You can be the (nearly) perfect veterinary technician

You can be the (nearly) perfect veterinary technician

A successful career is about more than perfect catheter placement. Discover what veterinarians want most from their technicians—then use this list of seven habits to put your career on the fast track.
Dec 01, 2012

Not long after leaving a technician position that I'd worked at for years, my former boss told me something that surprised me. She said I was half perfect. Well, maybe she didn't say it quite like that. She did, however, say that if she combined my skills and those of the other credentialed technician I worked with, we would make the perfect technician.

The comment started me thinking. And I'm still thinking about it today. Although I know I'm not perfect at my job or, well, at life sometimes, is it OK to settle for being perfect just 50 percent of the time? I certainly wouldn't want to serve a homemade dessert to dinner guests if it were 50 percent delicious. Nor would I be proud to have finished only 50 percent of a marathon I trained to run. And I most certainly wouldn't allow my children to play with Matilda, our Staffordshire bull terrier, if her sweet disposition was only reliable 50 percent of the time.

So I began to wonder, what are the traits I need? What are the personal or professional tools every technician should possess? Are there some habits or qualities that are deal breakers? I spoke with numerous veterinarians and found that most of them look for similar qualities in their technicians, although each doctor weighed these qualities differently. Still unsure of the formula for perfection, I compiled a list of qualities that veterinarians find important, all the while wondering, is there even such a thing as a perfect technician? Let's take a look at the list, see what they said—and see if it's you (or your colleague):

1. Think beyond technical skills.

When your boss hired you, he or she assumed you possessed certain skills—venipuncture, animal restraint, surgery preparation, and surgical instrument sterilization, to name a few. But sometimes it's important to remember that these skills probably weren't the only reason your boss hired you. And even harder to remember, those skills, though essential, may not be what your boss values the most in you.

Sure, your ability to draw blood from a one-legged calico cat with no restraint will no doubt "wow" your boss. But there are other things that are vital to your success in the eyes of your supervisor.

2. Choose a positive attitude.

Attitude is one word each of the veterinarians I spoke with used when I asked them to describe their ideal technician. If you find yourself rolling your eyes as you read this word that always seems to pop up at team meetings, you may be in need of a new one.

Dr. Howard Barnes of Del Lago Veterinary Hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz., has a work motto: Attitude is everything. Regardless of the situation, he says, your attitude will play a significant role in the result. If you're trying to learn—or even teach—a new skill, possessing the right attitude could make the difference in how quickly you—or the new technician you're training—will pick up the skill.

Dr. Dean Rice of Rice Veterinary Services in Chandler, Ariz., warns his staff that attitudes are contagious. He believes that low morale from even one employee can easily infect the rest of the team. He jokingly calls it a "staff infection." Although I admit I have not always been immune to the bug, luckily I made a full recovery. Dr. Rice also believes that good attitudes are contagious and prefers to hire and keep technicians with good attitudes. He likes those technicians to remain happy with their jobs—and his pay reflects this.

Having a great attitude at the start, middle, and end of your day will make you a great employee—and great co-worker, for that matter. Best-case scenario: You become that awesome technician every veterinarian in the office wants by his or her side during stressful times. Worst-case scenario: You become that awesome technician every veterinarian wants by his or her side during stressful times.