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5 Reasons Your Veterinary Technologist (Nurse) Is Your Superhero

There are many ways to describe the defining characteristics of a superhero. They possess otherworldly abilities that surpass those of the average person. They tend to dedicate themselves to protecting the vulnerable and defending a worthy cause. And most importantly, they make the world a better place. Now, insert the words “in veterinary medicine” at the end of those last three sentences, and just like that you have perfectly described the role of the veterinary technologist in practice.

Veterinary technologists have long been the unsung heroes of veterinary practices around the world. Their skillset is complex and diverse, and their responsibilities are endless, yet their potential remains untapped in the animal healthcare industry. In the age of veterinary shortages and unrelenting demand for veterinary care, veterinary technologists are the up-and-coming stars of the profession. If you are a veterinarian or practice manager and have yet to consider your technologists’ superpowers, read on to learn about the top five reasons why they should be considered your practice’s superheroes.

They Have Unrivalled Technical Skills

This one definitely falls under the category of possessing otherworldly skills. How many of us have called upon that superstar technologist to place an intravenous catheter in the twenty-year-old, three-legged, dehydrated cat? We know this hypothetical patient all too well because we see them almost every day.

So what do we do? We watch the technologist work their magic with an air of calm and confidence. They spray some feline pheromone on a warm towel freshly pulled from the dryer—smooth move. The cat is gently wrapped in the towel to provide them with comfort and to help reveal their hair-thin and fragile veins. They apply a layer of topical aesthetic to the IV site—the patient will definitely appreciate that. And then they perform a cut-down over the leathery skin that is now numb to the touch, thanks to the topical anesthetic. In goes the IV, and the technologist moves on to their next patient as the veterinarian basks in the satisfaction that their patient was just handled in such a respectful and professional manner, all the while taking mental notes on everything the technologist just did to make this magic happen.

Veterinary technologists may wear gloves, but they certainly aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Let’s really consider the vast array of skills that they graduate with fresh out of the gate. Anesthetic monitoring, basic nursing care, wound management, bandaging, CPR, pharmacology, laboratory skills, phlebotomy, and the list goes on. Not to mention that just like veterinarians, veterinary technologists are most often treating more than one species. Add to that the fact that technologists can go on to become specially trained in areas such as ultrasound, rehabilitation, acupuncture, critical care, and much more. Their skillset is more diverse than they are credited for, by both the public and the profession to which they dedicate their talent.

Client Communication Is The Name of Their Game

Veterinary technologists are teachers and communicators by trade. This superpower is sometimes overlooked in the clinical setting. Gone are the days of the technologist simply relaying discharge instructions after surgery, or reviewing messages left for the doctor. Technologists actively teach and engage with our clients to help clients and patients enjoy an enriched life together. They can teach a client not just how to administer a subcutaneous injection for their diabetic cat, but also how to handle the insulin, monitor for signs of hypoglycemia, and how to triage the patient should they start to decline. They can counsel clients on nutritional topics and help design healthy weight loss plans for patients that have plateaued in their progress. They are oftentimes the first person to speak with a client to triage an emergency and to take the first steps in administering life-saving treatment. They are intent listeners and ensure that our clients feel heard and understood.

Communication with our clients is a team effort, and so many veterinarians forget that they do not carry this responsibility solely on their shoulders. Veterinary technologists are there to share this responsibility, and in doing so we can play to each others’ strengths.

The Universal Mentors of Our Profession

Veterinary technologists are mentors to other technologists, newly graduated veterinarians, seasoned veterinarians, and students alike. All too often we will categorize people, thinking that those in one category can only mentor others in the same category. Wrong! Most of us wouldn’t be where we are today without support from diverse perspectives, and this includes our technologists.

There are many ways to realize the full mentorship potential of our technologists and the first is to find out who among them finds fulfillment in the mentorship process. Not everyone enjoys being a mentor, so it’s important to identify those who really take pride in the mentor-mentee relationship. Once established, include the technologist mentors in the structured mentorship program of the veterinary practice. Pair them up with newly graduated veterinarians, or seasoned veterinarians during their onboarding process with the practice. Ensure that every new team member knows who the technologist mentors are so that they can go to them for guidance. If we can realize the mentorship potential of our technologists, we can engage the entire team to work together and learn from each other in a sustainable way.

They Enrich The Veterinary Experience

Technologists provide a guiding hand in enhancing the entire client, patient, and team experience in the veterinary hospital setting. From start to finish, they are there to care for the patient, comfort the client and provide detailed explanations. They work as a team with veterinarians and assistants to provide expert technical skills that complement the skill set of their team. And they actively participate in the conversations that help to foster a positive workplace culture and an overarching goal of continuous improvement. The key message here is that they equally provide and partake in the support of the greater team. And a supported team is an unstoppable machine, which some may argue is a whole other category of superhero.

Their Future Potential Is The Most Exciting Superpower of Them All

The veterinary profession is on the brink of making some sustainability-driven decisions, and technologists are at the center of the discussion. The veterinary shortage has revealed gaps in care that cannot be ignored, and conversations surrounding micro-credentialing and the creation of veterinary nurse practitioner roles, are some of the options on the table. We are starting to look to human medicine to share best practices when it comes to leveraging the skills of our professionals. Pharmacists in some jurisdictions can prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections and administer elective vaccinations. Human nurse practitioners can make basic diagnoses, prescribe treatment plans, and suture minor wounds. These professionals rely on specific standards of care, additional certification, as well as a supportive network of professionals from which they can consult if needed. This is the kind of teamwork and autonomy that our profession can use to elevate and mobilize our veterinary technologists.

When Superheroes Support Each Other

As the saying goes, not all superheroes wear capes. This is true, especially in our case in which most of them wear scrubs, coveralls, rubber boots, or comfortable shoes. Veterinary technologists have been the unsung superheroes of our profession for a long time, but veterinarians, practice managers, and clients are only now starting to realize their true identity. Veterinary technologists are no longer undercover superheroes – they have amazing technical skills and interpersonal skills, many of which are often underutilized in practice. If we can work together to support and elevate each other, at the end of the day, we are all superheroes in this story.

About the author:

Dr. Samyra is a veterinarian and the veterinary practice co-owner of Her volunteer activities have taken her as far north as a polar bear country and as south as the Mayan Riviera. She is passionate about the human-animal bond, animal welfare, mentorship, and workplace wellness. Samyra enjoys writing for her blog (The Tiny Vet Chronicles) and drawing custom pet portraits for her humble art business called 'Ink Naturally.'

Are you a veterinary graduate wondering what steps to take next? Why not get your hands on Dr. Dave's book 'So You're A Vet... Now What?'.

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Aug 23, 2023