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A Technician’s Journey to Professional Wellness

By: Rachel Lees RVT, KPA CTP, VTS (Behavior)

What is Professional Wellness?  I considered this question as I began writing this blog post.  Therefore, I dissected and defined each of the words:

  • Professional:   Being engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

  • Wellness:  the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.

The professional part was easy, we are Veterinary Technicians, and animal healthcare is the name of our game.  The wellness part is what was throwing me off. I began to ask myself, am I professionally well? I answered the question with a “yes” and then asked, “how did I get to this place?”  Therefore, I’m going to share my story with you:

Coming out of high school, I enrolled in our community colleges’ Veterinary Technology Program.  I always loved animals and thought to myself this would be a great job choice for me. I struggled my first few semesters in the program as I was young and honestly didn’t take things seriously.  I did NOT consider this a career initially, and I had no idea what this field entailed. I am not a quitter and continued to push myself to complete the program. As I finished and graduated in my second year, I grew to love the profession.  I obtained my first job as Rachel Lees, RVT and I felt that I could make a difference! In my clinic, I was the 1st utilized technician that they felt comfortable enough to intubate, administer anesthesia protocols, suture our surgical patients, etc.  It felt fantastic!

After I was working in my general practice for three years, looking back, I can say that lacked professional wellness.  I went into this mode of feeling like I was being forced to go to work. I lacked passion and honestly thought, “Wow! I guess this is it and this is all I have to look forward to in this industry.”  I felt that I had nowhere to develop from the place I was. Yes, I was working with amazing patients and clients every day, but I lost the passion that I had when I had first started in my position, and my job was becoming a chore.

I worked for a practice which encouraged us to go to our local conference and take whatever tracks we would like (a practice that encouraged Professional Wellbeing)!  That year, I heard Dr. Megan Herron, DACVB speak about puppy socialization classes and working with animal behavior, and I felt a spark. I came back from that conference and felt passionate about my job again and felt like I could turn this into a career.  I actively pursued a goal in achieving my Veterinary Technician Specialty in Behavior, and this honestly changed my professional wellness for the better.

While working to achieve my VTS (Behavior), I met and interacted with many veterinary professionals who were like me.  They were serious about their careers, were utilized appropriately, and working to achieve a goal. Whether it was working towards their VTS (Dentistry) or pursuing their bachelor’s degrees, it was inspiring and shifted my attitude completely!  I was positive and felt heartache for the technicians who gave up on the profession.

If you feel as I once did was eight years ago, I would encourage the same thing Rebecca Rose did in the previous post.  Download the AVMA’s booklet of 100 Healthy Tips to Support a Culture of Wellbeing and look under the Occupational Wellbeing section.  Work through individual assessments and tips. Not every technician will find their passion in pursuing a specialty as I did, but I also feel that creating professional goals each year and working towards them is also beyond rewarding not only for yourself but for your practice.  Keep your attitude towards your profession positive and keep a forward-looking perspective. It was not an easy road getting to this place, but the feeling of joy and passion in the workplace is something I would never trade!