Often have clients ask us about what it is really like to be a veterinary technician. They may have a friend or family member interested in a career caring for animals. Isn’t it great to spend the day with animals? Is there a lot of training involved? How hard is it? Olivia is one of our dedicated veterinary technicians and she was happy to answer all of these questions for us and give us a glimpse into a day walking in her shoes.
How did you decide to become a vet tech?
I have always known that I wanted to take care of animals since I was very young. My first pet was an Abyssianian who loved to be pampered and pet. She was very patient with me when I got my first dress-up doctor kit and I would pretend to heal her make believe cuts and scrapes with these bright pink bandaids. I knew back then that this would be my career.
How hard was it to apply and get into tech school?
I went to Mount Ida for my degree in veterinary technology. The application to get into just the school itself was not very difficult, but completion of qualifications for the vet tech program were much more challenging, requiring passing multiple placement tests with excellent scores. Then, gaining acceptance to the program was still not a guarantee, as I had to compete with many qualified applicants for very few spots. I studied hard and was over the moon when I found out that I got in.
How long did it take to become a certified veterinary technician?
It took me four years to get my bachelors degree in Veterinary Technology. I was an active student so I was a Resident Assistant as well as I had two other jobs on campus, one being a Kennel Manager, so whatever time I had leftover was dedicated to studying for my degree. Most weeks between classes, homework and studying I spent about 100-110 hours during my years in school. After that I had to spend 130 hours each at six internships in hospitals to complete the program. I studied for countless hours before I sat for my VTNE, or Veterinary Technician National Exam, a grueling 3 hour test. With my Mt. Ida veterinary technology degree and passing score on the VTNE, I was able to become credentialed as a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) in Massachusetts.
How do you keep your certification?
To maintain my certification I need to complete at least 12 hours of continuing education yearly. This involves more classes and studying to be sure I stay on top of everything in my field that I need to know.
Do you have student loans?
Yup. Like most college students, I did have to borrow money to cover tuition and now I am paying it back. Luckily, my payments are not as high as many graduating technicians, because I qualified for some scholarship money, but it is still a considerable portion of my paycheck.
What is your daily schedule like?
I’m up at 5AM to care for my own pets and plants. After everyone is taken care of I head off to work, arriving by 7am or even earlier, depending what types of cases I need to prepare for. Usually my first duties involve admission of patients to the hospital for surgery. Working with a doctor, we perform exams and collect vitals and come up with a plan for anesthetic drugs. Technicians need to know a lot about drugs and anesthesia to come up with the safest anesthesia for each pet. The morning is then full of placing catheters, administering and monitoring anesthesia, recovering patients from surgery and managing them post-operatively.
We always try to leave a little time in the day to make sure everyone gets a chance to eat something, but often it is only a moment for a quick bite to eat before a transition to helping with appointments. Appointments involve a lot of talking to pet owners about heath and preventive care topics, collecting and sorting through medical information, obtaining blood, urine and fecal samples and performing less-than-fun procedures, like expressing anal glands. Some dogs are exuberant for their visit, jumping and playful. It’s fun to see their excitement at our attention, but the bigger dogs can leave us a bit roughed up. Some pets are more frightened and timid, but my team takes pride in their ability to use calming tactics to reduce their fear and anxiety, but still, there is always the risk of a scratch or bite.
My day normally ends no earlier than 8PM when I get to go home, exhausted, a bit bruised and scratched, but feeling fulfilled, and ready to snuggle with my own pets. This may all sound like a lot but vet techs do not make anywhere near as much money as Registered Nurses in the human field. Like most vet techs, I also have a side job pet sitting, which helps make ends meet. I care for geriatric dogs in their homes to help maintain their normal daily routines while their owners are away to help decrease their stress and anxiety.
If you were not a Veterinary Technician, what would you choose for a job?
This is not just a job, or even just a career. This is a calling for me. There has never been anything else I have ever wanted to do. When I was applying to colleges I only applied to the two colleges in Massachusetts that had Vet Tech programs, knowing that I would accept nothing else. My mother was so worried that if I did not get into one of these competitive programs I would not get a college education. She pleaded with me repeatedly to apply to other programs in case I was not accepted. I did not apply for a plan B because there is nothing else I would want to do. Being a veterinary technician is everything to me.