The Hardest Part of Being a Vet Tech

When I was in tech school, on one of the very first days, a professor said to us, “If you’re doing this because you love animals more than people and you think you’re not going to have to deal with people, get out now.”

Holding onto every leash is an owner.
Holding every carrier is an owner.

The owners are the hardest part of my job.

hardest part

I am totally a people person. I have no problems starting conversations and am the type of person who can walk up to basically anyone and make small talk. When I started in this field, I never thought I was going to be one of the people that had problems communicating. Then I quickly realized that my clients were going to be one of the hardest parts of my job.

Emotions run high for pet owners when they’re in the clinic. They’re often scared, angry, or confused as to whats going on with their animal. It’s very difficult to communicate with owners when they’re emotions are getting the best of them. I have had circumstances where the owner was so afraid, over what was basically nothing, but it’s impossible to tell them that. It’s very hard to get someone to calm down when they’ve worked themselves up so far.

Then there are the situations where the owners fears are valid. There is absolutely no easy way to go tell an owner that their pet has a serious illness/injury and there’s a good chance they make not make it through. Or worse, they haven’t made it. 

Adding the financial aspect of the situation makes it even worse. It’s often my job to let the owners know what treatment is going to cost. It can be heartbreaking to give an owner a number that is out of their reach and watch them have to make the decision of euthanizing because they can’t afford treatment. This is often where anger some into play. It’s so hard to convey to them that you’re sympathetic, you really do care about their pet, but you can’t do treatment for free.

Lastly, we have the education part of my job. I take pride in the fact that I’m making these animals lives better because I’m educating their owners on how to properly take care of them. It can be a lot of information and sometimes it’s hard to get it all across without confusing the owner or having them shut me out because I’ve lost their attention. There are the clients who will do everything we recommend and then there are the clients who want the bare minimum. I try to be grateful that those clients even cared enough to bring their pet in but it can be hard to watch them walk out the door knowing I could do more for them.

I could go on for days on reasons why it’s hard to deal with clients but to sum it up… 

  • Emotions run high and it’s hard to communicate with them.
  • Sometimes they care more than words can describe and I have to give them bad news.
  • Sometimes they don’t care enough and there’s nothing I can do to make them.
  • Financial restraints get in the way of treatment.
  • Letting them know that treatments aren’t working despite all the money in the world.
  • Helping them to understand what is wrong or what they need to do.
  • Trying to educate them on the best way to care for their pet but having them not listen or just not caring.
  • Trying to give them comfort in the wake of tragedy

So regardless of all the sadness I see, the euthanasia, the injuries, and the unexpected illnesses… Communicating with the clients is still the hardest part of my job.

Men in The Veterinary Technician Field

Men In Vet Tech FieldMy blog comes up quite a bit in search engines when people are exploring the possibility of taking on a career as a veterinary technician. I have actually gotten several emails asking me what it’s like to be a man and working in what is sometimes considered a female dominated field. I usually just reply with “I have no idea since I’m not a man,” but since I have access to a lot of them I decided to go ahead and get some more information for this question!

I have personally worked with a few male technicians. Some experiences were positive and some were negative. It really didn’t matter their gender but their personality. I could have had the same good or bad experiences with a female. A lot of my interaction with male vet techs comes from a Facebook group compiled of over 5,000 technicians. That is where I was able to gather the following information.

Question: What are any advantages you think a male has being a vet tech over a female? 

Answers:

  • Well for the most part, we’re less emotional. Clear heads equal more focused work. Being stronger than most (keyword…most) females allows a male to be the go-to person employee for restraint or dealing with aggressive animals. Some clients respond differently to males versus females; there are some situations with clients that I have noticed I will get different information or a different response from a client compared to a female.
  • More Strength.
  • Body Strength.
  • lifting heavy pets/objects, fixing stuff around clinic, break up drama from feuding coworkers, different perspective on situations, can actually help stand out from crowd when applying for job

I will go ahead and agree 100% with the strength. This job has you lifting VERY heavy animals and while you’re never supposed to do it alone a male (or very strong female) might be able to.

Question: What are any disadvantages you think a male has being a vet tech over a female?

Answers:

  • More animals fear men as opposed to women.
  • Clients tend to open up to women technicians more than men.
  • Because of the strength I have, I tend to get more of the dangerous jobs.
  • I’ve had clients say that their pet is afraid of men. Most of the time once the pet is away from the owner, they’re fine.

I think that it can be true that a lot of pets are more fearful of men that women. A lot of it has to do with the tone of voice (being deeper) and their sheer size. I worked with a very tall and generally big guy a year or so ago. He was bit more than anyone there because sometimes just the site of him reaching into the cage caused the animals to attack. I’m sure a lot of them could have been prevented but that is what happened.

Question: Do you ever feel uncomfortable working in a mainly female “filled” work environment?

Answers:

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • Definitely takes some getting used to working with mostly women. You learn a lot. For good and for bad. But its extremely rewarding and most women respect the job that you do.

