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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-23-2009, 09:36 PM Thread Starter
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Any Vet Techs?

Ok, so I am currently a sophomore in college. I have two passions in life- art and animals. When I was a little kid I always used to say I wanted to be a vet. But as I got older, my parents used to tell me that if I was going to go to any sort of medical school, that it might as well be for nursing or for being a human doctor. Eventually it was college time for me, and my parents had finally decided that I should do what I love, not what makes the most money. At that point, I had decided that I couldn't handle having to see animals die, and to pursue a degree in art instead.

But the past year that I've had with Nito, as well as some deep thinking are starting to make me regret my decision a little. More and more I am feeling like I am destined to work with animals for a living, not doing art. The art to me is more of a personal thing- the assignments just aren't enjoyable when I'm not drawing or creating things that I want to create. I am starting to feel like doing art as a job may not be as fun as it is doing it for myself.

I have been looking into becoming a vet tech, and there is a pretty good school for it where I live. I would just like to hear from people who are vet technicians themselves, and what kind experiences that they have had with it.

I am hoping for some advice, because I am very confused and unsure or what to do at this point!
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-23-2009, 11:55 PM
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Re: Any Vet Techs?

I LOVE MY JOB!

I'm not licensed, have never gone to school. All of my knowledge and training has been hands on, on the job. Some clinics are ok with this and some are not. I have actually always been considered a veterinary assistant until my most recent job. Basically, I did all of the things that their technicians did and if they hired me as an assistant I would be very limited (restraint, walking dogs and administering food and oral medications) and once I was hired as a technician I could not advance to technician without going to school. Plus, they gave me the option to start as a tech and if I found it too much for me to handle, move down to an assistant. I was hesitant... but it has worked out really well.

I'm also working in emergency medicine, which is a whole different world compared to the day practices I was in. Plus, there are so many different vets out there that it might take a while to find one you're comfortable with. I only lasted a few weeks at one clinic - it just didn't feel right and when I found myself questioning what they did and how they did things on a daily basis, I realized it was not the right place for me.

I think what you should do is call around a few vets in your area and see if any will let you come in and "shadow" for a few days. Or call the schools and see if they have suggestions. Basically, take several visits to see what the job really requires before commiting to school. I've seen so many people come out of both assistant and technician programs that have never actually worked with animals. Its not pretty for some.

Some of my favorite things - puppy and kitten visits. Who doesn't love babies? Meeting them, falling in love and watching them grow is great. Comforting them when they are scared, reassuring them that everything will be ok. Educating their owners on proper pet care and knowing that these guys will be in good hands.
Easy fixes. Someone comes in with "xyz" symptoms... one or two simple test and you get a diagnosis and a clear answer to the course of treatment and "fluffy" is back to normal in a matter of days.
Boarding - while I hated working in the kennels boarding animals are some of the ones you will see the most often and usually form more of a bond with. They typically like us better because they get to "hang out" rather than ONLY coming in for shots and things.
Some cats don't mind vet trips but you can always find dogs who just LOVE coming in. Those are my favorites - the ones who are so happy to see us no matter what we have to do. And trust me, you WILL find favorites and it'll just make your day to see that they are coming in for a visit!

Some of the not so great points:
Watching your favorites getting sick and growing old... eventually the euthanasias. Putting a pet to sleep is never pleasant, even when it is easing them out of pain and suffering. But its that much harder when you've really fallen in love with these patients - and their owners! So much worse when its a sudden injury or illness to a young pet. Sadly, working in emergency medicine makes it harder. We see a lot of tragedy. A lot of euthanasias. And while it can be easier because most of the pets are those I don't know - I do still have some of my regulars from day practice that come in and it makes it that much harder. But, I have actually surprised a few people who remember me and they found great comfort in the fact that their pet was being cared for in their final moments by someone who knows them and loves them.
Frustrating cases. You know something is wrong, sometimes VERY wrong with a pet. But you can't figure out what it is or how to help them. You watch while they get worse, sicker, more painful. And there is sometimes nothing we can do to help.
Money. I hate it, but it is still a business. Vets have staff to pay, bills, etc just like any other visit. People complain sometimes that "bad" vets are all about the money and don't care about the people and pets. Its just not true. You would be surprised just how many times a day we see cases where people can't afford to pay. If we offered free treatment to them all, we would be out of business and there would be nobody to take care of the rest. Its so much more frustrating when the same people keep coming in with new pets... still no money to care for them but they keep voluntarily adopting new pets one after another.
The... bodily functions. Not everyone likes restraint. YOU WILL GET DIRTY! Dogs and cats will pee, poo and express their anal glands on you. Sometimes if you're really lucky, all three at once. They bite and scratch. They can put up a heck of a fight. I've gone home exhausted, sore all over, smelling completely disgusting and every now and then bleeding.
You also have to deal with needles. Lots of needles. And more than likely, you will get poked. I stab myself on a fairly regular basis. I've also had a few people poke me as well. Its especially dangerous when dealing with fractious animals...
Clients are not always pleasant to deal with. And what's worse is how many times they will be completely horrid to you - talk down to you like you're a complete idiot and give you a ton of attitude for things that are not at all your fault... then be a complete sweetheart when the vet walks in.

