Your Vet's Right Hand: What Does a Vet Tech Do?
When you visit the veterinarian’s office, you’re greeted at the front desk and asked to sign in. You sit with your cat, dog, or other pet in the waiting room until your name is called. Once it is, you’re greeted by someone who’s not the vet.
But who are they?
That’s a veterinarian technician!
Find out how veterinary techs help your pet and why their jobs are so important to veterinary clinics and hospitals.
What Is a Veterinary Technician, Anyway?
A veterinary technician is the professional in charge of your pet’s care along with your veterinarian. Although a vet tech doesn’t perform surgery or diagnose your animal friend, they are extremely involved in all the aspects of your pet’s visit.
When you bring your pet in for a check-up or an appointment, a vet tech is usually the first person you speak to when you enter the exam room. They take notes regarding your pet’s:
They also check your pet’s
They may also ask you questions about the reason for your visit.
What Does a Vet Tech Do?
A veterinary technician has their hands in everything around the office, but they don’t perform roles that require a veterinarian, such as surgery and prescribing medications.
They administer extra testing.
Sometimes, after an exam is completed by the veterinarian, further work is needed to determine what’s wrong. This often includes X-rays and lab tests, such as blood tests. If your vet orders a lab test for your dog, for example, your vet tech will personally take the samples and run the test. They’ll pass the results on to the veterinarian for a diagnosis.
They give medicine.
If medication is prescribed by your vet after they make a diagnosis, often the vet tech gives the medication to your pet.
They act as a right-hand man/woman during surgery.
If surgery is required, the tech will often explain the entire procedure to you, answering questions and providing reassurance.
They care for animals after surgery.
After a procedure is complete, the vet tech sticks around to monitor your pet. If overnight care is required, they continue to keep an eye on your pet, documenting any changes or progress.
A vet tech is on the frontline of education. Not only do they answer the questions of any pet owners who visit the clinic, many host training and behavior classes. Or they teach basic care to new pet owners, including animal welfare and disease prevention.
They do what’s needed.
Some clinics also have vet techs perform routine procedures, such as:
- Dental cleanings
- Nail trimmings
Are Vet Techs Important?
Veterinary technicians are vital to every veterinary clinic; they keep the office running. What would doctors for humans do without nurses? A vet tech’s work in the exam room, the operating room, and with pet parents is invaluable. It allows the entire office to see more patients while helping the veterinarian make diagnoses.
How Do You Become a Veterinary Technician?
To become a veterinarian technician, students must earn at least an Associate’s Degree in Veterinary Technology, which takes two years. Students can also major in Animal Science, but that degree must offer veterinary technology as an emphasis. Some colleges may require students to observe in a veterinary hospital for at least 16 hours before being allowed to enroll in the program.
During their education, training vet techs learn about topics, including:
- Animal behavior
- Clinical practices
- Animal pharmacology
- Veterinarian clinic management
- And more!
Communication courses are also recommended, as many vet techs work directly with pet owners. Students can also choose to specialize in particular fields, like:
- Critical care
A degree—either an Associate’s or a Bachelor’s—is required to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). The exam covers everything learned in the student’s courses, from surgery to lab procedures.
Once it is passed, the newly minted veterinary technician often applies for an internship and later a permanent position. It’s recommended that vet techs join the National Association of Veterinary Technicians to help them find the right positions, continue their education, and further their careers.
Only three states in the United States offer a way to become a veterinary technician without a degree or exam. Texas is not one of them. California, Alaska, and Wisconsin allow aspiring vet techs to get on-the-job training and pursue their certifications.
Who Becomes a Veterinary Technician?
Just like veterinarians, the job of veterinary technician attracts a certain type of person. Almost all are animal lovers first and foremost and pursue the position out of a passion for pets. But a good vet tech should also be…
…especially in high-pressure situations.
In addition to animals, they must also be passionate about:
A major aspect of their job is interacting with pet owners, both veterans and people who are new to owning animals!
There is no doubt that veterinary technicians are vital to any veterinary clinic or hospital. No wonder there’s a National Veterinary Technician Week! (In 2017, it’s October 15-21.) Everyone is thankful for their hard work and dedication to their position and animal welfare.