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Working with Vet Techs as a New Grad Vet

Posted by Cathy Barnette on Jun 10, 2019 3:27:40 PM
Cathy Barnette
Cathy Barnette is a practicing small animal veterinarian, freelance writer, and contributor to XPrep Learning Solutions. She is passionate about both veterinary medicine and education, working to provide helpful information to veterinary teams and the general public. In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature with her family and leading a Girl Scout troop.

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Working with vet techs as a new grad is a fine balance. Just a short time earlier, you worked alongside them as a technician or assistant… and now you’re suddenly the doctor. This is a big adjustment and can take some care to navigate.

One of the first lessons I learned as a new grad was to accept help from the techs. My first job out of vet school was in a rural practice, in a relatively low-income area. Trust me when I say that my first few weeks of practice were NOTHING like veterinary school!

Here I was, full of info on complicated diseases and disorders… but that wasn’t what my clients and patients needed. Instead, my days were full of trauma, anal gland abscess, “warbles” (cuterebra), and stress colitis - all things that veterinary school had not prepared me for! Although my mentor tried to help, he had a busy appointment schedule of his own and wasn’t always available.

Fortunately, the team of experienced techs that I worked with was there to guide me through all of those “routine” cases that were not at all routine to me. They had seen enough of the common presentations to know what treatments the owner tended to use and they would gladly share that info when asked. I would have been lost without their help!

In addition to accepting help, though, it’s important to offer help from time to time as well. While much of your role as a vet will involve delegating tasks, there may be times that the vet techs are swamped and you have a bit of free time. When that happens, help them out! Read a fecal, run a urinalysis, clean a kennel, or do whatever else you can to make their job easier. You shouldn’t be doing this routinely (at least not in a well-managed practice!), but helping when you can will improve your working relationship and help the practice succeed.  

Finally, try to maintain a professional relationship with the techs. You might be closer in age to the techs than to the practice owner, which can make it tempting to see yourself as one of them. While I certainly wouldn’t discourage being friendly with the techs, you may want to avoid the temptation to go out partying with coworkers.

While some new grads manage to do that without any trouble, I’ve seen situations where techs respond differently to a vet after they start socializing together. Think about the working relationship that you want to have with your techs and ensure that your after-hours activities won’t negatively affect that relationship.

The techs that you work with will be a huge asset to you throughout your career, but that’s especially true during the early years of practice. Take steps now to build a good working relationship so that you can work together as effectively as possible!

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Topics: Veterinary Technicians

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