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National Nutrition Month

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Chair


For years, I have been the technician who would prefer to work through lunch. There are times that I inhale a piece of pizza before heading into a lunch time emergency surgery. Even worse, I may go all day without even eating anything at all. I wondered why I was exhausted, couldn’t lose weight despite barely eating or why I just had zero energy at the end of the week.  Then I began working at a clinic that took regularly scheduled lunches. It was so foreign to me that I almost had no idea how to sit down and have a lunch without eating too quickly.


I had to retrain my brain to realize that what we put into our bodies determines the amount of energy we have to use throughout the day. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I eat healthy all the time. In fact, I don’t eat healthy most of the time. But I try to make deliberate choices to give my body sustainable energy. I make sure to bring food with me to work and make it something that can give me necessary nourishment. Some technicians, with way more motivation than me, do meal prep. Taking one day out of the week to prepare their meals. But if you are not able to do meal prep, try to make sure you have a variety of healthy options for lunch or snacks and make sure to take time through out the day to drink water.


There are days when the donuts brought in by clients are my breakfast. When my lunch is leftovers from yesterday’s dinner, and this is not necessarily always a bad thing, but I like to balance this out by bringing healthy snacks to work, especially for when the afternoon hits. If I am starting to feel grouchy around 3 pm, I eat some protein. I’ve noticed that my boyfriend really appreciates the days I eat an afternoon snack, because I don’t rip off his head the second I walk through the front door. Could I be drinking smoothies every morning, eating salad for lunch and vegetables for my dinner? Absolutely! But I’m not. Just try to be aware that the food we put in, gives us the energy to make it through this crazy, chaotic and wonderful profession. Allow yourself time to get the nourishment that you need. Take a lunch. Drink your water. Take care of yourself. 


Heart Health: Stress

Blog Author: Kara M. Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, VTS (Nutrition)

NAVTA President


February is Heart Health Month and we have been focusing on heart health in our NAVTA blogs this month. Now I want to weigh in too! In addition to the physical health of the heart, we also need to focus on the emotional aspects of heart health. Many of you thought I was going to say we need to focus on the nutritional aspect of heart health! J While I believe nutrition is extremely important in maintaining a healthy heart, I also believe we need to focus on the emotional piece. We know that stress can lead to impairment in numerous systems in the body. Physiologically, mental stress can lead to constriction of arteries throughout the body. In individuals with heart disease, the result is reduced blood supply to the heart muscle and an occurrence known as mental stress–induced ischemia.1 This is yet another reminder for all of us to find ways to avoid and manage mental/emotional stress.


I hear you saying – “But we are lucky to get a lunch break, never mind a mental stress break!” We all relate to this, but is it healthy?  We give of ourselves, until there is nothing left to give. That is the nature of our profession – nurturing, compassionate, caring – always for our patients, our co-workers, our clients. But not ourselves. This stress literally can kill us! So why not take 5 minutes or even 2 minutes out of your day for YOU?


We know what is good for the mind is usually good for the heart. According to the American Heart Association, calming one’s mind (e.g., meditation) aids in reducing the risk of heart disease. You do not need to do this for an hour or even 30 minutes – if we begin to take two minutes out of our unbelievably busy day, we will start taking care of ourselves! There are many forms of meditation, but in our busy world we simply need to close our eyes and focus on our breathing. Two minutes keeping our mind focused on the present and away from stressful or distracting thoughts. You are calming your body through calming your mind.  Taking two minutes for yourself is not selfish – it is selfless. Taking time for you can improve heart health, put your mind more at ease, and allow us to care for that many more pets. Which is why we got into this profession in the first place!


Happy Heart Health Month!


1. Sullivan S, Hammadah M, Al Mheid I, et al. Sex Differences in Hemodynamic and Microvascular Mechanisms of Myocardial Ischemia Induced by Mental Stress. Journal of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 2018;38:473-480.



American Heart Month: Balance

Blog Author: Erin Spencer, M.Ed., CVT, VTS (ECC)

NAVTA President Elect


A couple of weeks ago, I was in a dressing room trying on pants because I had forgotten to pack my pants for my trip (yes, you read that right) when my phone rang. I answered by mistake and hurriedly told my sister-on-law I’d call her back in five minutes. Well, five minutes later I found out her husband had a heart attack.


Forgotten pants somehow no longer seemed important. My sister-in-law is actually a RN in a cardiac catheter lab so we talked through what happened on a fairly technical level (in truth, a bit beyond my level) but I realized as we talked that this could be my husband…. or it could be me.


