Recently I was part of an argument in a comments section on Facebook. I told myself not to get involved but after seeing so many veterinary technicians and veterinarians beaming with pride regarding our profession I couldn’t sit back and not defend my colleagues.
The medical community is vast- Human physicians, dentists, psychologists, pharmacists, nurses, biologists… and veterinarians and veterinary technicians. We fit in there too. But unfortunately there are a lot of medical professionals that view us as less than because we work on animals and not humans. Our degrees aren’t equal for these people. They get upset when we try to equate the same tasks and jobs that veterinarians do to human physicians. Instead of understanding our job they continue to ignore the parallels. This creates a lot of issues in the medical community and makes veterinarians and technicians feel like second-class citizens.
In undergrad I was tracking “Pre-Med.” I had a lot of classmates that were considering different careers- a few dentists, a pharmacist, and a few medical doctors. Unfortunately a few of those classmates made fun of my choice to apply for veterinary school. I got a lot of “you won’t even be a real doctor” and “that will be an easy job.” Even in undergrad the misconceptions of what being a veterinarian was all about were vast.
Fast-forward to today where I still have to defend my choice and defend my veterinary technicians. I am not trying to covet anyone’s job. I am not trying to make it seem like human physicians do not work hard. I am trying to show people how alike our fields are and that everyone deserves respect. I am not going to get into the argument if veterinary technicians should be called nurses- in certain countries they are but in the U.S they are technicians. That isn’t what this article is about. What I do what to discuss is how alike our professions are without creating more animosity towards each other.
A veterinarian goes through 4 years of pre-med undergraduate school and then another 4 years of veterinary school. Every course that we take is exactly the same as our human counterparts but geared towards animals. Unfortunately instead of learning these courses for one species veterinarians have to learn it for all species. I wish I could say that a cat is similar to a small dog but I think all of my former professors would be fuming.
During our fourth year we go through rotations that focus on surgery, internal medicine, oncology, etc. We prepare and study for the national board exam and then usually have to take a state board exam to get licensed.
As veterinarians we are expected to be able to handle a variety of medical specialties in the course of a regular day. I can go from a puppy exam discussing early life nutrition, vaccinations, and care to an oncology appointment where I am discussing what types of chemotherapy might be best for lymphoma. During that I may get an emergency surgery presented where I have to stabilize the patient and prepare the owners for complications and issues with undergoing anesthesia.
We see similar metabolic diseases as our human counterparts and run the exact same types of tests to monitor and track these diseases. Just because we work on animals doesn’t make our jobs any less important and any less different than human physicians.
A veterinary technician goes through a similar path. They go through schooling learning microbiology and other similar courses as nurses do. Although they obtain an associates degree their job parallels the work of human nurses. A veterinary technician is the one who is your pet’s advocate. They place IV catheters in hissing cats and then have to read fecal samples, blood smears, and skin scrapes.
Veterinary technicians are the ones monitoring your patient under anesthetic and have a vast amount of knowledge in anesthesia, radiology, and internal medicine. They are crucial to the veterinary field, just like nurses, and deserve to be acknowledged for their skills.
Maybe you don’t value an animal’s life and thus don’t value the work that a veterinarian and their technicians accomplish daily. Maybe even after explaining how our training is exactly alike you still don’t think that the professions are the same. What I suggest is to walk a day or a week or a month in the shoes of a veterinarian and a technician. Ask if you can shadow a busy veterinary hospital and see for yourself. Don’t ignore another profession because you don’t understand it.
The world is full of misunderstandings and hatred because we choose to stay in our bubble and not experience others experiences. I love my human counterparts and nurses – I know how hard they work and the daily tasks they have to endure. I hope eventually we receive that same respect.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Nicole Palumbo is a 2012 graduate from University of Illinois. She is originally from the south side of Chicago but chose to move to Northwest Pennsylvania for her first job out of veterinary school, where she currently is still employed. She works with small animals, exotics, and also volunteers her time at the local wildlife rescue, typically performing surgeries and exams on the many raptors that are admitted to the facility. With time she hopes to focus more time on wildlife medicine and also obtain specialization in feline medicine.