October 17, 2013
Veterinary technicians are an essential part of a veterinary practice, yet most people don’t have a true understanding of the work and education required.
Oct. 13-19 marks the 21st National Veterinary Technician Week. This year's theme is "Your trusted partners in lifelong care. Lifelong commitment. Lifelong care."
Their job can be multifaceted – assisting in the exam room, treatment areas, surgery, ICU and more. Their role at a veterinary facility is much like that of a nurse in human medicine, and the variety of their scope of work depends on the type of veterinary facility where they are employed.
There are some real differences, however, between nurses and veterinary technicians: nurses have one patient species while veterinary technicians have hundreds, and in most cases, human patients can communicate with their nurse.
At the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, veterinary technicians primary work at the Small Animal and Large Animal teaching hospitals, but they are an integral part of the college’s educational mission.
In fact, three of the more than 80 veterinary technicians employed by Auburn say one of their favorite aspects of their job is working with veterinary medicine students and the teaching part of their job.
The three – Glenn Horne, Judy Woodrow and Natalie Royer – have a combined experience of more than 75 years in the field
Dr. Doug Allen, director of the J.T. Vaughan Large and Small Animal teaching hospitals and clinic, says in addition to exhaustive responsibilities,” ranging from obtaining samples from patients (blood, stool, skin scrapings, urine) to bandaging, assisting with surgery and treating ill patients, our technicians provide valuable mentorship to our students and house officers in the due course of their relatively broad array of technical veterinary task.
“They are the backbone of our hospital environment and culture and are critical in our teaching and service missions,” he added.
Horne, who is an anesthesia veterinary technician, says working with the students and keeping abreast of the latest technology because of the teaching hospital are two of the reasons he loves his job.
“When new procedures or techniques come out, we are among the first to learn them because we are in an educational environment,” says Horne, who has been a vet tech at the CVM for 21 years. “Not all clinics stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and procedures, and we have that advantage as a teaching hospital.”
Woodrow, who spent 17 years in private practice before joining Auburn’s Small Animal Teaching Hospital eight years ago, says neurology combines the best of what she was looking for – advanced treatment, fast-paced environment and top-notch education.
“Clients bring their pets to us because we do have the most advanced treatments available, and we remain on the cutting edge to teach future veterinarians and effectively treat our patients.
“I love being able to work as a team with hospital colleagues across specialties as well as with veterinary students,” Woodrow said. “It is very much a team approach to provide the best care for our patients and teaching students.”
Royer, who joined the college in 1983, says the variety of experience offered at Auburn’s Small Animal Teaching Hospital is another reason she loves her job. She joined Auburn after faculty member Dr. Ron Montgomery encouraged her to leave private practice and join the facility, becoming the first ophthalmology veterinary technician at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
After stints in soft tissue surgery and critical care, Royer currently works in oncology, where she helps both patients and their owners. “I love my patients and I love our clients,” she said. “I live for the small moments.”
If the three could give advice to future veterinary technicians, it’s simple: love animals, but most importantly, love to take care of them.
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