Want to be a TECHspert? Check out VetTechXpert’s Top 5 Tips
When I was a baby-tech, my first year in VT school, my Program Director talked about the difference between a $7 per hour tech and a $20 per hour tech. He said the $20 per hour tech took a thorough history, and listened outside the door as the vet talked to the client, then gathered everything that the vet might need so when the vet came out of the exam room, the $20 tech would be standing there with the syringes and tubes ready for the blood tests, slides for the FNA of the mass on the patient’s flank, and the x-ray machine set up and ready to go. His point was that you make yourself more valuable to your vet (and the rest of your team) if you can anticipate what’s going to be needed and have it ready. This skill makes you the do-to tech at your practice, the one that the vet and other staff members can rely on. Anticipation means putting on your critical thinking cap and synthesizing the data you collected during your history with what you overhear through the exam room door, and implement the hospital’s protocols to meet your vet’s needs, the client’s needs, and provide the best care for the patient.
Think outside of the (check)box
Working in the ICU, each patient has a list of treatments that must be completed, usually on an hourly basis, or every two hours. It is so easy to look at the list of treatments that need to be completed and use it as a checklist – go down the list, do the task, check the box. If you want to be a TECHspert, I encourage you to go beyond the checklist!
- Think about what medications you are administering, and what the patient may already be receiving: are there interactions you need to worry about? Are there side effects you should be looking for? Do you know why you’re giving this medication? Do you know what effect is expected?
- Think about your patient’s disease process: are there treatment items that you could suggest that might improve the patient’s care? Do you know the pathophysiology of the disease you’re treating? Who could you ask or where could you go for more information?
- Does it make sense to do these treatments at this time? Are there treatments that could be grouped to allow your patient time to sleep and recover? Are there medications or treatments that need to be separated?
- Is your patient clean and comfy? Is their bedding clean and dry? Often this requires more than just a visual check, especially with cats! Reach under and feel that towel or fleece pad! Is your patient interested in some TLC? Do they have food? Are they supposed to (LOL)?
Advocate for your patients
Our patients don’t speak English, or any human language for that matter! It is up to us to translate their body language, their vocalizations, and their behavior to determine their needs. It is often said that the veterinary technician is the eyes and ears of the veterinarian (I would add the nose, too). As such, it is up to us to speak on their behalf to make sure that patients receive the care they need and deserve. Sometimes it’s more pain meds. Sometimes it’s customizing an anesthetic plan to make sure a pet has a smooth and safe surgical procedure. Sometimes it’s making sure there are feeding instructions on the treatment plan from the vet. Sometimes it’s talking through a Quality of Life scale with a carer. Whatever it may be, any TECHspert is first and foremost an advocate for their patients.
Commit yourself to lifelong learning
It is part of the Veterinary Technician’s Oath. It is part of the NAVTA Veterinary Technician Code of Ethics. And if you want to be a TECHspert, you must fully commit yourself to staying on top of innovations and new knowledge in our field. Science and medicine is ever evolving and changing. In order to be the best advocate, to anticipate our veterinarian’s needs, and to be able to provide gold-standard care to our patients, it is incumbent on each of us to keep up with those changes and with veterinary medicine’s evolution. How do you do it? Read veterinary journals like Clinician’s Brief, Veterinary Team Brief, or scientific journals like the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care or the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Take a class through VSPN or VetMedTeam. And attend continuing education classes and conferences: this is a place not only to learn new things from amazing veterinary professionals, but to network with other TECHsperts too!
Train your replacement – be a mentor!!
Remember that none of us will be doing this forever! Those of who achieve TECHspert levels of knowledge and skills owe it to the profession to pass them along to the next generation of technicians. One of the best ways to do this is to be a mentor for new technicians and assistants. Being a mentor may reinvigorate your passion for this career, while you're sparking that passion in a newly minted technician.
With these tips, you are guaranteed to become the next TECHspert – good luck!
Guest author: Liz Hughston, BA, MEd., RVT, CVT, VTS (SAIM, ECC)
After having a career in professional administration, Liz returned to her first love – veterinary medicine – graduating from the Foothill College Veterinary Technology Program and becoming registered in California as an RVT in 2006. In 2012, Liz was certified as a VTS in both Small Animal Internal Medicine and Emergency and Critical Care. She is currently working as a relief technician and consultant for specialty, emergency, and general practices in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to relief work and consulting, Liz is a frequent and sought-after national and international speaker on a variety of topics. She is a member of CaRVTA, NAVTA, AIMVT/ACVIM,
AVECCT/VECCS, IVAPM, and IAAHPC. In 2013, she received the inaugural RVT of the Year Award, presented by CaRVTA. Liz currently lives in San Jose with her husband, three spoiled dogs, and one cat who is the actual boss of the household. She can be reached at liz@VetTechXpert or via www.VetTechXpert.com.