For Their Care, Compassion and Expertise, Celebrating Veterinary Technicians

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Priscilla Marroquin DVM’21, then a student of veterinary medicine; certified veterinary technician Niki Albridge; and Veterinarian Elizabeth Alvarez, left to right, care for a terrier named China at the Wisconsin Companion Animal Resources, Education and Social Services (WisCARES) clinic.

Veterinary technicians deserve recognition for their essential role in promoting animal health. Regardless of the animal species, they bring passion and technical know-how to every aspect of veterinary care, be it assisting with procedures or administering treatments. At UW Veterinary Care, veterinary technicians also play an essential role in training fourth-year students, other technicians, interns, and our customers.

In celebration of National Veterinary Technician Week, October 17-23, we spoke to three veterinary technicians from the UW School of Veterinary Medicine – Sarah Harnden, Amanda Anderson, and Katie Harmelink – to share their experiences. Harnden works together with the emergency and intensive care unit of the small animal clinic. Anderson found her place in the Morrie Waud Large Animal Hospital. And Harmelink, who previously worked in the large veterinary clinic, switched to the school’s medical science department as a teaching specialist.

YOUR SVM: Why did you choose the Veterinary Technician division?

Sarah HarndenHarnden

Sarah Harnden: To be honest, I ended up in veterinary technician training on a whim due to a number of life events and circumstances. I’ve always wanted to work with animals, but I thought it would be about wildlife. I end up feeling very happy and fulfilled working with pets and their owners.

Amanda Anderson: I believe the basic answer to that question lies in our love for animals. Which is true for all of us. I am a Large Animal Technician at UW Veterinary Care and have dealt with horses and cattle for most of my life. I wanted to have a better understanding of how they work both internally and in the hospital, and that’s what I get here every day. I also wanted a challenge. Working with animals that are two or three times your body weight and have strong fight or flight reactions is extremely challenging. It makes coming to work interesting.

Katie Harmelink: I totally fell in love with the nursing part of the job. I did my bachelor’s degree at UW-Madison and started working as a student assistant at the teaching hospital, but quickly realized that nursing is my calling. I enjoyed doing things like taking blood, tube feeding for colic, and coaching students on how to successfully place catheters, or other clinical skills.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

NS: Every day I can be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. Animals deserve just as much compassion, respect, and humanity as we do. To be able to help, no matter how big or small the act is, is very rewarding.

Veterinary Technician Amanda AndersonAnderson

AA: It’s hard to choose a thing or two. But I have to say that I have to work with patients who are not doing well when they walk in and work with the best veterinarians to bring them back to where they can go back to their loving owners or where they can go back to top performers – that is worthwhile in and of itself.

KH: I have a lot that I love about my job. When I was in the clinic, I found it most rewarding when very critical patients went home happy and healthy. The foals (baby horses) were most intense and rewarding when they first nursed their mother after hours of grooming! Today I do less in the clinic, but I find just as much, if not more, when I watch our students learn and succeed in their training to become veterinarians. To be able to provide such great hands-on learning opportunities for the students and to see them grow as vets is so rewarding … I am fortunate to see them in veterinary school every year! From meeting them for orientation and their first year, when everything is new and exciting, to the second and third years when the parts flow together. In their fourth year, I watch their confidence and knowledge grow in the clinics and become great vets ready for their next trip.

What general advice do you have for people with animals?

NS: Be kind and patient with your veterinarian and veterinary staff. As a technician working in the emergency room / intensive care unit, we are currently experiencing unprecedented stress and exhaustion due to the high number of pets seeking our care while we are often understaffed. We want to help anyone bringing their pet to grooming, but please know that doing so may take longer.

Katie HarmelinkHarmelink

AA: Don’t hesitate to call your vet. Even if you think it is something small and insignificant. This is what your vet is for. It is always good to have a stethoscope and thermometer handy in your barn, farm, or home, and a piece of paper detailing the normal vital signs of the animal you are raising. This will help you be better prepared for your vet’s questions when you call.

KH: My advice is that your vet works hard for you and is human too. Please be friendly and communicative with them. They understand most situations and are there to keep your pet as healthy as possible. It’s a team effort.

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