Leveling Up as a Vet Tech

Posted: Oct 18, 2016
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Veterinary technicians are essential in any veterinary clinic but they can come in many forms. Having grown up as a gamer, I can most easily define these forms as technician levels:

Level One: Newbie

You are just starting out. You are still refining your angry cat techniques. You ask for confirmation on differentials. You desperately try to remember back to pharmacology and what the heck Misoprostol is when dosing it. You are still unsure of yourself, but willing to try anything, leading to many (MANY) questions. You still watch your coworkers in awe, wanting to be as awesome as they are one day.

To level up you need: Time and experience. You need to get past the first time you have seen these disease processes so you have a frame of reference to look back on and use. A lot of technicians in this stage are just too hard on themselves. They want to get it right the first time and anything less than perfection is disheartening. Practice will make you better.

Level Two: Greenie

You are getting familiar and learning the ropes. When a doctor had an unblocking procedure you were able to grab all the supplies ahead of time, without forgetting anything. Another technician asked for your help on a difficult catheter placement, and you nailed it (Squee!). You are no longer the newest face in the building and can even direct others (at least to the right person to ask). You still ask a ton of questions but they are more thoughtful.

To level up you need: Confidence. You need to appreciate that you won’t one shot every catheter or know every answer right away, but you still add value. You are still just learning. The more chances to be successful you have, the more your confidence will build. Another way to build confidence is to teach. It will reinforce the subject in your own mind and build you up as a resource to the newer staff.

Level Three: Solid

You have become the “go to” person for something; difficult catheters, tough radiographs, or super fractious cats. You pass on your tips and tricks as you can. You are starting to memorize the dosing chart for your doctor’s favorite pain meds. You even catch a decimal error before overdosing a pet on Cerenia. You are secure in your daily activities and ready to branch out. You see that cool stuff happening in ICU (or surgery, or specialty) and get curious if you could do that too. You push yourself to try the new and crazy things.

To level up you need: Challenge. This is where a lot of techs can fall into a rut. Push yourself to learn those new and exciting things and become better at what you do. Try to do the best you can for the pets in your care. Veterinary medicine is always evolving, so never stop learning.

technicians with patient

Level Four: Rockstar

You feel comfortable enough in your hospital to float into any department and help out. You start to take on extra responsibility like training, inventory, lab machine maintenance, or scheduling. New doctors recognize your knowledge. They ask your opinion on medication choice or options for the owner. You are a true advocate for your patient. You notice edema or ventroflexion and know that it means a worsening of your patient’s signs. You have mastered a work/life balance and have just as much fun on your days off as you do working.

To maintain you need: Active engagement. Be an active participant in your patient’s care. Don’t just follow orders. Try to understand why, and predict ahead to the next possible course of action. Try to be an expert in a certain area. Look into specialty certifications. If you are going to help animals, you might as well be the best you can. They will always be grateful.

If you are reading this, you probably know (or have been) a technician that identifies with one of these levels. Please take the time this National Veterinary Technician Week to motivate a technician near you. Of course, we all want to work with the Rockstars, but those Greenies and Newbies are critical to the function of your practice as well. Their passion, along with your encouragement, will help them grind their way to Rockstar status. Most technicians run on caffeine and sugar, but compliments and a heartfelt thank you work just as well.