The Mistake That Made Me Who I Am Today

Blog Author: Lorelei D’Avolio, LVT, CVPM, VTS (Clinical Practice-Exotics)
CVTS Chair

My first veterinary job was cleaning kennels for $5.65/hour, and I loved every cheesy smelling, chunky-vomit-filled, feces-under-the-fingernails second of it. After graduating college with an unrelated degree, I took the position and wondered what someone who loved animals but didn’t want to go to vet school could do. I had never heard of a veterinary technician, nor did I know what credentialing or licensure involved. A few months in, I was promoted to “tech-in-training.” At the time, licensure was required in my state; however, most hospitals did not enforce this law, and I saw nothing wrong with it. The hospital I worked at did not have any licensed technicians, and to me, the unlicensed technicians were rock stars saving lives every day. They effortlessly drew urine blindly from bladders, took blood from every imaginable vein, and seemed an invaluable part of the team. The community and camaraderie were palpable and so desirable to me. I had found my people.

But then, one day, a horrible accident brought a dog in on emergency. Doctors began the triage and ordered the staff, who were whirling around looking scared but purposeful. I was frozen. The dog was pale, bloody, and so…. unnaturally limp. Suddenly, one of the doctors looked directly at me and said, “Lorelei- grab me a laryngoscope- hurry!” I jumped into action, whirling with the others, opening drawers and cabinets, hoping that I would have some idea of what I was looking for when I saw it. Laryngoscope… laryngoscope…. I had heard that word. I looked at the doctor; he tried to jam a tube into the dog’s throat through his mouth. Finally, I got it… I knew what was needed!! He needed that thing with the light to see in the throat! So, I grabbed it and ran it over, confident that I had finally contributed to saving a life!! I was part of the team! The doctor took it from me and stared. Everyone stopped and stared. The doctor, quietly but clearly frustrated, looked at me and said, “Lorelei- why did you hand me a vaginal speculum?!”.

The embarrassment was complete. There was no fixing this. Not only had I failed, but I failed spectacularly. And… the dog died. Or perhaps he was dead when they walked through the door. It didn’t really matter because I felt that those precious moments I wasted through my lack of knowledge may have contributed to his death. Those people I wanted to be “my people” saw who I was, and my imposter syndrome was born.

The silver lining of this achingly embarrassing story is that I immediately enrolled in a veterinary technology college and poured myself into every textbook, journal, and educational opportunity I could find. I silently promised myself, my patients, and their owners that if an animal died on my watch, it would not be because I lacked knowledge. And to this day, I have kept my promise.