arielle glaspie: veterinary technician

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Arielle Glaspie: Veterinary Technician

This picture is a perfect explanation of why I need to have this article on my blog. Every person has a different idea of what exactly a veterinary technician does. Friends think I get to hang out with cute animals all day. Parents often think of elaborate surgical procedures. Society thinks that all I do is play with cute, fluffy puppies and kitties. Clients tend to think I like long sharp needles and pinning their pets down on the exam table. I think I am a champion, fit to stand in the presence of superheroes. In reality, a vet techs job includes all of the above and more.

When I say that I am studying to be a veterinary technician, people always Always ALWAYS say "Oh, you want to be a veterinarian! That's cool." And I have to say "Cool, yes. Vet, no." Then I get the blank stare.

What most people don't realize about the veterinary profession is that there are 3 strata in the veterinary office. At the very tippy top are the DVMs (Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine) with 8 years of college (if theyre lucky). As the actual doctor, vets are the ones who perform surgeries and diagnose diseases.

Next come the veterinary technicians with a Bachelors degree (4 years). Vet techs take care of anything the vets dont do or dont have time to do, which covers a wide and extensive range of duties.

Last are the receptionists, who dont have to have a degree but do have to be able to organize the office, keep track of and let the other staff know of appointments, fill out entire forests worth of paperwork, and be mildly versed in insanity in order to keep up with co-workers and put up with clients.

Of course, what Im most concerned with is the vet tech part of things, but one thing that keeps getting mentioned in my vet tech classes is the value of teamwork. The vet tech doesnt have as much school/knowledge as the vet and without the receptionist the vet would be stuck fixing paperwork instead of pets. Even vet techs have to constantly work with other vet techs, especially when an ornery animal walks into the clinic. Every person is essential to the running of a smooth and efficient clinic.

Theres a reason vet techs are also known as veterinary nurses. That is what they are. The vet/vet tech relationship in a clinic is exactly like the doctor/nurse relationship in a hospital, only they take care of animals, not humans.

On one hand, taking care of animals is simpler than taking care of humans. On the other hand, it is excruciatingly more difficult. Animals are easier to prep for surgery, they dont get infections as easily as humans, they have warm cuddly fur (not counting amphibians and reptiles), and if theyre in the right mood, will love you to death.

But animals cant tell you what is wrong with them and their favorite way of telling you That hurts! is to bite in order to get you to back off. And that is when they are in a good mood. Dominate, crabby, or unsocialized animals will claw, bite or scratch if you so much as look at them.

They cant understand that vets and vet techs are there to help, not hurt them.

Professionally, being a vet tech is a catchall job. I have to know how the x-ray machine works, what part of the animals needs to be x-rayed, how much anesthesia to give to any sized dog (or cat), how to restrain animals for examination so they dont eat my face off or savage the examiner, how to autoclave instruments, set up for and shave animals for surgery, how to give shots, pick up poop, do laundry, write in charts, talk to clients about their pets, how much to feed all the animals, plus anything else at the end of the day that needs to get done.

Ultimately, vet techs are there to prevent this:

Every year, thousands of animals are actively abused and passively neglected. Another 5-7 million pets are circulated through pounds and shelters. Of that, 3-4 million are euthanized, mainly because there are just not enough resources to care for all of the neglected and abandoned animals.

As a vet tech, my goal is to care for any and all animals, regardless of breed or past history. Also as a vet tech, abuse and abandonment hold a special place in my heart particularly when animals are euthanized because vet techs are often the ones who do it. We are the ones who look into the animals eyes as we slide the needle into their cephalic vein and inject enough drugs to kill them because a stupid someone didnt take care of them. In lieu of an actual owner, we are the ones to hold and watch over them as they die because the person that promised to protect them ended up abandoning them and leaving other people to clean up the mess. And doing that week after week in a shelter environment or even just in a veterinary clinic takes its toll.

