The joy of working in veterinary medicine

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dr Cynthia Maro

I have an amazing and very gratifying job! As a veterinarian, I not only have the satisfaction of working in a field that provides purposeful work and care to support animal and human health, but I also have the honor of working with some of the most generous and humble humans I know, veterinary technicians .

The veterinary support team and veterinary technicians (LVT, CVT or veterinary nursing staff) are the backbones of veterinary medicine. They enable veterinarians to effectively treat pets, farm animals, wildlife, exotics, laboratory animals, fish, birds and zoo animals.

The week of Oct. 16-22 marks National Veterinary Technician Week. Why do we have this week?

It’s because an organization called NAVTA, The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, decided decades ago that the public needed to have a level of care for their animals that was exemplary. This organization promotes the education and advancement of veterinary technicians and helps veterinarians get the help they need to serve many animals and their families.

Public awareness and staff recognition for the vital care they provide has elevated the field to a highly respected career, with a competitive salary, and this enables us all to enjoy and understand the animal world better.

Veterinary technicians attend AVMA accredited colleges and technical programs

LVTs are the equivalent of RNs in human health care. They receive extensive instruction in science, veterinary medicine, anatomy, drug administration and client communications in the classroom and through externships, and then sit for a board examination in the state where they practice. This exam is similar to the exam an RN takes before going into clinical practice.

Upon passing the exam, they receive a license through their state’s Veterinary Licensing Board. They must maintain their license through regular continuing education programs and by adhering to the laws related to animal care, use of pharmaceuticals, the FDA, and their state’s practice act guidelines.

LVTs in PA can perform duties in large and small animal treatment veterinary facilities, zoos, human and animal health research, which go beyond assisting a veterinarian. Their salaries are often somewhere between ¼ and ½ that of their equivalent’s in human healthcare.

Often, these professionals do not receive the recognition and expressions of gratitude that would make their jobs more rewarding, in spite of the fact that they act as radiology technician, laboratory technician, surgical nurse, exam room assistant, dental chairside, CT operator, Ozone administrator, counselor, assistant, friend of animals and their humans, pharmacy technician and more.

Explore the field

If you think you would like to explore working in the veterinary field, I suggest shadowing in veterinary clinics to see what vet assistants, technicians and reception staff do in their busiest and diverse days. Then you can speak with staff about the programs available near us which can lead to veterinary technician license.

And if you have been helped by a veterinary team or technician, here are some nice ways to show your appreciation during Veterinary Technician Appreciation Week (or anytime you visit the vet).

Pet owners can show appreciation to veterinary staff:

  • Cards and words of thanks, noting specific examples of how staff helped you
  • Send healthy snacks to the clinic, fruits, veggies, edible arrangements and finger foods (staff often work through their lunches and breaks)
  • Baked goods, especially homemade items
  • For large animal vets and technicians, offer some Grab n Go foods and drinks they can eat on the run

What owners can do to help veterinary staff have a less stress-filled day:

  • Arrive on time for appointments, with prior records in hand
  • When on a time crunch, let the staff know at scheduling that you’ll need to be out by a specific time (don’t show up late and expect to be done within 10 minutes)
  • Email or call two days prior to expecting your prescription refills
  • Tell the staff ALL concerns when scheduling, so they can allot enough time for your pet’s appointment
  • Know what your budget is for care and take responsibility for limitations on your budget – be upfront and don’t lay a guilt trip on the staff if you can’t afford all the care recommended.
  • Grant everyone grace and kindness within the clinic for the occasional times they seem stressed, as they may have just dealt with an emotional situation before your visit. Pet euthanasia, other team members calling off, short staffing and add-on appointments can all lead to extra stress. LVT’s and support staff provide compassionate care for clients and pets, out of love and kindness. Your appreciation and respectful treatment help make each day more beautiful and will help create an awesome Veterinary Technician’s Week for the vet technicians you choose to honor!

dr Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like to have addressed, email

If you have stories of veterinary office workers who have gone above and beyond in helping you and your pets, we would love to hear about them. You can send the stories to Dr. Maro at or