Top 10 Things Family, Friends, and Romantic Partners Need to Know About Vet Tech Work, Part 2

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.

Please leave a comment on this blog post, or any questions you might want to ask me. Also, you can reach me on my Facebookmy Twitter, and my Instagram.

KJW

Top 10 Things Family, Friends, and Romantic Partners Need to Know About Vet Tech Work, Part 1

This two part blog post is meant to help anyone thinking about becoming a vet tech, or applying to go to a four year university training program and then become a vet tech, think about what a vet tech’s family, friends, and romantic partners need to know about vet tech work so that they can participate in creating a personal support network.

Consciously planning what, and how, to talk about a vet tech job’s general work conditions, describing and explaining the kinds of stress that are experienced during each shift, and cumulatively over time, is vital to help manage the impact of stress. If family, friends, and partners don’t know what you go through at work every day, it is harder for them to be patient, compassionate, and support you.

In an upcoming blog post, I’ll write more about the importance of explicitly communicating what you need and want, and do NOT need and want, from family, friends, and partners when you are stressed out.

The following ten items are not in a hierarchy.

1. Euthanasia and Death 

Vet techs assist veterinary doctors doing euthanasia. For people who see animals as being like fur-babies aka children, seeing and assisting euthanasias can, and often is, an emotionally traumatic experience which a vet tech can undergo several times a week, and in worse case scenarios multiple times in a single shift. There are very few jobs where people have to be in close proximity to the process of dying, death, and grief regularly. Vet techs not only witness death, they have to actively engage with preparing the tools and medicines involved, carry the animal to be weighed and then prepped for the procedure, and afterwards the vet tech takes care of the body too.

Animals die at clinics and hospitals from a wide variety of causes. Post-surgery complications, fatal diseases that cannot be treated, animals struck by cars or that have eaten something toxic or poisonous . . . vet techs have an enormous range of experiences with animals in varying states of illness and dying during which they have to witness the suffering and deterioration of the animal. Vet techs, after an animal dies, also have to take care of the body and sometimes communicate with the grieving clients too.

2. Vet Techs Do Multiple Jobs Under One Title

Too many people in the general public think that vet techs ‘play with puppies and kittens all day.’ The reality is that a vet tech does multiple jobs under one title: Custodian (cleaner), Phlebotomist (aka take blood for testing), Lab Tech, X-ray Tech, Nurse, Pharmacy Tech, Dog Groomer, Anesthetist, Dental Assistant, Assist Euthanasias, Customer Service, and more.

Vet techs that have graduated from a four year university training program and taken a certification exam have training and education for how to do all of these jobs bound up into one.

Vet techs that have no university training, however, have to learn the basic skills and medical knowledge on the job from supervising doctors and senior vet techs. This adds an element of stress on top of all the other sources a vet tech experiences during a shift.

3. Vet Techs Work Long Hours – A lot of people can claim that they work long hours. There is, however, a big difference in the working conditions they have to endure. This distinction is important to keep in mind. How many people can claim they saw a fur-baby die, had to help clients deal with intense grief, got sprayed with anal gland fluid, and then had a cat go full demon and scratch or bite them all in one long shift? Not many, that’s for sure.

4. Multi-Sensory Causes of Stress 

There are many sources of stress that impact a vet tech during a shift.

Audio – When animals visit a clinic or hospital they meow, bark, hiss, growl, howl, chirp, etc. Dogs that may be boarding in kennels often bark non-stop at high volume. Cats may meow loudly, hiss, and if they are scared or injured can scream with a volume that assaults your ears. Puppies post-surgery like to howl as a chorus. Animals in pain from injuries or suffering from diseases also make many different sounds.

Visual – Animals come in with a wide range of injuries: dog vs porcupine, dog vs dog, dog attacks cat, dog or cat vs car, etc. All of the injuries have different visual impacts on a vet tech and depending on many factors this visual stress can have little to no effect–or it can be traumatic.

