I'm sure many of you have pets and have been to the veterinarian's office. Do you ever wonder what the veterinary technicians do besides hold the pet for the doctor? This is what most vet techs do around the clinic; keep in mind--not all clinics have "techs" (they have assistants which don't do as much medical stuff) and some just may not have all the skills below. Also for legality purposes all skills described in this post are performed under the direct supervision of the veterinarian on staff.
Appointments: We take all the history and vitals including weight, temperature, and heart rate. We draw any blood or take samples that are needed as well as go over any estimates for recommended procedures/treatments/services. Prescriptions are filled at the clinic or called into pharmacies. If there is only one of us scheduled for the day the doctor helps us with radiographs (xrays) but generally we do those without assistance.
Surgery: In preparation for surgical procedures blood work is performed to ensure the patient has no problems that would complicate surgery, an IV catheter is placed for IV fluids and for emergency venous access, drugs are calculated based on dosages the doctor provides. We prepare the surgical room for the patient, get all the necessary instruments and supplies, and set up the anesthesia machine. After the doctor performs a pre-op exam we are then able to induce anesthesia and prep the patient for the procedure. Sometimes the doctor helps shave and scrub if I'm busy setting up the monitors for heart rate, blood pressure, pulse oximeter (measures oxygenation), temperature, and depth of anesthesia. Once the doctor starts surgery we record vitals every 5-10 minutes (from the monitors as well as manually) and run the anesthesia. Based on vital signs I increase or decrease amount of anesthesia the pet is getting as well as administer additional pain medications or other drugs as instructed by the doctor. Once surgery is over we assist the doctor in discharging the pet at the end of the day by going over medications and home care instructions. OH! And sometimes in surgery if the doctor needs an extra hand (or two) I get to scrub and glove in!! So so so cool. I'd totally share photos if I wasn't worried some people would freak out over blood and such.
Hospitalized Patients: Cared for by techs from doctor's orders. We do all of the treatments throughout the day.
Emergencies: When they come the doctor performs the initial assessment and if the patient is stable he will go talk to the owners while we take vitals, place catheter, and start treatments. In cases of arrest CPR is started the doctor is needed to access the patient and call out orders while one tech does chest compressions and the other is breathing for the patient.
Dental Cleaning: This is the part that surprises everyone--and the inspiration for the post. Technicians perform dental cleanings!!! Yes that's right, when the pet is under anesthesia I get to clean and polish their teeth. If there are any extractions or dental procedures required the doctor does that, but yeah I clean their teeth. It's fun! Teeth are cleaned on all sides (which is why anesthesia is important and necessary--also all the tartar, bacteria etc should not be swallowed-so my stance on non-anesthetic dental procedures is NO), polished, fluoride foam is applied, and then if the owner wants we also apply a barrier gel which helps protect the teeth from build up of plaque and bacteria.
Besides the skills above I also discuss medical decisions with owners, end of life care, puppy training, food questions, behavior questions, and pretty much anything under the sun that an owner can think of and ask. If I don't know I ask the doctor. We take 99.5% of all the calls for the clinic and answer any questions, with the help of our veterinarian. Never EVER underestimate the power of veterinary support staff. And hey, thank your vet tech next time you are in the office--it means sooo much to us. (Seriously, I get so super excited when people genuinely appreciate what I do at work, so so so happy)
I plan to further my veterinary education soon, details to come :)