Veterinary technicians are essentially veterinary nurses who hold many of the same responsibilities as their human nurse counterparts. They wear many hats and often work long, taxing hours. Put yourself in a veterinary technician’s shoes and get a glimpse of a typical day, which involves much more than snuggling puppies and kittens.
7 a.m. — You arrive at work and review the hospital patient board. There are two surgical procedures for the day—Bruce, a cat who needs a dental cleaning, and Lola, a small dog in for a spay surgery. Apparently, Bruce woke up on the wrong side of the bed and is particularly grumpy this morning, so to draw his pre-anesthetic blood and place an intravenous catheter, you and your assistant use protective restraining gloves to avoid his biting and scratching. You’ll need these again when it’s time to administer his sedation drugs. Lola needs a blood draw and a catheter, as well, but unlike angry Bruce, she greets you with tail wags and graciously allows you to perform your duties, even rewarding you with a few gentle licks. You head back over to Bruce, who is less than ecstatic about you approaching his kennel again. You and your assistant safely and quickly administer his intramuscular injection with the help of a towel for restraint, and protective gloves.
8 a.m. — You prepare for Bruce’s dental cleaning by gathering supplies for tracheal intubation, prepping the intravenous fluids, and ensuring all the monitoring equipment is in working order. Meanwhile, the veterinarian needs your assistance with examining the in-hospital patients. She asks you to order some medications and add them to the patients’ treatment sheets.
8:30 a.m. — You prep Bruce for his dental cleaning, successfully intubate him, begin anesthesia, and start his intravenous fluids. Your assistant monitors his vital parameters while you grab the ultrasonic scaler to begin cleaning the tartar from his teeth.
9 a.m. — You notice some areas of concern in Bruce’s mouth, including pocketing along the gums and loose teeth. You advise the veterinarian, who decides Bruce needs dental X-rays. After you clean all his tooth surfaces, your assistant continues monitoring him while you prepare the X-ray machine and software, and then successfully snap the necessary images. Bruce’s veterinarian determines that he needs a few dental extractions, and takes over the procedure while you assist with the remainder of the surgery.
9:45 a.m. — You give Bruce pain medications, as directed by his veterinarian, and gently wake him up from anesthesia. He recovers in his kennel while you administer Lola’s sedation medication and prepare for her spay surgery by obtaining a sterile gown and gloves for the veterinarian and caps and masks for you both. You head to the surgical suite to set up the instrument pack, suture, and other materials. Once Lola is adequately sedated and ready for surgery, you induce anesthesia while your assistant monitors her vitals. You shave her abdomen and aseptically prepare the skin with surgical scrub. Lola’s veterinarian enters and begins surgery while you take over her monitoring.
10:45 a.m. — You notice that Lola’s blood pressure and heart rate are slightly low. You notify her veterinarian, who determines that Lola needs atropine. You verify the dose and administer the medication, keeping the veterinarian informed of the changes you see in Lola’s parameters. The rest of Lola’s surgery is uncomplicated, and you successfully wake her from anesthesia when she is ready.
11:55 a.m. — After checking in on all your surgical patients and ensuring their vitals are within normal limits, you head to the time clock for your lunch break. You notice that the phones are ringing off the hook, and four lines are on hold. You decide to help out the front desk and take a few phone calls. You take a message for one of the veterinarians, schedule an afternoon appointment, and request a medication refill for a client.
12:10 p.m. — Time for lunch. You run to the post office to send your mom a birthday gift—which you meant to send last week—and quickly grab a sandwich on your way back to the clinic.
1:15 p.m. — You clock back in and head to the treatment area, where the veterinarians need assistance with patients dropped off for examinations. You check on your surgical patients and prepare their discharge paperwork, including post-operative care instructions.
2 p.m. — Afternoon appointments begin, and you spend the next couple of hours assisting with whatever patients need, including positioning for X-rays, drawing blood, restraining for nail trims, and anal gland expressions. Between appointments, you assist with medical notes, run fecal and urine tests, and grab the phone when you can.
4 p.m. — Afternoon treatments are underway. Bailey, the Labrador retriever had knee surgery two days ago and requires physical therapy exercises, while Onyx the cat needs his urine levels checked after a urinary blockage yesterday. Many pets in the boarding facility require medications, some of whom are quite finicky about being medicated orally. You know that Sassy will gobble up her thyroid pill if you hide it in some canned food, but Ryder will never fall for that trick. And, watch out for Quinn, who will try to dart out of the kennel the second you open the door.
5 p.m. — You send Lola and Bruce home after reviewing all their post-operative instructions with their owners, under the guidance of their veterinarian. Then, you sit down to log some laboratory results on the computer before finally heading home for the night.
Veterinary technicians typically attend a two-year technical program and obtain an associate’s degree, before facing rigorous board and licensing examinations. Four-year programs are also available for those interested in a bachelor’s degree. To comply with state licensing requirements, most veterinary technicians must also attend continuing education seminars throughout the year. For more information on AVMA-accredited veterinary technology programs, click here.
When was the last time your pet was taken care of by our wonderful technicians? Schedule your pet’s next wellness visit now.