Animals suffering from diseases present a huge range of visuals that can include: urine, feces, blood, pus, explosive diarrhea, bloody urine and stool, wound excretions, etc.

Parvo puppies, for example, can really hit hard emotionally.

Seeing clients exhibit fear, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, anger, and grief . . . can be very hard too.

Tactile – Animals communicate through their bodies in a lot of different ways: trembling, shaking, panting, wrapping paws around you, and more. Vet techs interact with animals closely and the close contact transfers whatever the animal is feeling to the tech. Scratches, bites, and bruises from being bumped while restraining animals happen too.

Olfactory (smell) – Urine, feces, anal gland fluid, blood, pus, explosive diarrhea, bloody urine and stool, wound excretions, etc. . . . all of these assault a vet tech’s nose to varying degrees. Some of these smells are difficult to wash off and may continue to have an effect on a tech even after they’ve showered, changed clothes, and are no longer at work.

Smells are powerful emotion and memory triggers. Family, friends, and romantic partners need to keep this in mind if their vet tech suddenly exhibits signs of stress when they are not at work.

5. Injuries: Scratches and Bites, and More – Vet techs have to deal with a variety of job-related injuries. A tech can hurt their back when lifting a heavy animal to be weighed, up and down from an exam table, or into and out of a kennel. When immobilizing an animal for a procedure, techs can get scratched or bitten.

Depending on the type of clinic or hospital a tech works in, and the quality of training and performance standards that doctors, managers, other vet techs, and support staff do in the day to day operations . . . vet techs may work in a facility where there are a low number of injuries because the work standards and safety protocols are followed and done well–but there is a flip side to that coin, and a tech may find themselves in an under-staffed, low quality of training and/or work standards clinic or hospital . . . and that’s when there is a higher prevalence of injuries.

Update: Please read the next post here, Top 10 Things Family, Friends, and Romantic Partners Need to Know About Vet Tech Work, Part 2.

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please check out my book, So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech.

Please leave a comment on this blog post, or any questions you might want to ask me. Also, you can reach me on my Facebookmy Twitter, and my Instagram.

KJW

How do you manage vet tech work stress?

Managing work related stress is maybe one of the biggest challenges vet techs have to deal with on a daily basis.

In this blog post I’ll share my top 10 tips for managing stress. They may seem obvious, but it’s very easy to forget to do these things when you’re tired/exhausted and stressed out.

Eat Healthy – The odds are that you’ll be working long shifts and a high number of hours per week as a vet tech. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of eating fast food and snacking on chips, chocolate, and all things delicious but high in processed sugars and chemicals.

What you eat has an enormous impact on your gut bacteria which many are now calling the ‘second brain.’ This video on YouTube gives a good but short explanation of how big a role gut bacteria has on how you perceive and process what happens at work. If you’ve eaten foods that cause inflammation in the body and brain, and that damage and lessen the positive influences that the gut bacteria possess–these damaged and diminished positive agents then result in the stresses you’re going through being amplified to a higher level.

Simply put, healthy food intake acts like a positive stress cognitive filter/defense whereas unhealthy food intake is a negative stress filter which distorts and elevates work stress.

Stretch Every Day – Our bodies absorb stress in ways we are not conscious of, but they have subtle yet powerful affects on our minds. Do a stretching routine every day to reduce and remove stress that has entered your body.

Think about what happens to your body when you are anxious or scared. The odds are that there will be at least one animal during a shift that triggers a fight or flight response in your body. Cats are especially good at doing this when they ‘go full screaming demon’ as I like to call it. You might be the Zen Buddha of vet techs when it comes to dealing with scared and angry animals, but it’s likely that some of that animal’s negative energy has entered your muscles to one degree or another. Stretching helps to alleviate and expel tension so that it has less influence on the mind.

