Veterinary technicians play a vital role in the success of every veterinary practice—we would be lost without them. That’s why we are so happy to lavish our technicians with love and appreciation—and treats—next month when we celebrate National Veterinary Technician Week.
There is no better way to educate readers about the veterinary technician profession than to expose you to a typical day in the life of this valuable team member. Put your running shoes on—you will need them to keep up with this schedule.
5:00 a.m. — Up and at ’em! If I’m going to make it to work on time, I’d better get a move on. I make a quick breakfast smoothie while I take care of my own four-legged family members. I’ve accumulated quite a motley crew in my five years as a registered veterinary technician, and, in true veterinary staff fashion, they’ve almost all got some issues.
5:29 a.m. — I shove two pairs of scrubs, a granola bar, and a frozen dinner into my bag and head to the gym. I really don’t feel like going to the gym this early, but I know I’ll be too tired after work. Carpe diem and all …
6:45 a.m. — My workout is done, I’m showered and dressed in scrubs, and I’m officially ready for my work day.
Get set …
7:00 a.m. — We open at 8, so I have an hour to dedicate to in-house patients before the doors open. We have a couple of patients who spent the night, so I start with their morning treatments. They both need their vital signs recorded, so I get a heart rate, respiration rate, and rectal temperature with the help of a veterinary assistant. They both look great, so I ask the assistant to feed them while I update their medical records and take a look at the day’s schedule.
7:15 a.m. — In addition to regularly scheduled appointments, we have several surgeries on the books today. I ensure the surgical suite is clean and ready for surgery, and I get the pre-operative area ready to receive the first patient. Once the surgical candidates arrive, my job is to draw blood for their pre-anesthetic bloodwork, set their IV catheters, and calculate their IV fluid rate. Once the surgeon gives me the go ahead, I’ll administer medications to relax the patient before surgery and then, once the surgeon is ready, I’ll administer injectable anesthesia, place the endotracheal (i.e., breathing) tube for the administration of gas anesthesia, and prepare the operative site for surgery. Finally, I’ll move the patient to the surgical suite and let the surgeon know we’re ready to roll.
8:00 a.m. — Our first surgery, a routine neuter on a young, male golden retriever named Jake, is on the table. While the neuter is taking place, I ensure that Jake is doing well by keeping an eye on his vital signs and ensuring he’s under a good plane of anesthesia.
8:15 a.m. — Jake’s procedure was uncomplicated. I move him to the recovery area, and sit with him until I can safely pull his endotracheal tube. I give him a pat and a smooch, and I’m off to prepare the next surgical patient.
Keep going …
12 p.m. — The surgeries are done for the day, but I’ve got some paperwork to catch up on. Every time I use a controlled drug it has to be logged, so I throw my frozen dinner in the microwave, and gather my notes and the log book. When I’m finished, I grab my lunch from the microwave and sit at one of the computers to double check the medical records of all of the surgical patients to ensure I have entered all my notes.
12:30 p.m. — I don’t want to say the “Q” word, but for now the hospital is calm. I help the veterinary assistant clean and sanitize the surgical suite, and all the surgical tools used in surgery. We wrap the surgical packs and gowns and load them into the autoclave so they are sterile for tomorrow’s surgeries.
And going …
1:00 p.m. — The afternoon appointments start arriving, so I help the veterinarian with those. I get vital signs from patients as they arrive, and I fill in the vet on the medical history that the owner gave me before we head to the exam room. If I need to collect samples for diagnostics, such as blood for a heartworm test, feces for a parasite test, or urine for a urinalysis, I’ll go ahead with that so I can start on the lab work.
Several afternoon appointments are technician appointments. I trim a cat’s toenails, administer puppy boosters to an adorable pit bull puppy, and draw blood to check a patient’s thyroid level.
4:00 p.m. — Afternoon appointments are still rolling, but owners are showing up to pick up the pets they left for surgery. I double check that the records are complete, and that the surgeon has had time to finish writing the discharge instructions. I notice that one patient’s pain medications have not been filled, so I get that ready according to the surgeon’s prescription. For the rest of my shift, I’ll be discharging surgical patients. It’s important that owners know exactly what to expect during the post-operative period, and that they know when and how to give their pet’s post-operative medications.
And still going …
5:45 p.m. — My shift was supposed to end at 5, but at 4:55, an emergency showed up. Joe, a 3-year-old male cat, was in and out of the litter box and crying, so his owner—thankfully— brought him in, because Joe had a life-threatening urinary obstruction, and needed to be anesthetized so that he could be catheterized to clear the obstruction.
6:00 p.m. — Once Joe was stable, I clocked out and drove home to feed my own beasts—and myself. After dinner, I call one of my best friends from tech school to debrief her about my day. This is a stressful job, and it helps us both to chat about our successes and our defeats. It also doesn’t hurt to reminisce about the two fun years we spent together at the community college where we got our training. Those were the days!
And now, finally, to bed
9:00 p.m. — My step counter registered 10,000 steps by 4 p.m., so I am definitely ready for bed. I tuck my beloved pets in for the night, set the alarm for 5, and hope to fall asleep—more often than not, I lie awake worrying about my patients. But, today was a good day, so I think I should sleep all night, with fingers crossed for tomorrow.