The week of October 10th is National Veterinary Technician Week. Veterinary technicians are an important part of the medical support team at our hospital. We currently have three technicians on staff here at Blairstown Animal Hospital. They perform a wide variety of functions that help make the veterinarians’ jobs easier and improve the quality of care for the patients. They are in charge of placing intravenous catheters, performing anesthesia and dental cleanings, taking radiographs (X-rays), drawing blood and running bloodwork, evaluating cytology slides (looking under the microscope at samples), dispensing medications and monitoring our surgical and medical patients, to just name some of their responsibilities. As you can see, they act as nurses, dental hygienists, radiology and pharmacy technicians, and phlebotomists all at once.
All of our technicians are certified, or registered, which means they have attended a two-year program in a recognized veterinary technician school and have passed the state exam. It is a rigorous curriculum that includes courses in anatomy, pharmacology, anesthesia, microbiology, emergency/critical care, radiology and many others. Their training involves not only dogs and cats, but farm animals as well and they get plenty of hands-on experience. That all comes in handy when starting work at our busy practice. Having a capable technician means that the veterinarian can bring a pet into the hospital and hand over the diagnostic and treatment plan to her, knowing that shortly, the tests will be run and the treatments will be underway.
Here is an example of a typical surgical case and the technician’s role. Patients for surgery arrive in the morning. The doctors have rounds to discuss the cases for the day and to outline the details of the procedures. Many pets need to have bloodwork before surgery. The blood is drawn and run by the technician so it is ready to be reviewed by the surgeon. Once the schedule is set, the first pet is given a sedative. The dose is calculated and administered by the technician. When the patient is comfortable and relaxed, he is brought into our treatment area and prepped by the technician and an assistant. This involves giving an injection to have him sleeping deeply enough for an endotracheal tube to be inserted. Gas anesthesia is administered, the surgical site is clipped and given the first scrub. During this time, monitors are hooked up which will record respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and CO2 levels. The pet is then taken into the surgical suite where he is given the final scrub while the surgeon gets scrubbed and gloved. After surgery, the technician takes the pet back into the recovery area and continues monitoring until he is awake. If there are any complications, they are then able to alert the doctor right away. As you can see, the technicians are a vital part of the surgical team.
When I asked our technicians what their favorite classes were in school, I got a variety of answers, but the one at the top of each one’s list was the nursing care classes. That exemplifies the devotion they have in giving aid to the pets in their care.
If you would like to learn more about what veterinary technicians do, visit the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America’s website at www.navta.net. You can also see the bios of our technicians at the display in our waiting room. While you’re there, don’t forget to thank our technicians for all the great care they administer to your pets.