June 2020

In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, Amy Newfield, CVT, VTS (ECC) reviews the top 5 things that she wish she knew before starting as a veterinary technician. If you’re thinking about going to vet tech school, or are in the early stages of your veterinary technician or veterinary assistant career, read on!

Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting as a Veterinary Technician
Amy Newfield, CVT, VTS (ECC)

1) Find your passion and recognize it may change over time.
There are so many paths a technician can take. Take the one that looks the most exciting to you and then run down it until maybe you see another path. If you are feeling stagnant or burnt out in your career figure out what really thrills you.

2) Stop and enjoy the pet
At some point the younger version of myself stopped remembering why I went in to the business of veterinary medicine. I got so busy rushing through the process of the day. I was stressed over all the small things. I had forgotten why I went into veterinary medicine. Yes, I loved the pets, but I didn’t take the time to enjoy them. I rushed around trying to move quickly from pet to pet completely treatments and procedures. Remember to stop and enjoy them. It’s an amazing profession so take a few extra minutes and sit with a pet. The hospital will always be busy and there will always be stressful events. Take a minute here and there to truly enjoy each pet.

3) You don’t know everything so accept humility and be humble
My younger self thought I was good at venous blood draws. In fact, I thought I was awesome. Then I went into emergency medicine. I struggled with venous access. Vasoconstricted, dehydrated and anemic pets caused me to fail. No need to brag about your skills. You will find they evolve over the years. Be open to learning from others and accept help. It’s not a weakness. It’s a strength that you are willing to ask for help.

4) Don’t settle for a toxic team environment
You spend more time with your work family than your friends and family so it better be a nice place to work. Unfortunately many hospitals suffer from toxicity. There is a large amount of gossiping, disgruntled employees and high turnover. Despite your best attempt, toxic team can’t be fixed by just you. Sometimes it is okay to move on and find a happier place to work.

5) You must continue to learn or you will fail
Luckily I always had a desire to learn and grow, but I have watched my colleagues around me fail their patients. They kept the same knowledge they had upon graduation. One of the greatest parts of the job is that you always get to challenge yourself and grow your knowledge. When you stop learning you will fail both yourself and your patients.

  1. 42 years in, the mind was willing, but my body was failing. My husband suffered a fall this April, when it became apparent that he would need all my attention, I gave notice and now I am nursing him. I miss the profession, but he is my heart. If he recovers completely , my experience will have served me well.

  2. RVT since 2000. Was an assistant and in school combined for 4 yrs before tech life. I gave up in Jan 2018. I found I became a shell of who I was many years before. Euthanasia became easy, a crabby attitude and the stress of a busy practice finally took its toll. I am still planning on keeping my license but I cannot go back to a toxic environment and continue to work. Hats off to everyone still hanging in there.

  3. God Crystie! I am hiring that wall as I write this and it is breaking my heart. I have been doing this for 25 years and I love helping the animals and teaching the few girls at work who want to learn. BUT the environment had become way to toxic and when you go to management nowadays nothing happens. Maybe I’ve become tarnished, “in the days where is girls actually cared about one another” and busted hump every day for the fuzzies. I’m following the advice above and working on Nutrition Certification, and Human/Animal Bonding Certification so well see how that helps. I’m hoping to move on /leave gracefully. And DEFINITELY keeping my license as well girl!! We worked hours to get /earn that baby! Lol

  4. I’m in VT school and getting ready to go into a practice. I definitely don’t know everything and am eager to get better at essential skills.

    I’m hoping to work at the one where I currently have a client relationship with. Everyone there has always been so nice and have been telling me to apply there.There’s a senior tech that I’m especially looking forward to learning from.

  5. things to keep in mind when in this career, feeling guilty about wanting to move on from a toxic environment and knowing its okay to move on, reminder that its okay to sit with pets during the day for a few moments, and that no-one is perfect and that we are all learning and all fail from time to time

  6. This blog and all the wonderful comments have been wonderful to read. I’ve only been in the industry for 7 years, but it’s too easy to fall in the pit of negativity. Thank you!

  7. In my 17 years I went from being the new kid to the trouble shooting goddess because I’ve seen it all break down. I’ve trained those who want to learn and wasted time teaching those who don’t. My personal connection with my community/ client I serve and the veterinarians I work with is what keeps me on track. Setting an example of work ethic and morals for my daughter and others.

  8. I like and agree with the idea of keeping your mind open about finding your passion. I started out in GP and then discovered oncology. Most rewarding part of my career

  9. It can be easy to forget we have many options outside of “typical” practice. Be willing to explore new opportunities. Loyalty is a two way street.

  10. Sadly most clinics are toxic but there are ways to “ignore” it. Im currently in a spot where I am needing extra help….. Emergency is far different from GP, and most of my team mates arent too accepting of it sadly.

  11. As a baby in the field, these tips are helpful to keep in mind before I’ve become fatigued from working in the field.

  12. Don’t stay where you aren’t appreciated, fairly compensated, and RESPECTED. Protect your peace and find your people

  13. Thank you for this article. This helps me to realize that I am not alone and that we are all still learning regardless of the number of years that we have been in the field. I love that I learn each and everyday, especially from others. I enjoy that there’s always something new to learn. It can really get busy, but as noted in the article, it’s best to not rush things and remember to take things in one step at a time and enjoy each pet!!

  14. I have ritual I do when I come onto my shift. Luckily, I work in a specialty clinic as an ICU overnight/weekend technician, so I never have to worry about clients or other patients coming in. In order to start my shift off on the right foot, I must make sure my patients have clean and comfortably bed to recover on. I think technicians can over look how important being comfortable is to a patient’s recovery.

  15. It took me getting 3 different jobs and 16 yrs in the army to find the Vet Tech MOS. Now its been a constant learning experience and I love it

  16. Each point hit home and they all fit together.
    It’s OK to to start in one area of the field and move to another. That’s a great part of vet med. It’s evolving every day and new opportunities come along.
    Don’t feel bad to leave toxic people behind. It might be the only way to learn and grow. Be open minded to learn. You might be the best but it doesn’t mean you can’t learn to be better.

  17. I was always afraid of working with exotic animals but I have been in exotic practice going on 8 years now and love it!

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