Updated - Oct 14th, 2021
National Vet Tech week is October 17-23, and in honor of this holiday I want to tell you a little bit about my career, and one of the many amazing experiences I’ve had working in the field of veterinary medicine. I hope my story will help pet owners understand the incredibly challenging – and rewarding – work of veterinary technicians, and how our love of animals inspires us to make this our life’s work.
My name is Nicole LaForest and I am a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) in Washington State, a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) in California, and a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) in the UK.
My career in veterinary medicine started over a decade ago and I love every aspect of my job, on the good days and the bad ones. I became licensed after graduating with a degree in veterinary technology in 2015 and honed my technical skills over the past 6 years. I am currently the Practice Manager for an ambulatory surgery practice and my job sends me around the world to work in many wonderful countries. When I’m not working in veterinary medicine, you’ll find me working on my MPH in Epidemiology and One Health, which allows practitioners like me to study both humans and animals alike in hopes of protecting the global community as a whole.
Like anyone working in the field of veterinary medicine, I have enough crazy stories and adventures to write a book. But I wanted to share one that takes the cake for me, and I think illustrates the extreme feats that veterinary technicians take on all the time to ensure the wellbeing of their pet patients.
Very early on in my career, I was working as the evening supervisor for the ICU at my local veterinary emergency hospital. We had a bulldog that was having difficulty giving birth to her 6 puppies. Bulldogs often need to have scheduled or emergency C-sections to aid in the delivery process due to the anatomical structure of their pelvis in relation to the size of their puppies.
The veterinarian who normally performed all of our major surgeries had to leave that night because his wife was in labor with their son. The other veterinarian on staff was wonderful and highly experienced, but she was newer to some surgical procedures. We all did our best to calm her nerves and prepared the team for what was essentially a team building activity. What pet owners often don’t realize is that, unlike doctors who treat humans, veterinarians have to be versed in many different species and all medical conditions and treatments, so it’s not uncommon for someone on a veterinary team to be performing a procedure for the first time! Navigating novel medical situations is literally part of the job.
That particular evening, the bulldog’s surgery was going quite well until the Veterinarian accidentally nicked one of the major blood vessels nestled in the uterus. Now, normally this is not a concern as most C-section patients end up getting spayed after the puppies are removed, but because this patient belonged to a breeder with future litters in sight, we were unable to spay her. Unfortunately, a combination of missing dinner and the stress of the surgery complication got the better of the Veterinarian – and she passed out!
While she was safely caught by another team member, we had to scramble to get ahold of another Veterinarian. But this procedure was happening in the middle of the night and we were unable to reach another Doctor from our hospital, or one from the surrounding emergency hospitals. I scrubbed in quickly to stop the bleeding while another team member called our Practice Manager, who is also a Licensed Vet Tech, to come in. Thankfully, she lived a block away and showed up 5 minutes later in her pajamas. Phew, another LVT in the building! She was able to get ahold of the hospital’s lead Veterinarian and Practice Owner. He immediately texted us, “Do whatever you need to do to save the patient and I will video call you soon.”
The Doctor’s much-anticipated video call came just a few moments later and he walked us through the steps to suture the vessels and massage the remaining puppy down the birth canal. Success! All puppies were alive and well, and the momma bulldog patient was doing excellent under anesthesia. He then walked us through the closure, and we were able to close her up successfully. The attending Veterinarian came-to right around this time, and we woke the patient up so that we could closely monitor her and her puppies through the night. The veterinarian that had passed out earlier was back on her feet within an hour, and the hospital owner showed up shortly thereafter. We had high fives all around. Mom and her babies were safe, and went home the following day.
While I’ll never forget that night, or that patient and her puppies, almost all vet techs have experienced similarly unique and stressful situations. These moments are made possible by the highly-skilled, fearless veterinary teams (doctors, technicians and the supporting staff) and their unwavering commitment to their patients. The privilege of caring for our bulldog patients that night, despite the harrowing circumstances, only made us stronger and more passionate about our profession. And the attending veterinarian did not allow the surgery’s hiccup to impact her commitment to becoming a more well-rounded surgeon – I have been honored to work with her through many more difficult procedures, all of which she has completed on her own (and without passing out again).
I hope this story gives you a deeper understanding of the impact that credentialed veterinary technicians have on the health and wellbeing of your pets, and the integral role they play behind the scenes. Most of us would go to any lengths imaginable to save your pet. I would love for all of our clients to understand the fences we jump over to better ourselves, personally and professionally, in order to have the greatest impact possible on your pet’s care and wellbeing.
The next time you take Fluffy or Fido in for a checkup, be sure to say “thank you” to the vet techs. You never know what kind of crazy shift they worked last night!