Today I was doing what every technician does on a daily, if not hourly basis. I was expressing a patient’s anal glands. It’s not necessarily my favorite part of the job and it is far from glamorous. I actually went years in my career without doing it. Then I became licensed and decided I had to do it. Nine years later, I consider myself somewhat of an expert.

As I went to express this particular patients anal glands, the most dreaded scenario happened. The anal glands expressed on my face, and well everything else. The distance was impressive and it managed to not only get my face, but all over the nearest objects anywhere near the three-foot radius. Let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled. However, this disaster of a very simple procedure taught me a few things.

Keep your mouth closed.

There are many times in life when it seems ok to let your mouth run. Maybe you are discussing a medical case or even what movie you saw this weekend. Discussion is a good thing. But it has to be at an appropriate time. If involves gloves and water based lubricant, it is not the time. Focus on what you are doing and save the chit chat for times that you don’t have to be so focused. Keeping your mouth shut is a lesson that can be applied in several areas in life.  Feeling angry? Probably best to keep your mouth shut. Have something negative to say about someone or a situation? If your lips are firmly sealed, you may save yourself from spouting off some emotional nonsense you’ll regret. Think first and speak if truly necessary

Bad things happen but you have to follow through.

Things don’t always go as expected. Sometimes the most routine events, can take a sudden turn. In those situations you may want to run off screaming. In my case I wanted to rush over to the nearest eye wash station to decontaminate. But I had a job to do and I had to finish it. So I took a deep breath, (through my nose as I had learned from the first lesson) and I finished my job. I tuned out the laughter of my coworkers and did what I had to do. Why I haven’t received my badge of bravery yet, I am not sure. But it’s a good opportunity to remain resilient and set an example for others, even if it’s not pretty to look at.

Let others take care of you sometimes.

There may be times when you are feeling stressed out, overwhelmed or just down. In those times, when someone offers an act of kindness, accept it. Don’t be stubborn and don’t try to be a hero. It is ok to be vulnerable. When you have a bodily excretion on your face, it’s ok to let your coworker fumble to clean you up with a paper towel. When someone cares for you in the darkest of times, let it happen. Always appreciate gestures of kindness from those around you.

Laugh at yourself.

Sometimes some absolutely embarrassing things will happen unexpectedly. In situations that are less than ideal, it’s easy to blush beet red and find the nearest safe space. Don’t do it. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with those who are laughing at your circumstances and not necessarily your character. We all have pride, but it’s totally acceptable to laugh even if you want to die of embarrassment. It makes you stronger. It makes you take yourself less seriously. Above all it gives us the ability to maintain a sense of humor in the perceived “worst” of times.

Always have a backup plan.

If you find yourself in a situation that is less than ideal, have a backup plan. It never hurts to prepare for the worst and hope for the best in any situation. Whether you’re dealing with work or personal life issues, always have your next step in mind. That being said, I did not have a backup plan in this situation. This resulted in me being forced wear a maternity scrub to due to my lack of planning and inability to fit into a size small. Always have a backup plan and change of clothes. Because anal glands happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look fashionable afterwards.

Sharing this experience is mortifying for me. But I know that I have not ensured such an event alone. It happens all the time in vet med, just as many hiccups in on our plans will. What we do in these situations proves our true character. Hopefully these lessons will help you with your next bad day or anal gland expression gone awry. Maybe by reading this, you will be spared. But always, always keep your mouth closed.


Jade is a licensed technician of 9 years who lives in Port Orchard, Washington. She enjoys emergency and critical cases, dentistry and creating a bond with her clients and team. During her off time she is busy keeping up with her two crazy Basenjis!