Tomorrow I'll be speaking to a small group of veterinary technician students, and telling them all about my career as a vet tech. It's taken me 2 weeks to put the presentation together, so I've been thinking a lot lately about the last 15 years and how lucky I've been. I have been fortunate enough to do a wide variety of different things as a certified veterinary technician. I almost left the field entirely on 3 separate occasions. Looking back on everything now, I can see the trail all the way back to when I was a dog walker in Chicago, and it seems so natural and obvious. Going through it was a lot bumpier!
The theme of my speech is thinking outside the box in terms of your career, and about not settling for a situation that isn't right. The average lifespan of a certified veterinary technician's career is 5 years. 5 YEARS! After doing all of the work at vet tech school, studying for and passing the Veterinary Technician National Examination to become certified/registered/licensed, maintaining continuing education requirements, what causes these dedicated animal lovers to leave the field they dreamed about and imagined themselves loving?
It's usually one or more of the following:
Lack of pay/benefits/promotion
Lack of respect
I felt all of those things at some point over the years and as I said, I almost left the field 3 times. But I didn't. I stuck with it. I looked for other opportunities. I didn't settle. I took chances. I always did right by my patients no matter what. I never forgot why I got into the field. When I wanted to flee to human nursing like many of my peers did, I reminded myself that humans are gross and animals are the best things ever.
I want the students I talk to tomorrow to be inspired to put themselves in the best situations, and not to settle in their careers. If you're falling out of love with your chosen profession, shake things up and fall in love again. Seek out a vet tech specialty (critical care, dentistry, anesthesiology, cardiology etc.) and pursue it. Become a certified canine rehab practitioner. Try emergency medicine. Go help teach the veterinarians of tomorrow at a veterinary college. Write for a textbook. Blog! Take steps to do what you love.
Don't work for people who don't treat you well. Don't work for people who perpetuate a culture of hostility and gossip. Don't put up with verbal, sexual, or physical abuse of any kind, toward a person or patient, by anyone. Even your boss. And don't sell yourself short!
I absolutely love being a vet tech. I wouldn't want to be anything else except maybe a photographer for National Geographic. It's been a phenomenal 15 years. I hope the students I'll be speaking to tomorrow are able to say the same thing in 2032.