The third week of October is National Veterinary Technician Week. This is such a popular career field for pet lovers like us, so we thought we would bring it to light! There have been many past Holiday Barn Pet Resorts employees who have gone into the Veterinary field, whether it be a Veterinary, a Veterinary Technician, or Veterinary Assistant. The US News and World Report says the number of jobs for veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to surge between now and 2026. Vet techs are needed not only for treating animals in clinics and hospitals, but to work in public health, food and animal safety, and national disease control, or to work as an educator to others in the field.
To help us gather more information on this exciting career field, we talked to Nicole Caldwell of John Rolfe Animal Hospital. Nicole has been working in the Veterinary field for 20 years, having a variety of responsibilities. She started when she was 15 years old, working as a kennel assistant, learning how to properly restrain pets for exams and treatments. She then worked at Arlington Animal Hospital in Arlington, VA for 10 years. After graduating from Old Dominion University, she moved to Hawaii where she worked at Makai Animal Clinic, eventually becoming one of their surgical coordinators. During her last year in Hawaii, she is proud to have assisted in opening the very first Veterinary Referral Center for the state of Hawaii. She eventually moved to Richmond where, for the past 3 years, she has called John Rolfe Animal Hospital “home”.
A day in the life of a Vet Tech
We asked Nicole what a typical workday as a Veterinary Technician is like to which she replied, “I don’t think there is a typical work day, but there is ‘routine’”. When she arrives at work each morning, she takes care of all the hospitalized patients and boarding pets and sees what their needs are for that day. During the remainder of the morning she assists with routine exams and appointments. Throughout the lunch hour, she and the doctors begin surgeries for that day. Once surgeries are completed, she and her staff make sure of everyone’s post-operative care, then begin getting their discharge papers together along with any go-home medication. Towards the end of the day, appointments begin again along with lots of cleaning to make sure all aspects of the hospital are clean and organized for the next day’s patients.
What do Vet Techs Do?
A Veterinary Technician’s job encompasses many different responsibilities. Nicole works as the triage nurse when patients arrive, phlebotomist for blood draws, lab technician to run all in-hospital blood work, pharmacist when medications need to be filled, surgical rotating nurse when patients are in the operating room, post-operative technician when patients are coming out of surgery, and “educator” to clients when they may have questions related to their pets and their at home needs. Nicole says, “It makes some days really tough, but simultaneously, it is very rewarding.”
How to Become a Vet Tech
There are approximately 250 Veterinary Technician schools, colleges, and universities in the United States. Students can complete veterinary technology programs ranging from undergraduate certificates to bachelor’s degrees, although associate degrees are the most common. Only a few schools offer 4-year programs with Bachelor of Science degrees. Some offer online programs. As mentioned, we have had many employees get their start of working with animals at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts. Nicole suggests to anyone that wants to get started in this field is to begin by working in an Animal Hospital. You can learn quite a bit just by starting there. Then, apply to a Veterinary Technician program. One of her biggest recommendations is to have patience with oneself. Learning about this field takes time because medicine is ever changing. Doctors and Technicians alike are required to attend Continuing Educational Seminars each year to learn about new medications and equipment coming on the market. In these seminars they learn from other Veterinary Professionals who are sometimes specialized in a field of study and there to teach new methods of practicing medicine and/or providing care to patients.
In addition to education, a person desiring a career as a vet tech should, of course, be caring and compassionate, have strong organizational skills, be self-motivated, and very detail-oriented.
Nicole adds that one of the most enjoyable parts of her job is being able to make a difference for someone’s pet. She says, “Sometimes it’s through routine visits and vaccinations. But other times when critical care, surgery, or hospitalization is required, it is with that care I provide that brings me the most joy. It’s important to me because they are not just pets… they are beloved family members.”