If it’s possible, stretch pre-shift and post-shift. Stretching before a shift, even for just a couple of minutes, will help you as you lift and carry animals, immobilize animals for procedures, etc. Pre-shift stretching will give you a more positive frame of mind through which you’ll perceive the events of a shift.

There are free videos for Tai Chi, Yoga, and other styles of stretching routines on YouTube.

Exercise Every Day – The physical and mental health benefits of exercising every day are common knowledge. What isn’t common knowledge is how exercising every day will help you personally when you start working as a vet tech.

Whatever form of exercise you choose to do, make sure to do it at an intensity level where all you’re really thinking about is breathing and moving. Getting ‘out of your head’ and away from whatever happened during a shift is critical for good stress management.

There will be shifts when you have to assist in multiple euthanasias. Until you’ve experienced this, it’s impossible to understand how hard this is emotionally. There will be shifts where the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen dies horribly from Parvo. There will be shifts when you get scratched or bitten and the violent energy of the animal is imprinted in the wound as well as in your mind.

These are just some of the stresses that vet techs have to figure out how to process and deal with the stress. Exercise WILL help you.

Watch a Funny TV Show/Movie – Laughter is the best medicine. Yes, it’s a cliche–but it’s TRUE. There is scientific research about the health benefits of laughter. If you can’t list more than 2-3 of the benefits (there are many) I’d suggest reading the article link.

Write in a Journal – There are a lot of reasons why writing in a journal is good for managing stress. It gets your thoughts and feelings out of your head. It provides a history of events and how you perceived them at the time to look at later. This can be vital for assessing how you’re managing your stress levels. If you see a severe elevation in your writing entries about your stress levels you can take steps to manage the stress better, or, if necessary consider quitting to find a better work environment–or change careers.

I go into more detail about how to assess stress levels, questions to ask yourself before quitting or changing careers, and more in my book, So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech.

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Talk to a Friend – Talking to a friend who knows how to listen in a supportive and non-judgmental way, and who you know you can trust, can reduce stress immensely. Again, you might be saying this is an ‘obvious’ stress management tip–but when you’re exhausted and stressed out the first thing that disappears is thinking clearly; problem solving and memory function are also handicapped. Getting reminders about the range of things you can try doing to help reduce stress is necessary.

Make Quality of Sleep a Priority – The number of things a lack of sleep and/or poor quality sleep can affect is huge. Too many people ignore the fact that they’re sleep deprived. They drink massive amounts of coffee or take stimulants like green tea capsules or multi-stimulant herbal capsules to find the energy they need to get through shifts.

Google search “how to improve quality of sleep” and consider what changes you need to make to improve your sleep environment.

Going into a shift well rested means that anything and everything that might happen can be perceived and processed in a more positive way.

Create a Post-Shift De-Stress Routine – There are many different ways to do this, and I offer several examples in my book. You may already have de-stressing rituals you do, but if you’re new to vet tech work you might need to make some changes.

I’ve already mentioned some post-shift things in this blog entry like stretching, exercise, talking to a friend, writing in a journal . . . it’s important to think about as many de-stressing activities as possible because then you have a larger tool kit to draw from.

Also, consider having different routines for different types of post-shift stress levels.

My normal post-shift routine is the following: take a hot shower and stretch a little under the hot water when I get home, change out of my scrubs into comfortable clothes, talk to my husband about what happened during the shift, spend time with my fur-babies, eat something healthy, and watch something funny on TV or a movie.

But when a shift has been insanely stressful I have different routines to choose from depending on how I’m feeling. That’s why it’s a good idea to read about all of the different activities one can do to de-stress, and then figure out what works for you.

Use Light and Aroma Therapies – If you’ve never tried either of these categories of stress management therapy you should explore and experiment with them.

Different color light bulbs are an inexpensive purchase (important for vet techs!). If there is a specific color that you find soothing, consider changing out the bulbs in the room you want to relax in.

Candles can give you both a relaxing light and aroma therapy too.

Incense and essential oil diffusers may also be something to investigate if you’ve never tried them for managing stress levels.

