My husband went to the emergency room last week. He was taken in while working for severe dehydration and possible heat stroke. The paramedics took his vitals and administered a bag of fluids and an anti-nausea injection. When he got to the hospital, he sat in a chair for about an hour until a “room becomes of available.” He sat in this chair behind the registration desk for almost an hour with no further monitoring from anyone – a nurse, doctor, or anyone. He naturally has high blood pressure, and his blood pressure upon arrival was 170/80, which is close to a hypertensive crisis. We finally went into a room, where an RN took his medical history and listened to his heart, but that was it. About 45 minutes later, the doctor finally arrived. Twenty minutes or so later, the RN came back for labwork and to run a second bag of fluids. About another hour later toward the end of the second bag of fluids, the doctor came back in to say his labwork looked great, and that she did believe he was just severely dehydrated with a possible heat stroke. The RN then took his vitals again, and we left.
During this experience, I noticed 2 main things that bothered me. 1) You are surprisingly very alone in a hospital. We even rang the call button once, and it took someone 5-10 minutes to come to the room. 2) Communication is almost nonexistent. The RN started disconnecting his fluid line and getting blood without even saying a word. She didn’t say how long the labwork would take to get back until I asked
Disclaimer: I understand that veterinary technicians are different from human nurses, and I understand there is a huge difference between veterinary medicine and human medicine. This is is based off my experiences and observations.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely understand human medicine and human hospitals function very differently than veterinary hospitals. I understand there are so many more rules, regulations, and laws to follow. I understand they are governed by insurance companiess and big pharma and lawyers, unlike veterinary hospitals. I truthfully don’t mind the wait time. I understand how triage works, so I am happy to wait while other people more critical are being cared for. I understand that in the grand scheme of things, severe dehydration is not that big of a deal or a life-or-death situation. But still, my husband was sick, and all of the staff is employed to care for the patients – I mean, that’s their job.
This probably irks me more than most, because even though I haven’t worked in a veterinary hospital setting in some time, I am still through and through a veterinary technician. That was my first real adult job, and it really did shape the way I approach medicine in general. Being a veterinary technician is an incredibly hard and demanding job, and no, we don’t play with puppies and kittens all day. Being overworked, understaffed, underpaid, underappreciated and yelled at on a weekly (if not daily) basis is pretty much par for the course. In case you aren’t sure what exactly entails being a veterinary techinican, keep on reading because I have some interesting facts for you.
7 Facts about Veterinary Technicians
1.) As a veterinary technician, our job is to ensure your animal does not feel alone.
We understand animals get freaked out by the weird smells and sights at a veterinary hospital, so we check on them constantly to make sure they are doing okay. If I have a spare minute and your pet is friendly? Then yeah for sure, cuddles will happen.
2.) Anytime you drop your pet off for the day, I can assure you that your veterinary technician is setting a timer to make sure that she checks on your pet frequently, and she is likely taking vitals at least 3x during their stay.
If your pet is there for surgery, his vitals are being checked constantly.
3.) Your veterinary techinician is truly looking out for your pet and acting in their best interest.
If you have an experienced veterinary technician, they are well versed in common illnesses and injury and corresponding treatments. Your veterinarian and veterinary techinician truly make up a team often bouncing ideas off of each other. Your veterinary technician is the one that has eyes on your pet more often than not, so if they notice your pet seems painful or in worse condition, they immediately ask the veterinarian about further treatment.
4.) Our communication skills are top notch.
Disclaimer: I know, everyone’s communication skills differ, and typically that is a skill that every single soul on this planet can always improve upon. For the most part, we are good at communicating with other staff and with clients. When performing procedures in the room with a client, we talk you through the procedure before taking action, so that you understand what is happening. This also provides you the opportunity to speak up to let us know if your pet has some sort of special need – for example, let us know if they prefer their blood being drawn from a back leg versus a front leg. I usually also tell clients exactly what tests we’re performing, but if I forget and a client asks, I am more than happy to explain it.
5.) We’ve all gotten in this field because we truly love animals and want to help them.
We all have animals at home. We all try to treat our patients and clients as if it was us in that situation. I do my best to provide great customer service, because that is how I want to be treated when I take my own dog to the vet. If I say I don’t have the answer but promise to get it and call you back, you can expect a phone call usually within an hour or two. If you would prefer to wait in the car or an exam room instead of the lobby, I will do my best to accomodate you so both you and your pet are more comfortable and relaxed. If you are a “frequent flyer” because your pet is seriously sick, I’ll call just to check up and see how your pet is doing.
6.) Your veterinary techinician is performing the job of many. Your veterinary technician acts as a: nurse, phlebotomist, pharmacist, anesthesiologist, x-ray technician, dental hygeniest, and janitor. And, I’m sure you already know this, but in case you don’t, in many states, veterinary technicians barely get paid over minimum wage for all of this.
Veterinary technicians can attend a two year school program to become a credentialed veterinary technician; however, school typically costs anywhere from $5,000 – $18,000, and in some states, it still only results in a minimal pay raise.
7.) The veterinary industry is brutal, and veterinarians have the highest suicide rate of any professional occupation.
We often work long days and almost never leave work on time. We see sadness and death on a daily basis. When you couple this with angry, yelling clients, it can really be rough. In my opinion, there also seems to be more drama and bullying in a typical veterinary hospital than in most normal workplaces.
So next time you take your dog to the vet, please be patient and kind. Please understand that yes – we cannot dispense ear medications from 2 years ago if your dog has not been in since for a physical exam even though he is shaking his head. Please understand that we too have regulations we must follow; they’re just different than human medicine. Please understand that yes – we do need to do biannual bloodwork if your pet is on a longterm medication such as an NSAID or thyroid medication; your pet cannot speak, and we have no other way to make sure that his internal organs are functioning properly. Please understand that we are doing our best to do 20830329 tasks at the same time while upholding quality care so that your pet, and everyone else’s, can all be cared for.
If you have an awesome veterinary hospital and team, please please please thank them. A simple “thanks so much for everything you do!” DOES go a long way.
It can be so hard to find a good vet, especially for a reactive dog. Tell me in the comments – how did you find your current vet? What are some things they do that you love?