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7 things I learned as a vet tech

Veterinary technician assisting vet with kitten

Vet Tech Fundamentals

Few people learn a skill entirely alone. More often it takes the skills of a patient mentor to bring out one’s excellence. This was certainly true for me. As a young veterinary technician just starting out, I had a world of willingness but needed to build my clinical and intuitive skills.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing vet, Dr. Martin McGuire, in Philadelphia. Marty taught me things that can’t be learned from books and helped me develop the skills necessary to succeed for eight years in the profession. 

Here are the seven most important things I learned from my mentor: 

  1. To listen. Marty was great at listening to people, maintaining eye contact and paying close attention to their body language. He made clients feel heard, whether their concern was large or small. Once a man came in with his new replacement Great Dane puppy (that he’d named exactly the same thing as his prior Dane) to complain that the new puppy’s fur was “wrong” because it was “too soft.” Marty listened closely and treated it as a serious concern, which resolved the issue as no treatment was needed.
  1. To treat owners as experts on their pets. I worked with more than 15 different vets in several group practices and only Marty understood that you, the pet owner, know your pet best. He was always careful to take a complete and detailed medical history before any diagnostic or treatment procedures. 
  1. To be the neutralizer. Veterinary hospitals can be gossipy places and divisions can arise (for example, between front desk staff who do the scheduling and techs in the back who are feeling overwhelmed). Marty was gifted at listening and neutralizing the situation without anyone even noticing he’d done it. I’ve often used this technique in business meetings and it’s proven to be a great skill to have.
  1. To trust your team. I was absolutely the best possible vet tech I could have been working under Marty because he trusted me. He listened to suggestions and ideas I had to improve systems. He let me set up the surgeries, calculate dosing for anesthesia, and prep the animals. No other boss I’ve ever had has been able to get that level of performance out of me because none of them treated me fully as a partner.
  1. To stick with your strengths. Marty was too nice, in some ways, so he didn’t do the hiring. He’d hire everyone. As a partner at the vet hospital, he stuck with patient work and surgery, leaving the other vet to manage the business side of things.
  1. To manage stress effectively. Even when the vet hospital was at its busiest, Marty had the ability to remain calm . He was able to manage stress without compromising care—and without disrespecting either clients or coworkers.
  1. To build lasting connections. Working together in a high-stress environment can be difficult. Marty always made sure to check in with his vet techs and to try and make each day—even the hectic or hard ones—just a little more enjoyable. He understood the joy of caring for both pets and their owners. And that’s the most important lesson of all.
Cecily Kellogg

By Cecily Kellogg

Cecily Kellogg, Felix guest blogger, spent eight years working as a veterinary technician before applying her knowledge and experience as a writer.

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