Important Skills Needed to Be a Successful Veterinary Technician
Published on May 30, 2019 by arothstein
Interested in becoming a veterinary technician? Want to know the important skills needed to be successful in the field? The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data projects the high growth trend will continue to grow by 20% through 2026.
In this guide, we will take a look at the role of the veterinary technician and examine the skill sets required to be successful as a veterinary technician in today’s world.
The Role of the Veterinary Technician Today
Veterinary technicians work alongside veterinarians to care for animals. In addition, they also perform diagnostic laboratory tests and administrative duties allowing the veterinarian to focus on diagnostic and surgical patient care.
Veterinary technicians occupy a role in veterinary medicine that is similar to the role held by registered nurses (RNs) in human healthcare. Tasks a veterinary technician perform varies according to the type of facility and region they work in and trends. However, all veterinary technicians need to demonstrate proficiency in several core areas common to all veterinary technician roles.
Some roles performed by veterinary technicians are:
- Perform tests and x-rays
- Prepare animals for surgery
- Administer medications, vaccines, and treatments
- Restrain animals for safe examination or treatment
- Monitor and report on the attitude and physical condition of animals
- Monitor vital signs and provide sterile surgical support
- Educate pet owners on topics like home care, nutrition and behavior
Veterinary technicians are legally permitted to perform all veterinary functions with the exception of prescribing medications, diagnosis, and performing surgery.
Skill Sets Important For Veterinary Technicians
All veterinary technicians possess skills that come from a lifetime of animal handling experience. This provides a solid launch pad for a veterinary career after obtaining the required education through a 2-year veterinary technician program. In the following sections we will take a deeper look at the specific skill sets needed in the role of a veterinary technician.
Skill #1: Passion about Animals
It goes without saying that veterinary technicians must be passionate about animals. The industry’s high-stress work environment contributes to a high rate of compassion fatigue and burn-out. To succeed, veterinary technicians must possess the following personality traits as well.
Skill #2: Stress Tolerance
Veterinary technicians must be calm in emotional situations. Veterinary technicians move back and forth between different sets of clients, with each set visiting the veterinarian for dramatically different reasons. Therefore, clients will be experiencing very different levels of emotion.
Skill #3: Empathy and Compassion
Of the most important veterinary technician skills is compsasion. Because of this, it is important that veterinary technicians understand what a pet, or pet owner is experiencing. Veterinary technicians who are able to see events from the client’s perspective are the best suited to meet the emotional needs of their clients.
Skill #4: Respect for Authority
Veterinary medicine is not coded or regulated in the way that human medical practice is. There are multiple options for treating any ailment with each option having its own devoted supporters advocating for its use.
While veterinarians consult with veterinary technicians frequently in the course of developing a treatment plan, the chain of command remains. A veterinary technician must be follow the veterinarian’s orders without argument or delay. It is imperative that veterinary technicians recognize and abide by the proper chain of command.
Skill #5: Confidence and Decisiveness
Veterinary technicians intervene whenever the actions or demeanor of others presents stress for the animal. The ultimate goal is the health and safety of patients and staff.
Additionally, many states have begun to pass legislation that impose legal liability on anyone who witnesses a clearly abusive act against a child or an animal. This is a very controversial, emotional, and often subjective area. Animal hospitals should have established protocol for this situation.
Skill #6: Communication Skills
Communication is the most critical skill set. A large portion of the veterinary technician’s role is client-focused. They often act as a middleman for the veterinarian, communicating the veterinarian’s instructions. Veterinary technicians also answer any questions to assure understanding.
All details of a patient’s visit must be accurately recorded in the patient’s medical record. This log will be consulted to inform the treatment of future visits. The data will also need to be written in a uniform manner so that any future readers can locate information.
Veterinary technicians must be clear with other team members and veterinarians in high-pressure situations. This requires the ability to express concepts clearly.
Skill #7: Active Listening
Active listening requires giving undivided attention to what someone is saying. This also includes asking specific questions to be certain that the message the owner is conveying is correctly understood.
Skill #8: Critical Thought
Critical thought applies logic and reason to each element of the problem. Critical thinking also proposes solutions to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each. This allows veterinary technicians to understand the best course of action.
Skill #9: Sound Judgment
Exercising sound judgement in veterinary science is as crucial as it is in medical treatment. In both cases, they can have life or death consequences. Practicing sound judgement also promotes the safety of the clinic.
Sound judgement helps to consider potential negative outcomes and risks along benefits before committing to a course of action.
Animal Behavior and Handling Skill Set
Understanding animal behavior is a requirement for a career as a veterinary technician. Expert animal-handling skills develop over time through hands-on instruction, correction and repetition.
New veterinary technicians are not expected to be experts in animal handling. However, anyone considering pursuing a veterinary career should be comfortable handling animals. Phobias and fears related to breeds and types of animals are very common.
Animal restraint is a large part of a veterinary technician’s workday. This is also one of the most challenging, yet important skills that new veterinary technicians need. Veterinary technicians must be observant and open to corrections during their first years. During this time, they learn how to read body language and recognize cues that animals use to communicate.
Skill Sets Specific to Specialty Roles
While most veterinary technicians work at small companion animal private practices, there are many other options. The most common veterinary specialty branches are equine and large animal practices.
Other specialty clinics include:
- Exotic animal clinics
- Wildlife rescue organizations
- Research laboratories
Specialty practices generally require additional credentials beyond those required for small animal practice. However, veterinary technicians who commit their time and effort in additional specialty areas are rewarded with expanded career options most of which offer more opportunities.
The examples below illustrate some of the specialized skills required for veterinary technicians employed in the most common specialty area, equine medicine.
Equine Medicine Technician Specialized Skill Set
Equine Technicians are required to restrain patients to allow for examination, testing, and treatment as small animal technicians do. However, the Equine Technician is handling a patient that can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Horses may also be prone to erratic behavior if startled. For this reason, Equine Technicians must have the following skills:
Large Animal Restraint Expertise
Equine Technicians must be knowledgeable in the unique methods for diagnostics and treatments performed on horses. Veterinary technicians may learn things like hobbling, which involves securing one of the horse’s legs. During this technique, the leg is braced in a flexed position, which forces the horse to stand on three legs. This usually requires the horse to remain stationary.
Horses hooves require frequent maintenance which is often performed by a Farrier. Farriers make regular visits to perform hoove maintenance. Even with maintenance, abscesses are frequent events. Technicians in an Equine practice know the proper techniques to treat the abscess and act as emergency farrier.
Want to Learn More?
Did learning about the important skills needed to be a successful veterinary technician interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.
Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.
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