A week of celebration for thousands of Veterinary Technicians across the nation. Known as the unsung heroes of the animal care industry, Vet Techs are honored every year for one week in October. The industry thanking them for their commitment to compassionate, high-quality Veterinary care for all animals. While the majority of Vet Techs are employed in private practices, many also work in specialty areas like military service and food safety inspection. It’s a growing industry that is seeing more and more employment opportunities. Here’s Franklin Morales…with more on how Vet Techs are critical to the day to day function of a veterinary practice.
AMBI: Sounds from the front office: pet owner talking to receptionists, dogs barking, typing from computer keyboards, Veterinary Technicians talking/organizing the day, and people moving in and out of the front office.
The day has just started at Northshore Animal League, but it’s far from being a slow morning. Many of them typing vigorously on their computers as the sound of dogs barking in the back pierces the morning quiet. The back door is continuously flying open from technicians walking back and forth. Many rushing to help with morning appointments. (Scooby nats) According to Alex Bab, this is not unusual and not as busy when compared to smaller practices.
So here we’re a very, very large clinic compared to most. So, for most Vet Techs in smaller practices, which I have worked in, you do everything. You are part of the surgery team, you are part of the pharmacy, you do everything in those kinds of places. Here were more compartmentalized because we have such a large staff.
Bab has been a licensed Veterinary Technician for one year, but he has nine years of experience in the animal care industry. He started as a security guard at Northshore and then decided to start working in the kennels. He was quickly promoted to Assistant Kennel Manager and then transitioned to Foster Care Manager. After working with many special needs animals in the foster program, he gained an interest in the medical side of the industry.
I actually left Northshore and moved upstate for two years. So, I got a job as a Vet Assistant because the foster care job is very specific to this place only, but I knew enough about veterinary stuff that they took me on, and I started doing my Tech licensing school online while I was living there.
The online course usually takes two years to complete, but for most people like Bab, who took the course while working, it takes three years to finish. Now as a Vet Tech in the Clinic department of Northshore, Bab says he does a little of everything. He typically works 40 hours a week and often finds himself working four ten-hour days. He considers himself lucky since hours can be longer for Vet techs in other departments.
My fiancée is also a tech and she’s scheduled for 40 hours a week, but she’s in an emergency department. And she is scheduled for 40 hours a week – she usually works 48 to 55.
Bab’s typical workday starts off with basic housekeeping. Checking the schedule, looking over the appointments for the day, making sure everyone’s prepared for what’s to come. Once the pets start arriving, the day quickly takes off.
Just like when you go to the doctor the technician which is the equivalent of the nurse – we take basic vitals like heart rate, temperature, and then we relay the information to the doctor, and we’ll help them as they need. On a typical day we will have 3 doctors working, so we just kind of bounce around helping each doctor as they need. It’s a lot of restraining, when the doctors need blood work very rarely does the Veterinarian draw the blood, it’s pretty much always us.
Despite the long hours for Bab working with animals is a labor of love, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. He says the hardest days are the ones where he has to end a patient’s life and the stress that comes with helping pet owners understand why it’s necessary.
Sometimes it’s a good thing, cuz at that point, it’s a mercy for the animal. But nobody, you know, enjoys that part of the job. The other thing is it can be difficult sometimes dealing with clients. A lot of people don’t realize that vet bills seem very high compared to what you might pay when you go to the doctor yourself. But that’s typically because you didn’t get any form of health insurance for your animal. So, if you had to go get an x-ray it’s going to cost you, maybe a hundred-dollar copay. Where it’s going to cost you at least twice that at any vet hospital because there is no insurance subsidizing what you’re paying. And a lot of people don’t understand that, and we get a lot of push back from clients, a lot of haggling over prices, and also a lot of accusations that we’re in it for the money.
Money can also be a hard part of the job. According to ZipRecruiter.com, veterinary technicians in the United States make an average of 31 thousand dollars a year. But for Bab, money isn’t what made him want the job.
I do x-rays on animals. You could be a radiology technician for humans and that’s the only thing you do. I have a thousand other things I’m responsible for every day. But a human x-ray tech makes drastically more money than I do. So, vet techs are absolutely not in it for the money. We could make a lot more in human medicine, we choose not to, because we like doing this.
One of Bab’s biggest pet peeves with his profession is the public’s misconception with what he does on a day to day basis. He says many people think his job is fun and stress free because he deals with animals. In reality, Bab says he often wears many hats. He can start as an animal restrainer, serve as a dog walker, act as a nurse, a pharmacist, and a grief counselor. Each day he risks getting bit and goes home covered in animal hair and animal body fluid. It isn’t a pretty sight.
I think people don’t understand that we do it all and we do it with multiple species. I have a cousin who’s a human nurse and sometimes we’ll be talking, and she’ll be telling me about a patient, “I just couldn’t hit his vein,” and she was getting very frustrated and I will laugh at her and say Karren your patient has no fur and he is not trying to bite you, I don’t feel bad for you for having a hard time hitting a vein.
The call to become a veterinary technician isn’t for everyone, but for those who have a deep appreciation and love for all animals and want to help them in their time of need… Bab recommends this…
Get yourself into a Vet clinic even if they don’t have a tech type job for you at the time. Even if you have to be a receptionist because the best way to learn this stuff is to just do it. I’m sure it is easier to go to a regular traditional school than what I did, but I was able to do it because I have the experience and just any opportunity that is given to you take it. When I wanted to come back here the only job they had for me at the time was a pharmacy technician, which I had no interest in doing, but I have much better pharmacology knowledge than I ever would have if I hadn’t done that – so any opportunity you can get to learn something new take it.
For Baruch College, this is Franklin Morales in New York.