If I had been asked what I was going to do with my life after I got out of the Navy, I would have never imagined that I would be where I am now. I spent my navy career working on bombs, missiles, and guns for the F/A-18 aircraft. Not as my mother told me, a high demand job field outside the military. Through trial and error, in the work arena I found myself working at the local humane society where I found that I truly enjoyed working with animals, and I shockingly found myself becoming an advocate for them. The humane society I worked for had a hospital associated with it that was made somewhat famous by Animal Planet’s show Animal Cops: Phoenix. I was intrigued by what they did for the injured strays and abused animals in the Phoenix area. It led me to asking a couple of Veterinarians what I need to do to work in the hospital. One of the Veterinarians told me “go get your Associated Degree and get your Certification and come back and we will talk”. I took his advice and have never looked back. I have talked to him several times since getting my degree and becoming a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) and thanked him for his advice. He gave me the advice knowing full well that if I followed his advice I would go on to working in the greater Veterinary community and not shelter medicine. I am forever indebted to him for that push.
Now that I have weaved the path to where I am now, the first question is…What is a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT)? Well in short, we assist the Veterinarians in treating pets that are sick or injured. We require at least an Associate’s Degree, testing by a National and State board, and Licensing by the State in which we practice. as well as fulfilling yearly continuing education to keep our Certification current. The Veterinarians diagnose disease, prescribe medications, provide prognosis, do surgical procedures, and provide treatment plans. They have their plates full with that list of responsibilities. So as a CVT we run diagnostic tests, phlebotomy, take X-rays, place Intravenous catheters, restrain patients, administer medicines, assist in surgical procedures, anesthesiology, bandage broken bones and wounds, among numerous other tasks. We have the same tasks and responsibilities as are human Nurse counterparts, for whom I have the utmost respect. Our field is not as diversified as the human Nursing field, we do not have specializations in specific fields, we must cover all the bases often within a short period of time. It can be very challenging at times, but it can also be very rewarding.
Now that I have given you an idea of what a CVT does, I can expand a bit further as to what my passion and daily challenge is. I currently work in one of the leading Emergency and Critical Care hospitals in the state of Arizona. Like human medicine our field is divided into general practice clinics, urgent care hospitals, and emergency hospitals. Unlike our human counterparts we do not have ambulance services (Yet). Typically, our patients are brought in by their owners, good Samaritans, or the Police Department. Our first step is triaging the patient. This involves assessing respiratory stability, cardiac stability, trauma, and active bleeding. The most critical patients are taken back immediately into the treatment area to be stabilized. As technicians we will work to get IV access, intubate if necessary, administer medications per the veterinarian’s orders, and do an initial body exam to look for apparent trauma. If a patient comes in in cardiac or respiratory arrest (if they stop breathing or their heart has stopped) we will start CPR on that patient. So, when the initial phase of patient coming in to us we operate much like a human ER we do what we can to stabilize the patient or resuscitate if necessary. Here is the point where we typically differ from our human counterparts. If a patient needs x-rays, blood work, or intensive care and monitoring we as technicians will do all those things, we don’t have separate departments that will handle it. If the patient requires surgery, we will prepare the animal for surgery and be the anesthesiologist during the procedure. In the most severe cases after we have stabilized the patient we will hospitalize with an intensive care or critical care technician. These CVT’s are trained to monitor for signs of change in the patient’s vital signs and respond to keep the patient stable.
As technicians we will typically do all these things within a normal 10-hour shift. What differs us from our general practice counterparts is typically general practice will handle wellness exams, vaccinations, and long-term illness treatment. On any given day we will see any number of these type of cases; dog bite wounds (on dogs or cats), cat bite wounds (typically on other cats), animals hit by cars, gunshot wounds, head traumas, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, internal bleeding, heart failure, respiratory failure, any number of acute endocrine disorders, cuts and lacerations, smoke inhalation, and any number of other medical issues that can arise.
Each one of the tasks technicians do on a regular basis during the workday could be an article of its own. We take a lot of the jobs in the emergency medicine field and bundle them into one individual. I hope in the future I hope to share some of the more interesting ones as well some of the more interesting cases that we’ve had at our hospital. It is a job that has its high points in its low points. It is a job that requires the doctors and technicians to work as a team. It is a job and a field of work that requires passion to last any amount of time in.
The only other place that I have found the drive, camaraderie, passion for the job, and a group of individuals that are set on completing the task with perfection every time, is in the military. Perhaps that is why I gravitated towards this field and have found myself excelling and having a passion for it.
I have written this article to peel back the curtain and give a little bit of insight into a little-known job field and to hopefully give the greater community in understanding of part of veterinary medicine. If you can give pet owners it of understanding and insight into how their pet be treated in an emergency situation it makes our job easier in the situation a little less stressful for them as well.
He was born in New York and Raised in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan, where he developed a love for the water and large boats. He enlisted and served 4 years in the U.S. Navy as an Aviation Ordnanceman with an F/A-18 squadron stationed in California and did a WestPac cruise on the U.S.S. Nimitz Spending time in the Persian Gulf and Off the coast of China. After serving He spent 13 years working several jobs from corporate America to factory work, before finding his passion working in animal welfare. In the past 8 years He has gone from working at local animal shelters to graduating with His Associates of Occupational Sciences in Veterinary Technology and becoming a Certified Veterinary Technician/Nurse (CVT). The past 4 years he has been a CVT/Nurse with one of the leading Veterinary Emergency and Critical care hospitals in the state of Arizona. In his off time, He is an avid shooter and collector of military firearms with an emphasis on World War I and II era pieces. Proud defender of the 2nd amendment and considers himself a constitutionalist regarding all matters political. He currently resides in Gilbert, Arizona with several canine companions adopted from local rescues that he and his brother have volunteered with.