Learn Your Personal Signs of Stress – Don’t Ignore Them

Lastly, many people don’t know how to measure their level of stress. It is very important to learn about different stress level tests. If you Google “stress assessment” or “stress test” you can find several different kinds.

You need to know your personal ‘yellow flag’ and ‘red flag’ stress signs and symptoms. Make sure you tell your close friends, relatives, and significant other what to watch for.

Also, communicate specifically what your needs and wants are when you’re displaying yellow or red flag stress behaviors so that you avoid people close to you trying to give you support in ways that might add to your already high stress situation.

Please leave a comment on this blog post, or any questions you might want to ask me. Also, you can reach me on my Facebookmy Twitter, and my Instagram.

KJW

Do you have to graduate from a four year vet tech university program to be a vet tech? Can you learn how to be a vet tech on the job?

These two questions are extremely controversial and volatile in the world of vet tech work.

The first question, Do you have to graduate from a four year vet tech university program to be a vet tech?, has no easy answers. I’ll try to explain why.

After addressing the first question, I’ll tackle the second, Can you learn how to be a vet tech on the job?, in the latter half of this blog post.

In an ideal world, federal and state laws would mandate vet techs graduate from four year university programs and then take and pass the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) in order to work as a vet tech.

The reality is that if this were law and policy the veterinary industry would suddenly be paralyzed due to the low numbers of people who are willing to enroll in four year vet tech programs, pay the tuition, undergo the four years of intense and grueling study and tests/exams, and take the national exam . . . and then be hired as a vet tech that likely starts at around $15/hr or lower depending on where they are and what kind of clinic or hospital they apply to work in. You can be hired at a wage higher than $15/hr, but I think that is not the norm based on what I’ve seen and heard on the Internet, and while looking at a lot of job ads.

The general public already complains about the costs of veterinary bills. In order to make vet tech work attractive to more people the industry would need to raise the pay scales to equal those of nurses that work with human patients. This would likely also result in veterinary doctors rightfully demanding their salaries become equal to doctors that work with human patients. The sudden spike in salaries for veterinary doctors and vet techs would raise veterinary medical service costs . . . and there would be probably be a dramatic plunge in the number of people visiting clinics and hospitals with their pets because they either cannot afford to pay the higher prices, or just outright refuse to . . . and the biggest fallout from all of this, in my opinion, would be the animals’ quality of life becoming much worse due to vaccinations being skipped, annual check-ups being neglected, etc.

I write more about this topic and related issues in my book, So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech.

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For people who are not sure if they want to make a career as a vet tech, who might not be able to afford the university tuition and costs of living while studying without going into debt with student loans, and other variables . . . they can get hired as kennel techs or veterinary assistants.

A “kennel tech” is someone who works in animal boarding facilities, rescue shelters, or veterinary clinics. Typically, they work with dogs and cats. Their primary tasks are cleaning and taking care of the animals’ non-medical needs.

A “veterinary assistant” is someone who works in a veterinary clinic or hospital and has no vet tech college/university education, no formal training of any kind in veterinary medicine, and is not licensed/certified/registered.

Someone who has not graduated from a four year program and passed the licensing exam may also be hired as an unlicensed “vet tech.” Technically, and legally, this person should not call themselves a “vet tech” because they are, by definition, a “veterinary assistant.” Some (many?) clinic and hospital managers and doctors will, however, tell these people to call themselves “vet techs.”

Vet techs who have graduated from the four year program and passed the licensing exam will ALWAYS use one of the following job titles:

RVT: Registered Vet Tech, LVT: Licensed Vet Tech, CVT: Certified Vet Tech, or a combination of registered/licensed/certified vet nurse.

A vet tech student enrolled in a four year training program will study intensively the following 10 areas:

1. Basic Animal Nursing Care, 2. Anesthesia training, 3. Biochemistry, 4.Vet Anatomy
and Physiology, 5. Animal Diseases, 6. Vet Pathology, 7. Pharmaceutical Training, 8. Surgical Nursing for Animals, 9. Clinic/Lab Work, and 10. Practicum (Hands-on experience working in a clinic).

