This past spring semester, I took an intro to veterinary terminology class, and in order to receive a passing grade I had to job shadow a licensed veterinary technician. So, right before everyone had to go into quarantine, I was able to get my hours in at a local small animal and exotics veterinary clinic. I feel like I could honestly write an entire book about my experience, but I will keep it short.
Even though quarantine hadn’t started yet, social distancing was already in place. Because of this, the clinic had to make it where no clients were allowed in the building at all. Instead, the clients would have to drop-off their pets and pick them up once their appointment was over.
What I Did/Observed
The tech that I shadowed was really nice and did a great job at trying to let me be more hands-on. The one thing I remember the most that I got to do was learn the different animal restraints. My tech took the time to not only show me the restraints on a regular patient that they see, but also let me try them myself. I thought it was incredibly sweet of her to take the time out of her busy work day to show me that, and that’s why it sticks out to me the most. In addition to that, she taught me and let me help run a fecal test, help fill a prescription, keep an IV in place and squeeze the bag, as well as how to check blood pressure with a stethoscope, and clean the OR after a surgery. I was able to observe a free-catch urine sample and a cystocentesis, how to talk to clients (a little differently because of COVID), and radiographs.
The Hardest Part
I think it’s really important to be aware that being a vet tech is most definitely not all sunshine and rainbows where you walk into work every day and snuggle puppies. This job entails seeing a lot of hard, heartbreaking cases on a daily basis, and I got a taste of what that was like when I was there. The very first day that I was there shadowing, a lady brought in a stray cat that she had found on the side of the road. It took all of about two seconds for the veterinarian and techs to see it and know that it needed to be euthanized. It was in awful shape. It couldn’t move at all besides being able to knead with its paws. It was really hard to see and it took me a while before I could even gather myself to be able to go look at it. A couple of days later, a lady came to drop off her friend’s dog to be cremated. Listening to her having to decide what color she wanted the paw prints to be when they stamped them was so hard to hear, especially since I had been through that process myself recently. The sadness was still really fresh for me, so I could really understand how she was feeling. I almost didn’t want to walk with my tech I was shadowing to pick it up and bring it in because I didn’t want to see the pain the lady was going through. Just reading this, or even typing this, is a lot easier than actually seeing all of these cases with your own eyes. Veterinary medicine has one of the highest suicide rates because of compassion fatigue and burnout from seeing hurting animals on a daily basis.
My Surgery Experience
One of the things I was most excited to shadow was a surgery! I got the opportunity to sit in on two surgeries. My most favorite one was a neuter. I got to be there for the entire time right up close. The tech was showing me all of her duties that she was responsible for throughout the whole process, and the veterinarian was explaining to me what all she was doing. It was so cool! The other surgery I got to see was a tooth extraction on a cat. The veterinarian that was in charge of that surgery went above and beyond to explain everything to me. She went into major detail, showing me things on the cat itself, but then turning around and showing me the same exact thing on a radiograph so that I could really see it and understand. I was watching and listening, watching and listening, and then all of a sudden I realized that I was starting to feel really lightheaded! I tried to push through it, but I continued to get even more lightheaded. The same girl who was able to watch an entire neuter with no problems was now about to fall over because of a tooth extraction. I couldn’t believe it, lol. I had to go find a chair and get a tech to get me a drink and snack. It was so embarrassing, but I kept getting reassured that it was pretty normal. The funny thing is, the day before during the neuter, the tech wanted me to get a chair just in case I did feel lightheaded. When I ended up never needing it, I was so proud of myself. I guess I got humbled real quick by needing that chair the next day!
All in all, I really enjoyed shadowing! I saw lots of cool things and was able to perform a lot of hands-on tasks as well. There’s lots of other things that I got to see and do, but I said I would do my best to keep it short. I’m so glad I was able to shadow, and I’m excited for the future!