I would not warn someone against a job in the field. Just advise them to explore it first. Its such a rewarding career and even though I have many bad days at work... I have never doubted that I was doing the wrong thing. My only real concern is the money. I make good money (by comparison that is) where I work now. But its still not what I would consider "career" money. I can survive, but I know I couldn't support a family on what I make. I'm just now trying to buy a house and am wondering if I'll be able to afford to live on my own. But I also work with women of all ages (just two male techs in a huge clinic!) we've got a few that are over 50. Oh yeah, speaking of the women. There are a lot of male vets, but few male techs. So most clinics are all or mostly all women. Drama, cat fights, you name it!

But I will say one more time just how much I love my job!

Jessie

"There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast."
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-24-2009, 12:03 AM
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Re: Any Vet Techs?

I'm not a vet tech, but I am an art major!
Its funny, because almost all through high school I wanted to go to school to be a vet. I got the grades, I was accepted to Madison, but in the end I decided on art since the amount of school, money and work required to become a vet seemed much too daunting...

I made a lot of cool stuff in college, got to know some cool people, won some awards, got really good at thinking creatively and "out of the box", and am proud to say that I know how to use power tools and can actually build stuff that not only is sturdy but looks good...

But looking back, it probably would have been wise for me to take a different path. I love art, but making a career out of it is not something I personally can do, nor is it easy to do even if you have it in you. Lets face it, there isn't a whole lot you can do with an art degree, and the economy now and for years to come is not going to make it any easier. With an art degree, you're much more likely to end up as I have - sitting at a desk all day, staring at a computer screen, doing something completely boring an uncreative, wishing you were somewhere else doing something where you actually made a difference- but hey, at least its a steady and reliable paycheck that provides me with the means to do the things I enjoy when I'm not at work.

Go with your gut. If its telling you you're not on the right path, perhaps its time to go in a different direction...
Besides, you just happen to have a really good veterinary school where you live
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-24-2009, 12:14 AM
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Re: Any Vet Techs?

Oh, I should also add. I really think it should be a requirement for vet school that students complete a vet tech program and have actually WORKED as a vet tech before starting. Sounds stupid, unnecessary and a bit harsh.

I've worked with a few vet students now on externships. None of which have actually had any experience inside a clinic. I feel for them. They are very book smart but have trouble getting it in their head that things aren't black and white. You treat the patient, not just the symptoms. You won't always have clear answers. And yes, you will have to TOUCH the animals! She has had very limited experience drawing blood, placing catheters, etc. Every day stuff for techs that doctors really should know how to do but honestly don't do very much of. We kind of laugh at work when we see doctors doing our jobs. Often, we have to step in and take over for them! I think its just something that is over looked because its so basic... but I really believe they should start with the basics and work up from there.

Most of this is coming from a rather obnoxious student who just left us. She was very high and mighty, rubbed a lot of us the wrong way. I know she's learning and try to be patient, but she just made me really nervous.

On the other hand - I work with a few technicians who are trying to get into vet school who I think would make absolutely amazing vets!

Jessie

"There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast."
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 03-24-2009, 11:17 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Any Vet Techs?

I go to UW Madison at the moment, but I would probably transfer to the tech college in Madison, where the Vet Tech program has much better reviews. At UW it's much more competitive, and nearly impossible to get in. And it takes way longer!

I have applied at several jobs for this summer. One of them is looking promising- it's a position for an assistant at a nearby vet's office, no experience necessary. The point of the job is to get students ready and give them experience to go to vet school, so I'm really hoping to get it!

You guys have given me some really good advice. OsnobunnieO brings up good points- I know it would make me very sad to see pets die. I realize that things can get yucky at work... but then again, things get pretty funky around Nito's litter box, and I've been able to deal with that! I just feel that the sad parts, and the hard parts would not even matter when compared to the rewarding aspect of helping animals.

I'm going to talk to my parents long and hard about it this weekend, and see what they think. I'm not too worried about the money- as long as things don't change between me and Andrew (and they haven't in years) then I can count on two incomes to help out with the lower pay. If I'm doing something I love, then I don't care about the pay. And maybe I'll go on someday to become a full-fledged vet... who knows?
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