If you take a moment and think about it, I’ll bet you could start a long list of things you have learned about being a veterinary technician because of working through a global pandemic. Did you learn something about technology? Did you learn to communicate in new ways? It took me until now to see it, but I am a better veterinary technician because of the challenges of this year. There’s no way I can describe our universal experience, but I want to share my story because I have something important to remind you of – it’s okay to not know everything about vet med!
I recently heard a phrase that truly fits what it means to work in veterinary medicine: “Every day is game day.” Being a veterinary technician in a global pandemic has been like jumping into a brand new game without any practice, making new plays and hoping to come out a winner at the end of the day. How many times did you walk into the clinic this year to learn a new protocol would be applied right away (which from that moment was brand new information to absolutely everyone in your clinic)? It’s been overwhelming! For me, as we integrated more new things like wearing masks, curbside services and cleaning protocols, it felt like my brain started to dump other important information out. Eventually, I reached a point where I was making a bunch of simple mistakes. I did things like forget the parasites prevented by Revolution. It would slip my mind to record something in a medical record. I’d move slowly through an appointment because I was trying even harder to remember all of the things to be done.
I felt like I was losing it. Why was it suddenly so hard to do my job? Was I the only one feeling this way? What was wrong with me?
In August, I hit a wall.
I was so tired. I was tired of asking questions and the answers constantly changing. I was tired of sweating in a mask for 12 hours a day. I was tired of making mistakes. Everything about my job felt hard, and I felt the weight of everyone around me being tired, too.
There was a point that I got so angry at myself because I thought I was failing my team. All of the doubts I carried with me about my skills as a veterinary technician felt validated by my sudden inability to do what I would say was a good job. Then, after a courageous conversation with my managers and a lot of tears, I remembered something so fundamentally simple: we are always learning.
They reminded me that while I was doing things like making simple mistakes, I was doing a lot of things really well too. I was showing up to work in the morning and saying hello to my team to foster positivity and camaraderie. I was still taking time to teach other technicians about anesthesia. I was owning up to mistakes in the moment and setting an example to follow. I didn’t know everything, but I kept asking the questions.
What I needed to realize and what you should know is that it’s okay not to always have the answers. It’s okay to give yourself room and time to grow. In veterinary medicine, and in life, you hold onto information you need to know the most often. We have plenty of medical information we need to know, but this year, we added many new pieces of knowledge to our client education list… like how to use video chats! It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you see as shortcomings. When you get there… what if you think about a skill you’ve developed in 2020?
We are veterinary technicians. That means we are phlebotomists, anesthetists, janitors, educators, professional animal handlers and so much more. This year, think about how our roles have changed because of the state of this world. In just a few months, we have learned to communicate the value of what we do for pets without the benefit of eye contact or body language cues. We have learned to ease fear around pets leaving their owners for care. We have learned a million new ways to clean. We have learned how to work with even more compassion toward our teammates who are afraid or who aren’t. We should add a long list of skills to our resumes after this experience, and maybe even recognize a few that we had left out before.
There is no way to be the best at everything. There is no shame in reviewing the basics or asking questions you might have known the answers to once upon a time. It’s okay to lean on the knowledge and strengths of your teammates sometimes. Try not to focus on the things you don’t know. Think about all the incredible things you do know. You are a veterinary technician. You are an expert communicator. You have a compassionate heart for pets and their people. You do not know everything about veterinary medicine – and that is perfectly okay. Part of being a great vet tech is pushing yourself to keep learning. Guess what? This year pushed us in ways no one saw coming, and we are all better vet techs because of that.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.