Pet Connections

Blue Pearl Article Spring 2022

Veterinary technicians play many roles. We are phlebotomists, radiology technicians, laboratory technicians. We are ICU nurses and anesthesiologists. 

Most importantly we are the voice for the voiceless. Every day we advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. That is the most rewarding part of being a vet tech: Knowing that at least one patient got the help they needed because of you. 

As an emergency tech, a typical morning starts with rounds (and a cup of coffee since it’s 6:30 in the morning). Communicating with one another as well as owners takes practice. It takes time to learn the medical terminology and the disease processes of your patients. But standing in the ICU and seeing those patients, you connect to them on a personal level. You learn their body language, their triggers, what they like to eat, and signs of their pain. When you take care of these patients, you become their family for that short period of time they stay in the hospital. On occasion when the ICU is light, we take the patients from their kennels just to cuddle them, because who says cuddling isn’t the best medicine? That bond can help them heal faster or learn to trust the hand that is feeding them. The act of actually taking care of a sick pet is rewarding when they start to feel even just a little bit better. 

Alternatively, working on the treatment floor is a different environment. Triages always come in threes, or so some superstitious people think. This is the first chance to make an impression and get a general idea of what is going on with every patient. Did they walk in? Did they need a gurney? Did they wag their tail and greet you? Or did their owners ask you to please be careful because he needs a muzzle at his primary vet? Knowing the normal vital signs is also important as a lot of owners do appreciate just an update when in the ER to say, “Hey, Fluffy’s vitals are all normal so he is stable and will be waiting for the doctor to examine him.” This process can take just a few minutes to at least half an hour to accomplish, depending on the status of the patient. If vitals are accomplished and they are unstable, these patients move to be seen before everyone else since sick patients can get worse very quickly. 

Bloodwork is another huge role for a technician. There are many places you can pull blood from including the jugular, the cephalic, lateral or medial saphenous, and sometimes a pedal vein. If a patient comes in with no pre-existing medical conditions, the jugular is the best place to pull from as it generally is a larger vessel and will bleed better. Our more sick patients will have blood pulled from a saphenous vein. This is the vein that runs along the outside or inside of the back leg. Some patients may have a history of a clotting disorder or an undiagnosed disorder, so this is a good place to pull blood from to avoid causing large bruising or discomfort to the patient. In these situations, you should not attempt to pull blood if the vessel does not bleed well. Giving the patient a break between attempts should be encouraged to keep them less stressed. The cephalic is mostly saved for IV catheterization and is located on either front leg. This location is less likely to get caught in the pressure of the elbow and cause complications for hospitalized patients. 

As a technician, you will take a lot of radiographs. This is something I personally love because I love seeing new things and learning about the different structures you can see on them. There

will be a time that a Mastiff or St. Bernard comes in for vomiting or diarrhea that will need radiographs of their abdomen. This alone can take up to four people to lift these large patients and keep them comfortable on the X-ray table. X-rays can be scary for patients who are not used to being off the ground, so they tend to give a little bit of a fight. Sedation may be warranted in some cases, when a patient resists staying on the table. Oxygen-dependent cases can take several tries to get the necessary images. Some patients can only stand to be out of the oxygen for one picture at a time with 5- to 10-minute breaks between them. You need to take your time with different cases, it may not always be super quick to obtain the images for diagnostics. 

In any hospital setting, a technician is expected to monitor numerous procedures. In a general practice setting you can do procedures such as spays, neuters, dental procedures, and, in some cases, wound repairs. Full attention should always be on the patient the procedure is being performed on in case they require fluids, more medications, or they surprisingly wake up before the procedure is done. Most procedures do take time to give medications, complete the procedure, and then wake up well. Patients can have complications during recovery, so it is always important to monitor them closely during this time as well. 

Unfortunately, sometimes your brain needs to constantly be thinking about what needs to be done in that second. If a patient comes in and is in cardiac arrest, you need to communicate with the team. One person is going to immediately start compressions, another tech will start obtaining venous access, another person will be intubating to begin breathing for the patient, and the last will be obtaining emergency drugs such as epinephrine or atropine to encourage 

ROSC (Return of Spontaneous Circulation). Every two minutes drugs are given and the tech doing the compressions should switch places with another. The doctor calls the owner, who is struggling with the hardest decision of their life. You feel fatigued, but you keep going because this is someone’s loved one and you will not give up until they ask you to stop. This decision is hard and can take seconds or hours so your team should constantly be communicating to achieve the best results. 

Being a veterinary technician is more than just doing one job in a day. Your job can change in a split second and your focus will change to the next most important task. Someone is never “just a vet tech.” It takes a lot of mental strength to meet a certain level of expectation, but it is as rewarding as it is challenging. 

Jami Fisher, CVT


December 14, 2023
December 14, 2023


November 22, 2023