Day by Day

Posted: Nov 10, 2014
Views: 3770 - Comments: 4

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Hey Everybody! Guess who's back?! Back again. Stephen's back. Tell a friend!

It has been a very busy last few months for me. I am touched by and excited about all the interest in my field and will do my best to answer all the questions that come up.

I think the most common question I get and one that's not the easiest to answer is, what is your typical day like? I feel like this is like asking an emergency technician what their typical day is like. This is also a tricky question to answer because I have I six or more other veterinary related things I am involved in, but let's stick with one thing at a time. I preface this with the understanding that there are many different research institutions and this is merely my personal day.

My day starts with me hitting the iPhone snooze button about four times. I get to work around 7:00am and look at our schedule. One luxury with lab animal medicine is some regularity or familiarity with the procedures we'll be doing. The excitement and surprise aspect comes from not knowing how the experimental drug or surgery will impact the procedure. This is where our emergency tech hats need to always be in our back pocket for easy reach. After acquainting myself with the daily workload I'll do morning health checks for all of the animals in our care. Based on what I find I may choose an appropriate medication for a particular ailment in consultation with the veterinarian. At this point I will bring up whatever operating room I am scheduled in by checking and leak testing the anesthesia machine, pulling supplies and getting whatever equipment out and started that will be needed. Depending on the day I may be the research surgeon, running anesthesia or assisting. Yes, for all of those who just did a head tweak, I did say I may be the research surgeon. Because the animals we use in research are not privately owned and we do not fall under the Veterinary Practice Act, technicians with advanced training can and do perform surgical procedures. I even know some techs that perform C-sections on a regular basis! Cool, eh?!

When I'm not the surgeon I must keep a very close eye not only on my patient, but any guests in the room. Often times engineers, lab assistants or visiting doctors will be in the OR and forget things are sterile. As research techs we also must make sure the investigators are sticking to their project protocol and that the health, safety and welfare of the animals stays top priority. Following the procedure I gather all of the data an investigator needs, organize it and ship it off. By this time my patience is exhausted and my body sore. My brain just wants to be filled with trash TV at home. I am off the clock around 4:00pm on a typical day and repeat the process again in the morning. Now I know this seems fairly boring so let me give you the reasons why I continue to stay in the field.

One, I mentioned I get to surgicate. I love nothing more than to open and close surgical sites, ligate vessels or get access to the heart. I never in a million years thought I would be cutting the pericardium off a living patient. Secondly, the research itself. I get to see things before they go mainstream. I have seen and been a part of technology others in the regular veterinary field are just starting to play with, such as the Masimo Radical-7 which has the PVI measurement that is creeping more and more into the ECC literature or new leadless pacemakers. I also enjoy being a part of a surgery that will change and save lives for millions, such as new heart valves or correcting spina-bifida on a fetus. Thirdly, as I mentioned in my first blog, is being a patient advocate. I have been fortunate enough to work at institutions that are deeply involved with appropriate animal welfare, but getting to befriend and care for animals that are changing the world is an amazingly humbling thing.

Now, being friends with Megan Brashear I also have a strong urge to nerd out when I get home and follow awesome forums like the Facebook Anesthesia Nerds page or my other favorite, the ER Vet Tech Rounds page. #anesthesianerds #ERVTR

If you want more information on working with lab animals or in a zoo setting message me at



Liz Hughston's picture

Awesome post! Thanks for sharing your day ... and the ERVTR shout out!