1. When did you become a vet tech, and how has the profession changed since then?
Jenna: I began working as a veterinary assistant in 1997 at a relatively large primary care veterinary office. I was not able to get in much hands-on training there, but in years following, I worked in smaller practices and was able to learn more.
Since 1997, I have noticed many gradual changes in our profession. Continuing education is more readily available, and it caters to techs of varying skill levels. Veterinarians have more confidence in the abilities of techs and seem more comfortable with them performing duties that were once only done by a vet (within the confines of the law, of course).
Perhaps the most promising change in the field is the addition of vet tech specialties (VTS). It is a great motivator, and it is so good for us to know that we can focus our skills and achieve a higher level of recognition.
2. How did you become an RVT - school, online, or on-the-job training?
Jenna: I received on-the-job training for nearly 10 years until I earned my RVT in 2007. A temporary law in my state allowed me to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), and I am grateful to have been "grandfathered in." As of next year, only those who have graduated from an accredited veterinary technician program will be eligible to become RVTs. I strongly support this. Moving forward, it will help the public to recognize us as skilled professionals.
Related Reading: Learn what RVT, LVT and CVT mean
3. Do you prefer being called a vet tech or vet nurse? Does it matter to others in the career?
Jenna: I officially refer to myself as a vet tech, since that is the correct legal term. However, I do personally prefer "veterinary nurse." I feel that the title more clearly defines our profession. I know that many in my field feel the same, while others think it is a minor detail. I think the more important thing is educating the public about our field and the professional, nurturing care we give to patients.
4. You have worked in a variety of clinical settings. What is your favorite part of the vet tech job?
Jenna: I love forming a bond with pets and their owners, and doing what I can to help the patients heal and educate owners. I also enjoy hands-on work from simple venipuncture to the more advanced central line placement.
When it comes to favorite area of veterinary medicine, oncology is hands down my number one. Second to that is neurology. Most patients coming to these specialty services are extremely sick and often in pain. Their owners are confused and afraid. The ones we cannot help break my heart time and time again. However, we can ease pain and improve quality of life for so many other patients, and these are the happiest moments.
5. What are the differences in career outlook and salary potential for specialized care (emergency, referral, large animal)?
Jenna: In my opinion, veterinary technicians are still typically underpaid. However, specialty referral practices and emergency facilities typically offer higher salaries than general practices. From what I have heard, large animal technicians’ salaries seem to be similar to general, but I have no direct experience working in large animal practices.
Growth potential is generally promising in larger, successful practices. Multi-specialty hospitals can be especially lucrative. These environments offer more opportunity for cross training and a potential for working your way up as you gain understanding of the practice.
6. What is your advice to someone considering veterinary nursing as a career and worried about income earning potential?
Jenna: If you truly love working with animals and are willing to live frugally at first, go for it. The longer you stay in the field and the more you develop professionally, the more you can earn. Try to expose yourself to a variety of areas within veterinary medicine (emergency, specialty, holistic, etc). This will make you more marketable, thus qualifying you for more advanced positions that pay better.
If you are unsure how you feel about the field, I strongly recommend you volunteer or seek an entry level position at a local veterinary practice. You never know until you try it.
Thanks, Jenna for this thoughtful interview on veterinary technician careers.