
There are many factors that can, and do, act in concert: low play; long hours; lack of respect for the profession and job title; exposure to animals’ pain, suffering, dying and death; assisting in euthanasias; interpersonal issues and problems with doctors, vet tech co-workers, and clients . . . all of these things combine to burn vet techs out.
Stress management skills and strategies are vital for a vet tech to thrive, and survive. Having a good personal support network of family, friends, and romantic partners is vital too.
8. Verbal and Emotional Abuse – Unfortunately, some/many (?) vet techs have to deal with verbal and emotional abuse. This can come from clients, clinic or hospital managers, doctors, and other vet techs.
Verbal, emotional, and even physical abuse are issues that human nurses also deal with. Given that human nurses are fighting an enormous battle to change the culture of no police reports or prosecuting of human patients who abuse them to a zero tolerance, mandatory prosecution of anyone who harasses or assaults a nurse . . . it is no surprise that this also goes on in a slightly different manner in vet tech work.
I’m not suggesting that animals be criminally charged when they bite or scratch you–although I’m sure the image of a cat that has just bitten a vet tech being put in ‘kitty hand-cuffs’ and perp walked out of the clinic by a police officer would amuse many techs who have been ‘assaulted’ by cats, lol.
There is a fine line between abusive communication and power dynamics vs the professional medical workplace’s legitimate need for structured decision making processes and, for example, medical emergencies dictating that social niceties be dropped in how a doctor tells you he/she needs you to get an instrument, medicine, or do something to save the animal in distress.
Figuring out the difference between a doctor speaking to you in an abusive manner versus a doctor speaking abruptly while they are feeling stress and trying to save an animal’s life and they don’t have time to be polite and ask for your consent to do what they need you to do . . . for some vet techs, this is hard to pick a part. I talk about this in my book in more detail.
It’s important to learn what your personal and professional boundaries are when it comes to verbal and emotional abuse. You need to define what is “abuse” versus the often harsh and stressful but necessary professional medical style of communication. If working as a vet tech is your first full time job, you may not have a basis of comparison. Also, if you have had other full time jobs, comparing how managers and co-workers communicate in a retail or fast food restaurant work space with a vet tech work space might not be a good idea. Nobody dies, usually, if they get the wrong order at the drive-thru.
Every vet tech has to sort out what their tolerance limits are, and how to filter the ways that doctors, managers, co-workers, and clients speak and interact with them.
9. General Lack of Respect for Vet Tech Profession & 10. Vet Techs are Nurses for Animals – While I was writing this I decided that these two items need to be listed separately, but addressed at the same time. The veterinary industry, local governments, and the federal government need to find a consensus on regulations and standards for vet techs.
There is a long list of tasks that will lead to elevating respect and value for vet tech work:
1. Change the job title to “vet nurse.” 2. Make laws that stipulate all vet nurses must attend an officially sanctioned 4 year university training program. 3. Make laws that vet nurses must take and pass a licensing exam in order to work. 4. The industry needs to raise the minimum starting wage for vet nurses to a livable level. 5. The industry needs to encourage clinics and hospitals to encourage vet nurses to take refresher training courses and stay up to date on vet nurse medical knowledge and procedures. 6. Unions at the local and national level need to be started so that vet nurses have a negotiating platform for improving working conditions and pay.
And more . . .
If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please check out my book, So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech.