Every Technician a Teacher

You don’t need to be a trainer or manager to teach those around you. Megan Brashear, CVT, VTS(ECC), discusses teaching opportunities you might encounter.

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As I reflect on my favorite parts of my job the aspect of teaching and training rises to the top. As technicians, we have opportunities to teach every day and those opportunities can lead to the greatest rewards. Taking the knowledge we have and sharing it with peers, new employees, clients and the pet community will continue to elevate the position of veterinary technicians and continue to benefit the public.

“See it. Do it. Teach it!” is a favorite motto of mine. Years ago, as a new shift leader on the overnights, I had the opportunity to teach my coworkers how to place a central line. I talked them through the process while I placed one and let them both know that next time it was their turn. It was a perfect week as we had the opportunity to each place a central line. It was a fantastic bonding process to cheer each other on, and I realized I was hooked on teaching. I still work with both of those technicians 7 years later – both of them are specialty boarded and are training the new crop of technicians. Peer teaching makes sure that everyone in the hospital is learning the same things and doing tasks in a similar manner. While having a set way to complete major tasks (like chart keeping, entering charges, taping IV catheters, etc.) makes for a smooth running hospital floor, it is important to keep an open mind to what new coworkers can teach us. There are so many tips and tricks that we pick up over time and personally, watching how others perform a task or treatment has increased my skill set dramatically.

Continuing education for technicians, by technicians, is a valuable way to learn in a more formal setting. Lectures of this sort allow technicians to focus on the applicable knowledge and it allows us all to see what other technicians are doing in their respective hospitals. I think I learn more preparing the lectures than any of the attendees learn, as preparing to teach forces one to really understand the subject. I encourage any technician who has a desire to learn more to prepare short talks to present to your coworkers. Start in a small supportive environment and you may be impressed by what you know.

I feel it is also important for technicians to feel a responsibility to teach clients. Technicians have the opportunity to spend quality time with owners and should use that time to teach about the different diseases vaccinated against and the clinical signs, the major health issues involved with poor dental hygiene, the benefits of crate training a puppy, or the practical knowledge regarding diabetes and the use of insulin. It is our obligation as technicians to not only know how to recognize problems in our patients, but to teach owners how to recognize those problems in their pets. Again, I learn best when I have to teach and this includes teaching owners. Taking time on a phone call to explain to owners why it may be important to have their pet seen right away, or let them know signs to watch for in case a problem develops, will build trust. Almost every interaction with a client is an opportunity to teach and technicians should take advantage of that.

Learning and teaching are what help keep me motivated in my job. Training new employees gives me great satisfaction. Seeing a technician master an advanced technique, complete a challenging anesthesia case, or explain a complicated ICU case to their peers inspires me to continue to teach, which in turn, means I continue to learn. Sending a client home with the confidence to feed their cat through an esophagostomy tube gives me the same warm fuzzy feeling as snuggling with a kitten. I encourage all technicians to find a teaching moment in every day, and also challenge everyone to continue learning and teaching whenever possible.

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Lisa suski's picture

I love your philosophy to teaching, what do you do when you have a tech who's not open to learning?

Megan Brashear's picture

Lisa, that can be difficult, but it's worth a conversation with that technician to figure out why. Are they embarrassed to find out what they don't know? Are they burned out in this career? Do they honestly just not want to learn new techniques that can really help their patients? Getting to the root of the problem and then working through that will help get to a solution. If you work in, or want to work in a learning environment it's important to get everyone on board. Good luck!

Lisa suski's picture

I just reread this article, didn't realize I already commented on it, I'm finding, since moving to FL that doesn't required a license I deal with a lot of OTJ trained techs who pretty much scare me. Many don't want to learn beyond the how to, but for situations such as anesthesia that's dangerous. I'm getting rather frustrated with the profession being around techs like this. I've tried to teach, without sounding snotty, but they don't want to learn and the docs don't seem to care much if they do.

Megan Brashear's picture

Lisa I'm so sorry to hear that! What you're really talking about is culture change and getting to a culture that puts an emphasis on learning and always getting better. We have that here at DoveLewis, where it's expected that technicians want to specialize and want to go to CE and want to learn new things. Without any support from other management or your docs it can be a long road to fostering that learning environment. Is there anyone else there that can be an ally to at least getting started? Maybe begin some sort of M&M rounds so you can start talking about cases and ramp up to big concepts? I wish you were having an easier time!

Denise Kinstetter's picture

This is an awesome article. It should be a must read for vet technicians in our local clinics. I absolutely love the concept of peer teaching! I get so excited when I learn one new thing during my work day in the veterinary field. It is awesome when others share their knowledge; we all have so much to contribute, and it is amazing when we all work in concert with each other!! I LOVE TO LEARN!!!!!! :)

Ashley Edlefsen's picture

Love it! I agree that peer teaching can help the hospital move more smoothly. Thanks for the read :)