As A Vet Nurse or Vet Technician, What Advice Would You Give Yourself Ten Years Ago?
You already know that being a Veterinary Nurse or Vet Technician is a very rewarding career. Every day you help so many animals live longer, healthier and happier lives. Some days a just a joy and fly by, and some days have their challenges. When pets are not feeling well, you and your fellow team members help them, and their pet parents, get through what can sometimes be a difficult time.
We also know it is not always an easy job. The hours are often long. There are days when you don’t have any appointments for a while; then you have several patients walking in at once plus an inbound emergency on the way. There are days when you get out on time and days where you stay hours after you close the hospital.
And in those quieter moments, you may find yourself wondering…
What would I have liked to have known before I chose this career?
Not that you would ever change you mind, but sometimes it would have been nice to be just a little more forewarned, a heads up about some of the experiences that you will come across as you gain the experience and expertise that you have gathered so far.
So, here are some thoughts we gathered from a variety of Vet Nurses and Techs from around the world that may help others, especially the next generation just starting out on their journey…
There are going to be days when you need a spare set of clothing, make that EVERY day
Being a Veterinary Nurse can be messy. There will be days when you get peed on, thrown up on and s#*t on and days when you get all three at once! All while trying not to make your own contribution.
There are times when all kinds of things squirt all over your clothes, leaving THAT smell with you all day. Be a good Scout and be prepared.
Although you went into this career to help animals, a large part of your job is going to be working with their owners.
Since animals can’t communicate verbally, you are going to spend a lot of your time talking to owners. You will be the one that educates them to make sure that they are doing everything that they can to keep their pets healthy. Because too often you will also see things that really were preventable.
You are also going to be seeing owners at their worst, as well as at their best. Many owners become very stressed when their beloved pets aren’t feeling very well. They might not be thinking clearly and may say some hurtful things in the moment. Let your innate kindness and empathy shine through.
You are going to be dealing with money, sometimes a lot of money
Unlike in most human medicine serious situations, there are times when Veterinary Care comes down to money. Many owners must reluctantly make decisions that depend on the cost of treatments, not just on the efficacy. As a Nurse or Technician, you and your Vets are going to be talking about different options or procedures, not just about the techniques or medications, but also the costs associated with them.
You are going to need to get comfortable having these difficult conversations. This is something that you may have to talk about every day (if not several times a day).
I also never realized that money was going to be a topic of conversation every day. It took me a long time to get comfortable talking about money, especially when estimates were over a thousand dollars. However, it is a big part of the job.
Sometimes euthanasia is the only solution
Nobody wants to euthanize a patient. Unfortunately, quite early in your new career, it is something that you are going to come across and must find a way to deal with.
There are going to be times when it is easier because you know that the animal is suffering, and the owner has tried everything possible to help. Then, there are times when it comes down to other factors. Many animals must be euthanized because their owners simply can’t afford the diagnostics and treatment, or they themselves are unable to care for their pet due to their own health. These are never easy situations. Developing coping mechanisms is essential for your own well-being.
You need to find a Partner who understands your career, REALLY understands your career
Now that you have a few years’ experience, you know that some days are longer than others. You also know that, even though the sign says closed, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to be walking out of the door anytime soon.
You could have an end of day emergency surgery that needs to be done right away, meaning that you will get home hours after you closed the hospital. Many Nurses are working or on call on the weekends and you may miss some important family or relationship occasions because your Veterinarian needs some capable help, stat.
You are going to have to find someone who understands this. You need a Partner who is just going to be happy to see you whenever you get to come home, and that won’t judge you when you must hurry into work because an emergency is on the way.
You MUST have a good support system
It starts with a supportive family. When you are running late, having willing and understanding parents (plus plenty of aunts and uncles) who will make sure that someone is going to be able to get the children off the bus when something comes up (usually last minute) is vital. You just can’t work in such an unpredictable career without a good support system.
When I first started out in the veterinary career many years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. I just wanted to help animals. Years later, I have realized that I am helping the owners just as much as the animals. In fact, I feel like I spend more time with the owners than I do with their pets!
And apart from practical, tactical support, you also need emotional support. There are always the good days which is great, but there are also a fair share of bad days. It’s the huge swings between being quiet, and then a flood of activity, plus the emotional roller coaster ranging from puppy vaccinations to a serious emergency to euthanasia, often all in one day, that are the most challenging. You normally cope really well with this, after all it is what it is, but sometimes we all just need a hug, and Mum, Dad, Brother, Sister and your Partner are always a good source of hugs.
Would knowing any of these in advance (and so much more) change your mind?
The answer from everyone we asked was a resounding “No!”. You do what you do because somewhere along the way, you saw a spark in being a Veterinary Nurse or Tech, that became a shining torch to follow. And you should take great pride in what you do. So just in case no one has said it to you today…
…you do make an incredible difference, and you deserve our thanks and praise for your passion, enthusiasm, expertise, experience and care. We, and all our pets, and all your fellow Veterinary professionals, are all very glad that you made that decision all those years ago, and you should be proud of everything you have achieved.
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