If you go on YouTube there are vet tech student vlogs you can watch where students talk about how brutally hard the four year program is for them. The volume of information you have to memorize is enormous. Then you have to demonstrate that you can apply that knowledge on tests and exams. The stress is incredibly high for most if not all of the students who often say they had no idea the program would be so hard.

Contrast a vet tech who has successfully graduated from a four year vet tech training program with a vet tech who is starting from zero knowledge and will be learning on the job . . . there is no comparison to be made. They are completely different. It’s like trying to compare a NASA space shuttle with a propeller driven airplane. They are both capable of flying, but the performance abilities are radically different.

Can you learn how to be a vet tech on the job?

The answer to this question is yes, but the complexity of the answer demands that the question be re-framed in order to raise awareness about how different the learning is for someone who doesn’t do the four year university program.

Can you learn the basic skills and minimum amount of medical knowledge required to do vet tech work on the job? 

Yes. But there are significant differences that need to be mentioned.

Learning in an exam room from a veterinary doctor or senior vet tech while the client and patient are present can be very challenging.

Vet techs do many different jobs: 1. Nurse, 2. Lab Technician, 3. Pharmacy Technician, 4. Radiology Technician, 5. Dental Hygienist, 6. Surgical Technician, 7. Anesthetist, 8. Grief Counselor . . . and more.

For each of these jobs there are dozens of micro-skills you have to learn, practice, and try to master. You also have to try to learn the medical knowledge that is married to the different skills and procedures you need to do.

I talk about what it’s like to be a new vet tech, technically a vet assistant, in my book So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech. In the book, there are many pictures that show you what the different tasks look like in real life. I also go into detail about what it’s like learning on the job, and offer tips and strategies for managing the stress that comes with learning when it’s not in a classroom or laboratory setting with pre-study for the topic and task done in a textbook, listening to a lecture, and then practicing in a controlled setting without a client, doctor, and/or other vet techs present watching you as you try something new for the first time with little to no practice.

Of the two paths to becoming a vet tech, learning on the job has a very different set of challenges and stresses.

It is possible to do. Many have done it. I hope that this blog, and my book, will be useful to those that choose to take the learning on the job path.

Please leave a comment on this blog post, or any questions you might want to ask me. Also, you can reach me on my Facebookmy Twitter, and my Instagram.

KJW

What do you dislike or hate about vet tech work? Part 2

Before I get into part 2 of what I dislike or hate about vet tech work, you may want to read What do you dislike or hate about vet tech work? Part 1.

Here are the last five of my ten things I don’t like about vet tech work.

5. Getting Bit or Scratched

There is no avoiding getting bit and/or scratched.

You will get scratched by dogs, cats, and possibly other animals depending on the type of clinic or hospital you work in.

Cat bites are generally the worst. I got a bad cat bite that required multiple doctor visits, being given high dose antibiotic injections twice, and taking a long course of antibiotics orally. I wasn’t able to use my hand for two weeks, and after that only for light duties at work until the wounds healed almost six weeks after the bite. I write about what happened in detail in So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech.

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4. Low Salary/Wage for an Extremely Challenging Job

The image below is one I created for my book.

Vet Tech Pay Scales EDITED

Working as a vet tech should be a calling, something you feel compelled to do and think you’ll love doing. Otherwise, you can be hired at several fast food restaurant chains and your STARTING WAGE will be higher than what an uncertified and no experience vet tech gets paid.

It is mind-boggling that someone taking fast food orders as a clerk will make more per hour than a vet tech. The working conditions, degree of skill and knowledge, and stress levels are just three radically different things between the two types of jobs.

I write about this topic in some detail in my book. I also have suggestions on how to get raises, how to make your pay check and budget workable, etc.

