Monday, October 5, 2009

You're a what?

By Kirsten Wilson, Lab Technician
Animal Health Technology

An Animal Health Technologist. A Registered Animal Health Technologist (RAHT), actually. At this point, people cock their heads with a quizzical look on their faces. And I think to myself, “Yessss! An opportunity to educate!” Most people have no idea who is taking care of their pet when they take it to the veterinary office.

What I do
To put it in its simplest terms, I am an animal nurse. I perform all of the tasks in a veterinary clinic or hospital, except diagnosing, surgery and prescribing medications. I love my career, as every day is different. One moment I am assisting with puppy vaccinations, the next I am anesthetizing a cat for a surgery, after that I am taking chest x-rays on a dog that has been coughing. Then I am educating an owner on how to put ear medication in their pet’s ear. After lunch, I might perform a teeth cleaning on an older cat followed by teaching a client with a diabetic cat how to give insulin injections. Later, I will nurse an old golden retriever who is on IV fluids, and then console a longtime client who has had to make the difficult decision to let their sick companion go.

A worthwhile challenge
Like most vet techs, as we are sometimes called, I started on this path because I love animals. Unfortunately, that is not all it takes. Schooling is two intensive years; because of limited enrollment, it can be tough to gain admission. It is a lot of hard work, including after-class responsibilities. The job can be very emotional. And it is so worth it. The sense of joy I feel when a patient goes home healthy after a long hospital stay is indescribable. One of my favorite moments is when we bring the patient up to reception to their family. Their body is wiggling all over with happiness at seeing their loved ones. And the family runs to their pet, hugging and petting the furry little body. I get tears in my eyes every time!

Animal Health Week is an exciting time for RAHTs as it is a wonderful chance for us to help educate the public on ways to keep their pets healthy. Please visit us at the Animal Health Week Pet Fair Thursday, October 8 from 12:30-4:30pm in the atrium at the David Lam Campus. For more information, contact 604-777-6231.