I guess this answer really depends on who you are as a person but most of the men that answered my questionnaire said no.

Question: If you attended vet tech school was there any animosity towards you while attending the program? 

Answers:

  • I was the only male in a program with 50 women every single one of them was amazing in their own way and everyone interacted with me as if I was one if the girls because I acted like a gentleman and was professional I felt like I had 50 little sisters! A great two years.
  • No there wasn’t. It was just easy to remember my name.
  • Nope, none.

So guys! If you’re thinking about attending school this doesn’t seem to be a topic that you have to worry about.

Question: Is there any additional pressure that you feel men have being a vet tech that women don’t have? 

Answers:

  • Maybe being presumed to not not have as much compassion towards patients.
  • No, some may feel that there is some type of a stigma towards men in the veterinary field, but I’ve never felt it. Most people will ask how much you enjoy it, and everyone respects what you do. At the end of the day as long as you are doing your job to the best of your ability and in the best interest of the patient’s, there is no pressure to worry about.
  • I think there is a certain amount of pressure for a man in a mainly female world.

The entire concept of men not being able to care about the animals as much because they are a man is just ridiculous to me. I’m sure guys have to deal with this as far as clients go from time to time, or even coworkers, but at least THEY know how THEY feel.

Question: Anything else to add?

Answers:

  • I am currently the only male Vet Tech in our local animal hospital, and I don’t regret a thing!
  • I work in a clinic where the majority of the techs are male. Only our receptionists are female.
  • If a guy wants to join this career I say go for it! But you have to treat the females with respect you can’t think of school or work as a place to flirt!

So, if you’re a dude and reading this… GO FOR IT! 🙂 If you have your heart set on it… You won’t be the first or the last man to enter this field.

 

 

What It’s Really Like Working as a Vet Tech

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I always get a lot of people coming to me asking what it’s like working with animals and being a vet tech. Working with animals is one of the most desirable careers out there but also one of the most stressful. The “burnout” rate is extremely high. I personally know several vet techs who have left the field to go into human medicine or something else completely different. I can understand why and that’s what I want to share with you.  I absolutely am in love my career choice and couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. With that being said I can 100% understand how it becomes so overwhelming.
Here are MY main points on why this career path might be quite bumpy at times. These are my opinions and other technicians may have different views on the situations mentioned below.
  • I made the choice to go to school to become a vet tech and become licensed. Schooling is not a requirement to hold this job title. The schooling is an extremely demanding 2 year program. I literally had no life other than work & classes for a long time. It was worth it to me to gain the knowledge to background being the best vet tech that I could. While on the job training and experience is important, to me, I wouldn’t gain the knowledge that I wanted on the job. Now that I am an LVT, it gets a little stressful knowing that people didn’t go though what I did and are perceived the same.
  • As a veterinary technician you’re not only just a general “nurse.”  If you were going to compare it to human medicine you’re also a dental technician, radiology technician, surgery technician, anesthesia technician, ect.
  • You don’t only have to have an understanding of one species anatomy. You must know at least dogs and cats. Many practices also see reptiles, birds, rabbits, sheep, goats, horses, ect. If you’re working with any of these other species you must have a basic understanding of them and be able to properly restrain, draw blood, and preform treatments.
  • The pay. Oh the pay. If you’re planning on having fancy cars, a designer wardrobe, and a huge house. Think again. In general, most employees in veterinary medicine are what I consider, “underpaid.” It’s a lot of work for not a lot of monetary reward.
  • I have chosen to work in emergency medicine because it works for my family. The hours can get ridiculous. Just because you’re supposed to get off at a certain time does not mean it’s going to happen. This is the same in regular day practice. You can’t predict how busy it might be so staying longer hours is very common.
  • Euthanasia is part of the job. Yes, it’s very sad. One of the most common questions I get is “how do you deal with putting animals to sleep?” Honestly, it gets easier with time. I view it as we’re ending the pain and suffering and in the end helping that patient. I have morals and would never work for a doctor who euthanized for any other reason than it was medically in the best interest of the patient.
  • The job is dirty and gross. You get FILTHY. Here’s my example; a few months ago I was driving home and I smelled poop. I looked everywhere. I couldn’t find it. I got home, took of my scrubs, went to brush my teeth and BAM. There was diarrhea streaked through my hair. Lets just say I don’t make plans to go out right after work.
  • If you think you want to get into veterinary medicine because you really don’t enjoy people… THINK AGAIN. Behind every patient is an owner. The clients can be very difficult and demanding. I think of it as their pets are their babies; of course they’re going to be worried. On the other end of that you get the clients that don’t seem care at all and you’re amazed that they even brought the pet in at all. You have to keep your opinions to yourself and do your best with the doctor treating that patient. Owners, in general, are ignorant to a lot of things that pets medically need. My job is to inform them.
With all that being said I still love my career field. It’s one of the most rewarding things to look back and think about all the patients that I’ve first hand had a part in saving.