3. Euthanasia and Emotional Stress/Trauma

The last three items on my top 10 list are not in a hierarchy. Each can be worse than the other depending on the day that you experience them.

That being said, euthanasia is . . . I struggle to find the words. It is heart-breaking. It will make you question everything. It will break you into a trillion little pieces. It will make you love your fur-babies at home more than you ever thought possible.

You have to learn how to manage your emotions and process grief. Those that can’t either quit the job, or become extremely burned out with compassion fatigue.

There is a wide range of different types of emotional stress and trauma that you will be exposed to in vet tech work. You will see animals that have been abused. Animals that have been attacked and badly injured. Animals brought in after being hit by a car. Animals that have eaten something poisonous. Animals that have terminal cancer or other deadly diseases like Parvo, Distemper, etc. Puppies and kittens that are sick, injured, and die . . .

Depending on your personality type, degree of maturity and life experience, the quality of your family and friends support network, etc. . . . there is no escaping the fact that vet tech work takes a toll on you, and changes you forever in ways that you cannot anticipate before they happen.

This is something everyone should be aware of before getting hired.

2. Ineffective or Incompetent Clinic/Hospital Leadership

Unfortunately, the veterinary medicine industry has its share of ineffective and incompetent leadership.

But unlike your typical office or retail job, the impact of bad leadership on vet techs is exacerbated by the nature of the job (see #3).

A lot of vet techs on social media post about how alone and frustrated they feel when they try to bring up issues and problems with their managers and/or doctors. They are left with nowhere and nobody to turn to for help.

In my book, I talk about how to assess if a clinic/hospital is a good place to work. I also have an assessment tool for figuring out if it’s time to quit your job and find a new one, or make the big decision to leave the vet tech field and change careers.

The average career of a vet tech is five years. Bad leadership issues are a major causal factor for that average, in my opinion.

1. Bad Vet Tech Co-Workers

The quality of your vet tech co-workers can make each shift a great experience–or a nightmare.

You need to know that the other tech helping you immobilize a cat that’s gone PSYCHO-DEMON will not give up and flee the exam room leaving you to be mauled by claws and teeth.

You need to know that the other techs will do their cleaning tasks well so that when it’s your turn to clean kennels or whatever the task may be, that the previous tech didn’t do a half-assed job which means your work will be harder and take longer to do.

It’s also important that techs work well as a team and don’t have anti-social personality traits and behaviors. The actual vet tech work is stressful enough as it is without having to deal with dysfunctional and toxic co-workers.

I go into more detail in So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech about this topic with stories and content addressing this topic.

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If you like this post, you may also want to read, What do you dislike or hate about vet tech work? Part 1.

And to help balance out the negative with the positive take a look at, What do you like about working as a vet tech?

Please leave a comment on this blog post, or any questions you might want to ask me. Also, you can reach me on my Facebookmy Twitter, and my Instagram.

KJW

What do you dislike or hate about vet tech work? Part 1

In every job, there are positives and negatives. In this post, What do you like about working as a vet tech?, I talked about the good things.

In this post, I’m going to talk about the things I dislike or hate about vet tech work.

If you have the time and energy, go to Twitter and search “vet tech.” You’ll find a never-ending stream of Tweets about the mild to nightmare and hellish aspects of vet tech work.

My top ten things I don’t like about vet tech work are . . .

10. Difficult Pet Owners

No matter how good your communication and customer service skills are, there will be difficult to manage clients. From complaints about the cost of medicines, vaccines, and medical procedures to bizarre questions about their pet’s health or something they read online that makes no medical sense (and can be highly entertaining, lol) . . . pet owners present a never ending stream of challenges.

In an exam room, a pet owner can transform an already anxious animal into a violent and terrified one when nervous energy is sensed by their pet. Learning how to communicate and manage an owner’s behavior in an exam room (and when to ask them to leave and go to the waiting room) can be quite hard.

