Veterinary Technician Job Description
Veterinary Technicians use their knowledge and skills to assist veterinarians in the care and treatment of animals. A Veterinary Technician works closely with supervising veterinarians to provide preventive care, diagnose injuries and illnesses and perform medical procedures on dogs, cats, small mammals, reptiles and birds. Some Veterinary Technicians also work with horses, cattle and other large animals. Although the job requires a great deal of collaboration with veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians also have the opportunity to work independently.
Veterinary Technicians typically report to a veterinarian or practice manager. In some cases, they assign tasks to volunteers or office workers. Animal hospitals, small-animal practices, veterinary clinics, animal shelters, kennels and large-animal practices employ Veterinary Technicians to care for a variety of animals. The number of jobs available in this field is expected to grow by 19 percent through 2022, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Veterinary Technician Duties and Responsibilities
The primary responsibility of a Veterinary Technician is providing basic care to animals that come to a veterinary practice or animal hospital. To provide adequate care, a Veterinary Technician must perform a variety of duties. We looked at several job listings to identify the core duties of a Veterinary Technician.
Obtain Case Histories
It’s important for the veterinarian to know as much as possible about an animal’s diet, exercise routine and home environment. A Veterinary Technician gathers this information by asking what kind of food the animal eats and how much exercise it gets. If an animal is ill, the Veterinary Technician asks if it spends a lot of time outside or has access to table scraps, cleaning products or other potentially harmful substances.
Collect Laboratory Specimens
Blood, urine and stool samples are used to diagnose viruses, bacterial infections and other diseases. Veterinary Technicians collect these samples and run simple laboratory tests.
Prepare Animals for Surgery
Before a veterinarian performs surgery, a Veterinary Technician prepares the animal by shaving and sterilizing the surgical site, administering sedatives and performing other pre-operative procedures. Veterinary Technicians also assist veterinarians during surgery.
Educate Animal Owners
Veterinary Technicians teach animal owners how to administer medication and perform basic medical procedures at home. In many cases, a Veterinary Technician is also responsible for answering questions about general pet care.
Assist in Veterinary Exams
It’s difficult to perform a thorough examination on a wiggling animal, so a Veterinary Technician assists with every exam. The Veterinary Technician may have to hold the animal in a certain position, hand instruments to the veterinarian or record an animal’s vital signs.
Veterinary Technician Skills
Veterinary Technicians must have a blend of technical skills and interpersonal skills to succeed in the industry. Communication skills are especially important, as Veterinary Technicians spend much of their time talking with veterinarians, office personnel, clients and vendors. Employers want Veterinary Technician candidates who also have the following skills.
Core skills: After reviewing several job postings, we determined that veterinarians want to hire Veterinary Technicians with the following skills. If you are interested in working as a Veterinary Technician, spend time learning how to do the following.
- Administering medications to animals in a safe manner
- Restraining animals during exams and procedures
- Taking vital signs accurately and collecting lab samples
- Performing first aid on sick animals
- Maintaining laboratory equipment
- Providing post-operative care to a variety of animals
Advanced skills: Not every practice requires Veterinary Technicians to have the following skills, but several postings did list them as preferred. Develop these additional Veterinary Technician skills to improve your standing as a candidate.
- Performing dental exams and dental cleanings
- Training new employees to perform veterinary procedures
- Using AVImark practice-management software
Veterinary Technician Q & A
Thinking about pursuing a career as a Veterinary Technician? While loving animals certainly is a prerequisite for the occupation, the job entails so much more, Jasmine Black-Regan of Best Friends Animal Society tells us. We asked Black-Regan what it’s like to work as a Veterinary Technician. Here’s what she had to say.
What’s the most rewarding part about being a Veterinary Technician?
Having a patient, such as a cat with a blockage of the urinary tract, come in on the brink of death, and then seeing them walk out the front door. The technician plays such an important role in the care of the patients.
What skills do you use every day?
Math is an important one – sorry to break it to you, but you’ll use the algebra you thought you wouldn’t need after high school every day as a Veterinary Technician. Ingenuity is another one: When you are staring down the eyes of an uncooperative patient that has 30 sharp teeth, 20 claws and an “oh no you don’t” attitude getting the blood draw can take some fancy thinking. Patience comes into play every day, as well. Lastly: a sense of humor. Sometimes you just have to laugh when at the end of the day you are covered head to toe in activated charcoal, there is a foul odor coming from the sole of your shoe, there is vomit in your hair and silver nitrate stains on your hands.
Who succeeds in this job?
There are a few qualities I possess that have supported me through out my career: compassion, dedication, empathy and accountability – this is the most important character trait and one that I look for in every tech I hire. Your patient’s life is in your hands every day, and it is your responsibility to help your patient in every way you know how.
How should someone prepare for a career as a Veterinary Technician?
I knew that being a Veterinary Technician was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I decided that going to school was best for me. I didn’t want to only give the anesthesia; I wanted to know what the medicine l was going to do to my patient. I tried out all sorts of practices: I worked in general practice, emergency medicine, teaching hospitals and animal welfare/animal rescue until I found the right practice for me which is Best Friends Animal Society. I also recommend smelling awful things until you have significantly lowered your gag reflex.
Are there any misconceptions people have about being a Veterinary Technician?
That we spend all day working with cute puppies and kittens – I wish! We spend all day holding the lives of our patients in our hands and administering the proper care that will make their lives livable. I spent one week with 14 puppies. Every morning at 4 a.m. I got up, went to work and treated all 14 puppies infected with Parvo. So did I work with puppies all day? Yes, you can say I did but I also did so much more.
Veterinary Technician Resources
We searched for resources to help you learn more about the veterinary field and determine if you have what it takes to become a Veterinary Technician. Use these books, industry groups, and websites to learn new skills and meet other veterinary professionals.
On the Web
VetMedTeam: Access free continuing-educational materials to help you become a better Veterinary Technician.
American Association of Veterinary State Boards: Find out if you are eligible to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE).
IDEXX: Learn more about providing veterinary care to cats, dogs and small animals.
National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA): Join NAVTA to take advantage of networking opportunities, survey data, and resources created specifically for Veterinary Technicians.
Veterinary Support Personnel Network (VSPN): Access a community forum and library of resources for Veterinary Technicians and other veterinary support personnel.
American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians & Assistants (AAEVTA): Join AAEVTA to meet other equine Veterinary Technicians.
Veterinary Technician Books
Master the Veterinary Technician National Exam: Improve your chances of passing the Veterinary Technician National Exam.
An Illustrated Guide to Veterinary Medical Terminology: Brush up on the terminology you need to succeed as a Veterinary Technician.
Mosby’s Veterinary PDQ: Use this guide as a reference any time you have a question about animal care, medications, or other veterinary topics.
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