Most Important Vet Tech Skills
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- Vet techs need clinical skills to care for animals and assist the veterinarian during surgery.
- Vet techs also need strong communication and customer service skills.
- Zoo vet techs will need to know how to restrain large or dangerous animals.
Vet techs learn necessary clinical skills from vet tech programs approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. These programs usually take two years to complete and cover how to care for animals and assist the veterinarian with medical procedures.
In addition to clinical skills, vet techs require a variety of soft skills such as empathy, critical thinking, communication, and customer service.
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Clinical Vet Tech Skills
Vet techs need to be able to perform a variety of tasks as part of their day-to-day duties. Performing these vet tech duties helps the veterinarian concentrate on the things only vets can do, like diagnosing problems and performing surgery.
Vet tech skills include:
Examining animals Talking to pet owners about their pet's condition Preparing and taking care of equipment and supplies Taking vital signs Collecting samples and completing laboratory tests Administering vaccinations and medications Dressing wounds Taking X-rays and diagnostic imaging Performing physical therapy Administering anesthesia Keeping the exam room sterile Updating patient records Cleaning the animals' cages
Soft Skills for a Vet Tech
Although clinical skills are important, vet techs also need soft skills such as customer service and critical thinking skills. These skills help keep the veterinary practice running smoothly. Vet techs who have strong soft skills will be more likely to succeed in their careers.
Vet techs need to be able to work with pet owners to ensure that owners understand how to care for their pets after returning home. Vet techs should cultivate positive relationships with their clients so that pet owners will be more likely to trust the vet tech's care recommendations.
Having empathy for the pets you care for can help you provide better care, but having empathy for the pet owners is just as important. People come to think of their pets as part of the family, and they can get just as upset when something is wrong with their pets as they do when something happens to a spouse or child. Vet techs will need to be compassionate and understanding with pet owners.
Vet techs need to be able to communicate with other veterinary staff and with pet owners. Jackie Nickerson, a vet technician, reiterates the importance of clear communication. "My role requires a lot of teamwork between the receptionists, technicians, and doctors."
“My role requires a lot of teamwork between the receptionists, technicians, and doctors”
Care should be taken to avoid unnecessary jargon when communicating with clients. Vet techs will need to find a balance between using accurate clinical terminology and helping clients understand what needs to happen in simple language.
Vet techs also need to be able to interpret tests and draw conclusions about what type of treatment an animal needs. Vet techs must be able to understand the reasons for treating an animal a certain way. They also need to be able to make decisions in order to modify the treatment if the original plan fails.
Vet techs need organization skills to keep track of lab specimens and administer the right medications to each animal. These professionals must be able to find the things they need quickly and easily, which requires organization. They will need to know where everything belongs and make sure things get put back in the proper place when they finish using them.
Attention to Detail
Little details can make a big difference in a veterinary clinic. Medications need to be measured precisely, and pre- and post-surgical procedures followed exactly. All instruments must be sterilized after use and the exam room must be kept clean.
Frequently Asked Questions About Vet Tech Skills
Should I be a vet tech if I am naturally squeamish?
It's natural to feel squeamish around blood and other body fluids, but if you want to become a vet tech, you will need to learn how to overcome that tendency. To overcome squeamishness, expose yourself to more of what makes you squeamish. It also helps to eat and drink before you go into surgery to keep your blood sugar up.
What types of technical machines will I need to operate?
Vet techs use a variety of tools, including a digital thermometer designed for veterinary use. Vet techs also need to be able to use an otoscope, which is used to examine ears. Automatic blood pressure monitors check animals' blood pressure, and stethoscopes allow the tech to listen to the animal's heart or lungs.
Do zoo vet techs need any special skills?
A zoo vet tech must be able to restrain large animals to keep them from hurting themselves or those who care for them. They must also know how to handle animals that require extra caution, such as snakes and scorpions. Unlike regular vet techs, who usually work with pets, zoo vet techs must know how to care for all kinds of animals, including rare and exotic animals.
Jackie Nickerson, CVT, is a lead veterinary technician and Hospital Manager for Vet’s Best Friend. Jackie began working as a Veterinary Assistant in 2014 and completed her Veterinary Technician degree from Penn Foster in January 2020, passing the Veterinary Technical National Exam (VTNE) in June 2020. Jackie has been the Hospital Manager at Braintree Veterinary Care in Braintree Massachusetts since the hospital’s opening in June 2020.
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