My Journey From VA to Vet TechOctober 15, 2019
Written by: Meagan Fernandez, Radiology Veterinary Technician at Bulger
“Oh the Places You Will Go”
Isn’t it amazing how everyday seems the same, but then you look at where you were just a few years prior and so much has changed? That is how I feel regarding my journey as a Veterinary Technician at Bulger Veterinary Hospital.
Back in 2014, 23-year-old Meagan saw an ad: “Veterinary Assistants wanted, no experience needed – on the job training”. I was in the middle of trying to “find myself” and had even researched being a veterinary technician before seeing the post. With no schooling I thought it was impossible – but I was wrong!
I updated my resume, filled out an online application, and soon after received an email from the Hospital Director, Steve, requesting an interview. A few days after the first interview, I was emailed again to come back for a second interview. There were three veterinary technicians interviewing me including Lauren, who would later become my VA trainer. They must have liked me because a week later, I received an email offer to join the Bulger team as a Veterinary Assistant! Anyone who knows me will say to themselves, of course Meagan still has that email from five years ago.
The VA Program at Ethos
The Veterinary Assistant Program that Ethos offers is a National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) approved six-month program that teaches you everything you need to know about working in an animal hospital.
In the beginning, you are not allowed to hold or restrain any animals. Your first objectives are learning how to properly clean and disinfect kennels, how to run in-house lab work, setting up IV fluid lines and pumps, etc.
As the weeks go on, you’re allowed to do a little bit more such as restraining non-aggressive animals, setting up for basic procedures, and walking stable inpatients. It is great because you truly start from the beginning and learn the steppingstones and proper fundamentals of the field.
Meagan, Veterinary Assistant
So, how was my first week you ask? Well maybe you were not wondering, but I’m going to tell you anyways.
I first shadowed an Emergency Technician named Greg, who is probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Side note: he now works in our in-house laboratory reading cytology samples and running lab work; he honestly is brilliant.
I was all bouncy and eager to be working at an actual animal hospital, and then Greg started using his extensive medical vocabulary. He spoke so matter-of-factly, that I felt words like: “pseudocoprostasis” should have already been in my brain dictionary. Another side note: that word is just a fancy medical term for fecal matter on an animal’s bum!
But I made it! One week went by, and then the second week, and then six months.
Meagan, Veterinary Technician (Level I)
Now what? What happens after the program is over? The VA Program was a great introduction to veterinary medicine, now I knew I wanted to continue my education and began the journey to become a Veterinary Technician.
The veterinary technician team at Bulger were excellent mentors as I began learning and practicing technical skills like how to draw blood, place IVs, and best of all: wrangle fractious cats!
My first successful blood draw was on a black cat named Po. Lauren, who was mentioned earlier, was restraining him telling me to just do it. Lauren knew before I did that, that was just the type of support I needed to succeed. Sweaty palms, shaky nerves, and sweat drips on my upper lip, I got the blood! It was all up from there.
To this day, phlebotomy is my favorite thing to do, and I have Lauren’s push to “just do it” to thank for that.
Ethos doesn’t just have Veterinary Technicians; we have Level I, Level II, Level III, and Level IV technicians. Every time you graduate to a new title, this means that you have completed many quizzes and many protocols of tasks performed in front of a doctor or Lead Technician.
The team members that helped me get to this point were incredible. No one was ever too busy to explain something to me or unwilling to show me how to do something. Throughout that first year, I was completely taken out of my comfort zone and I was doing things I thought I would never do in my lifetime. I was educating clients, learning how to monitor anesthesia, and drawing blood on the tiniest of kittens. My then supervisor, Lynn, made me a disgustingly tasty “litterbox” cake; it really looked like a dirty litterbox, but it was delicious. I also eventually got to wear the same color scrubs as the other Veterinary Technicians since I was no longer considered and assistant.
Continuous Growth (Level II, Level III, Level IV)
We are all about learning and teaching. If you think that you have learned all that you can learn, then this isn’t the career for you. Just like human medicine, veterinary medicine is always evolving and there’s always something new to learn in the workplace and at CE (Continuous Education) lectures.
I got to work in many different departments over the years which really helped build my skillset and knowledge. Dr. Mary Letwin pushed me out of my comfort zone and trained one-on-one with me to improve my cytology skills, which helped me to finish my Level II Technician protocols.
Present day, I am almost a Level III Technician. I still work in Emergency, helping to train newer employees and new waves of VA’s. I love being able to pass knowledge onto others. I also work in Radiology running our new 64-slice CT machine; nothing makes me feel cooler than pressing big buttons!
It is amazing, I look back on Meagan five years ago who never had this much confidence in herself or would be the one to jump in. Now, I am the first to run towards a crashing patient and eager to talk to clients to answer any questions they may have. I am also not embarrassed to talk to animals in my annoying baby voice in front of my co-workers (I’m so sorry guys, the voice is staying).
The job is not always glorious. Sometimes I am covered in unknown fluids, or fecal matter. Other days I am crying with a patient, client, or my Bulger family. But in the end, I know I have found what I was destined to do. I took a chance, and Bulger took a chance on me.
Started from the bottom now I’m here.