Sometimes the pet owner will be shocked and in grief at the loss of their pet. There are many reasons and situations in which a seemingly healthy animal suddenly dies, and the owner comes back to get their fur-baby only to learn that they have passed. You, as the vet tech, may find yourself exposed to the raw anger and pain that shock and grief produce in some owners. It is a VERY difficult situation to manage.

I could write another 10,000 words about this topic, but these examples should give you an idea about what is possible.

9. How Veterinary Doctors Communicate and Interact with Techs

Veterinary doctors that you work for will often have been practicing for several years if not decades. They have a gigantic volume of medical as well as experiential knowledge. The untrained and uncertified vet tech is like a toddler trying to keep up with an Olympic sprinter.

The doctors can get frustrated and angry at techs when the clinic/hospital is busy. They may not remember what you have learned and expect that you are able to do something on demand and when needed. Depending on the personality, degree of burnout and compassion fatigue, and whatever other negative factors you want to consider in the doctor . . . these factors can result in the doctor negatively speaking and interacting with you. In other job environments, when a co-worker or superior treats you unprofessionally the assumption is you go to HR (Human Resources) and file a complaint, or talk to the next person up in the chain of command; this is often not the case for vet techs in clinics and hospitals.

If you surf social media, especially Twitter, you will see a lot of content about the abuses that vet techs experience, and the lack of a professional HR culture in some/many clinics and hospitals.

8. Noise Stress in a Clinic or Hospital

Animals that are anxious, scared, hurt, injured, sick, or post-surgery are NOISY. If you are at all sensitive to being exposed to loud noise for long periods of time vet tech work space will be stressful for you. If you are sensitive to animals vocalizing at high volume their unhappiness, stress, pain, etc., you will either adjust quickly or realize that vet tech work is not for you.

Some animals, specifically breeds of dogs, are just plain freaking non-stop loud. Blood hounds would be a great example of this. I speak from personal experience with a particular dog that would board regularly at my clinic. While I love this dog, she would bark and howl non-stop and spark up the other dogs in kennels around her to join in as well. If you’ve never been in close proximity to dogs that have insanely loud barking and howling . . . for HOURS at a time, you may not understand what this does to your ears, nervous system, and general state of mind.

If you become a vet tech, you will KNOW.

7. Disorganized Training on The Job & Unclear Expectations

If you didn’t go to a four year university vet tech program and then take the licensing exam, you’ll be learning everything about your job on the fly. This generally means you learn a new skill, info, procedure that presents itself in the moment. The odds are that nobody will keep a training diary of what you’ve been taught (and still need to learn). They will also likely not remember clearly when and what you have learned and to what degree you got to practice it, let alone master it.

Doctors and senior vet techs may not realize you haven’t been trained to do something, and if the clinic/hospital is busy and stress is high you may experience them being frustrated that you don’t know how to do something or are unable to do it well–even if that is not your fault.

You may also find that nobody tells you what expectations are for how you do the many different jobs a vet tech performs. They will tell you, though, when you fail to meet those unspoken expectations. This can be very stressful and frustrating and unfair. But you have to expect it because the odds are that how you are trained will be disorganized and without clear goals.

6. Long Shifts and Little to No Breaks

If you work a shift that is equal to or less than 7 hours in a busy clinic/hospital the odds are that you might/will not get a ‘real’ break time. Legally, if your shift is 7+ hours you should get a break–but again, depending on how many techs and doctors are working, the volume of appointments and walk-ins, it may not be POSSIBLE for you to take a break.

I go into detail about this issue and more in my book, So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech.

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You can read the rest of my top 10 list in my next post, What do you dislike or hate about vet tech work? Part 2

Please leave a comment on this blog post, or any questions you might want to ask me. Also, you can reach me on my Facebookmy Twitter, and my Instagram.

KJW

Do I have to go to college/university to become a vet tech? What qualifications do you need to have to get a vet tech job?