Which is why helping animals heal and find new homes brings such joy to those of us in this profession. In order to stand the bad side of things, in order to not burn out psychologically, vets and vets techs focus on the positive things: the kitten that was carried in with a mangled face but who walked out with nothing but a funny shaped nose; the trouble dog who kept getting sent back finally coming to an owner who understands him; the joy of children as they find their new buddies; the sad smiles as families say goodbye to a much loved friend. These things are what make our jobs and sacrifices worth the pain.

Simple Technology Makes the World Go Round

For my equipment review, I am going to discuss what a lot of people dont talk about or even notice unless its broken the thermometer. To most people, a thermometer is what you use when a child is sick and you need to know if they are running a fever. For veterinary technicians, it is a vital detecting tool. An animal running hot is often the first sign that something in their body is wrong. So it makes sense that vet techs need good, reliable, accurate thermometers in order to do their job effectively. Monitoring temperature is also useful when a pregnant female is about to give birth. The mothers temp drops about 24 hours before she starts giving birth. This gives the owners time to prepare for the birthing.

First of all, there are 3 types of thermometers. The old school style is the mercury thermometer, in use since 1714 and the only way of taking temperatures for 350 years. It contains a small bulb of mercury at the bottom of a narrow shaft enclosed within the thermometers outer glass structure. The mercury reacts with temperature changes by moving up or down the shaft. Numbers printed on the outside correspond with mercury levels to give the temperature.

The most commonly used thermometer today is the digital thermometer, which uses a thermistor apparatus to measure electrical resistance and translates that into a readable temperature on the digital screen.

And last but not least is the fairly recent aural thermometer. These ear thermometers use remote sensing to detect the infrared radiation, also known as heat radiation, emanating from the eardrum.

Each has its pros and cons and is used differently.

Mercury and digital thermometers are used rectally, meaning that the thermometer goes up the animals poop chute. This may gross a lot of people out, but its done that way for a reason. Core body temperature is different from surface body temperature. Whats on the outside isnt necessarily the same on the inside, and in this case, core body temp is more accurate. And in order to get a core body temp, vet techs have to go where a lot of people dont want to go since pets dont sit still enough for the thermometer to go under their tongues. Plus, there is an added risk that the animal may bite the thermometer or even swallow it when vet techs try to use it under the tongue.

One thermometer has to be used on many animals a day. This brings up the problem of disease control. We certainly dont want to take a rectal temp on one animal, then turn around and use the same thermometer on another animal without some sort of sanitation process. As it turns out, this is relatively simple. Alcohol wipes are extremely effective at killing residual bacteria on the thermometer and sanitizing it for the next patient. Soap and warm water are also efficient antiseptics, but because of the fast-paced nature of most clinics and shelters, alcohol wipes are preferred and just as effective.

Mercury thermometers are considered pretty old fashioned in modern clinics since the results take longer to collect and because they contain mercury, a toxic compound. Digital thermometers can get an accurate temp in as little as one second. When animals dont like you touching them, much less trying to take a rectal temp, faster is definitely better.

Aural thermometers are a little nicer than rectal thermometers since they take temperatures in the ear instead of the rectum. Easier accessibility to a core body structure and more comfort for the animal, all rolled up in one nice little package. Cons for this one are that aural temps tend to not be as accurate as digital rectal temps, and that vet techs have to be very careful not to touch or puncture the animals eardrum. Aural thermometers also tend to eat batteries, making it hard for them to be cost productive.

Overall, just from past experience, and for the reasons listed above, I tend to use digital thermometers since they are just as fast as aural thermometers and more accurate, but less expensive to buy and to run.

Normal companion animal temp range

On a side note, animal temperatures are a little different from human temps. Normal for a pet is between 100 and 103 degree F. Above 103 means the animal is running a fever. Below 100 means the animals is suffering from hypothermia. This info seems trivial, but is crucial considering that a normal adult human te

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