For the uninitiated, “Do I have to go to college/university to become a vet tech?” and “What qualifications do you need to have to get a vet tech job?”, might seem like innocuous questions . . .

These two questions are extremely controversial in the vet tech world.

There are four job titles you can use if you have graduated from a four year veterinary technician university program AND passed your state certification/licensing exam:

  1. CVT – Certified Veterinary Technician
  2. LVT – Licensed Veterinary Technician
  3. RVT – Registered Veterinary Technician
  4. CVN, LVN, or RVN – Certified/Licensed/Registered Veterinary Nurse

From what I’ve read online, each state usually has a law requiring you to label your job title as one of the following if you have NOT graduated from a four year university program and taken the certification exam:

  1. Veterinary Assistant

This is a person who works in a veterinary clinic or hospital and has no vet tech college/university education, no formal training of any kind in veterinary medicine, and is not licensed/certified/registered.

2. Kennel Technician

A person who works in animal boarding facilities, rescue shelters, or veterinary clinics. Typically, they work with dogs and cats. Their primary tasks are cleaning and taking care of the animals’ non-medical needs.

In my opinion, and based on what I’ve seen online during hours and hours of research for my book, So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech . . . about half or maybe even more of the people working as vet techs did not attend a four year university program and have not taken the licensing exam. In spite of this, clinic and hospital managers and veterinary doctors tell their employees that their job title is “vet tech.”

Is there a difference between what a certified/licensed/registered vet tech does and a non-certified didn’t go to university tech does? Yes–and–no.

In terms of veterinary medical knowledge someone who has done four GRUELING YEARS OF STUDY . . . there is NO comparing a licensed vet tech who graduated from a four year program and someone who is hired as a vet tech but has to start from nothing and learn on the job. Furthermore, that person will only learn what is absolutely vital to each task and procedure, and nothing more because there is not much time for the senior vet techs and doctors to teach you–unlike the person that went to a vet tech university program where they have four years to learn, and the space they are in is dedicated to learning.

If you look at Twitter, for example, it is immediately CRYSTAL CLEAR which vet techs have graduated from four year programs and taken the exam versus techs who have not. The primary reason for this is that anyone who goes through the four years of incredibly challenging education and then takes the exam will ALWAYS use one of the four job titles listed above.

Should veterinary clinics and hospitals only hire licensed/certified/registered techs? In an ideal world, yes, absolutely.

Should people who want to work as vet techs only do so if they follow the four year university and exam path to getting a job as a vet tech? Also, yes, in a perfect world.

Should states pass a law mandating anyone who wants to be a vet tech do the university program and exam? Yes.

The quality and standards of professional medical care for animals would dramatically rise immediately if this were the standard practice and policy.

BUT . . . this is a top-down issue. The veterinary medicine industry and state and federal government need to come together and reform the hiring standards and practices for vet techs.

How this might happen? Clinics and hospitals already struggle to convince clients that the costs for services are reasonable–if vet techs hiring standards were mandated by law that the person applying must have graduated from a four year university program and passed the licensing exam the average cost of a vet visit would rise dramatically.

The consequences of raising veterinary medical bills would have a very detrimental impact on animals’ health and quality of life across the country.

There would likely also be an immediate qualified vet tech staffing crisis across the country. As things stand now, clinics and hospitals have a hard time filling positions with UN-certified vet techs.

For myself, personally, given everything I know now about vet techs and how vital the role is that they play in an animal’s quality and standard of medical care . . . for my own fur-babies I will always want a certified and educated vet tech taking care of them. There are just too many risks that come into play with someone who is on-the-job trained to the bare minimum required.

There are no easy answers to this vet tech qualifications and hiring standards issue.

If you like the content on this blog, please consider taking a look at my book, So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech.

So You Wanna Be a Vet Tech cover screen shot (2)

If you have questions please feel free to leave a comment on this blog or visit my Facebook, my Twitter, and my Instagram.

KJW