Let’s think about risk factors of heart disease: poor diet (I’m eating pizza as I type this), poor exercise habits (I took a dance class the other night and thought I might die), and stress (I’m a Vet Tech who teaches in a Vet Tech program and also has an administrative role. Oh, and I decided it would be fun to be President-Elect of NAVTA). I then began to realize that someone taught me a great lesson years ago – you have to balance the stress with the stress-free. 


Some call it work-life balance but I think that gives work a bad name. Some people are less stressed at work than in other areas of life and, if that is the case, maybe they do work a little more than others. I try to stay focused on what is causing stress.  When it has been work-related, I have either balanced those stresses with fun/engaging/stress-free activities or I have eliminated that stress from my life by finding a new job. When something in my personal life was stressful, I sometimes threw myself into work as a way to find fulfillment and balance.


After this wake-up call with my brother-in-law, I have realized this great lesson I learned years ago is applicable to many of the risk factor behaviors for heart disease. I can eat that pizza because I had a healthy piece of fish for lunch, just like I can handle a stressful situation with a student because I am going to go have dinner with a good friend afterwards. I’m still working on the exercise, but I’ll get there. I just have to focus on the balance.



Heart Disease Blog

Blog Author: Mary L. Berg, BS, RLATG, RVT, VTS (Dentistry)

NAVTA Immediate Past President


A healthy mouth = a healthy body!  I often joke that I can tie good oral health into any discussion, but with the link between heart health and dental disease, I am not reaching too far for a connection.  February is not only National Dental Awareness Month for our pets but also Heart Health Month for us humans.  I can’t think of two topics that go better together!! 


Now, I’m not saying that every patient with dental disease will have heart issues or vice versa, but they are at a greater risk for complications.   It is well documented that chronic inflammation and resulting infection from periodontal disease can have a profound affect on the heart health of BOTH humans and animals.  Every time the animal eats or chews on a toy, the bacteria that is lurking in the mouth can be introduced into the bloodstream and lead to concerns with internal organs such as the heart, kidneys and liver.


A common myth is that the bacteria is only released into the blood stream at the time of a dental cleaning, however that has been proven incorrect.  The fact is the bacteria is released continuously throughout eating and playing.  Gingival tissue is very vascular and the mouth is full of pathologic bacteria. If the gum layer is disrupted, even a little bit, bacteria will get into the bloodstream, which can go anywhere and trigger inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is one of the main things that causes damage to blood vessels, including those of the heart.


Oral disease in both humans and companion animals is very similar.  The key word is inflammation. Periodontal disease begins with an inflammatory response to the bacteria present in the oral cavity. Gingivitis, which causes red, painful, tender gums, and periodontitis, which leads to infected periodontal pockets. Chronic inflammation can lead to permanent damage. 


We regularly tell our clients to take care of their pet’s mouths but we need to remember why it is so important to take care of ourselves as well.  Brush and floss twice daily and see your dentist every 6 months!  Your heart is depending on you!


American Heart Month - Stay Alive!

Blog Author: Virginia Rud, CVT 

NAVTA Exhibition Representative 


According to the American Heart Association, fewer women survive their first heart attack than men. This isn’t because women’s heart attacks are worse or more damaging. It’s because women tend not to recognize the signs and therefore delay seeking medical treatment. Although the terms “heart attack” and “cardiac arrest” are frequently used interchangeably, it is important to understand the difference. A heart attack is the result of decreased blood flow to the heart muscle while cardiac arrest is the failure of the electrical impulse that causes the heart contraction. The key difference is that a heart attack can occur over a period of hours or even days. And this is, ultimately, the reason that more women die.


As women, we tend to have this ingrained sense that we are obligated to meet our responsibilities regardless of how we feel, and that often leads us to overlook the messages that our bodies are trying to send us. While the stereotypical symptoms of a heart attack usually involve someone clutching their chest and immediately collapsing, in truth, most heart attacks start long before that acute collapse phase. And unfortunately for women, many of the early symptoms are subtle and may mimic other conditions.


Here’s my story. I was preparing to travel to a very important event. I hadn't slept in over 36 hours because of nerves, excitement, poor time management…yada, yada, yada. And for roughly the previous 10 hours, I felt like I was having a bad case of indigestion and my upper back hurt.  So, I ate about half a bottle of antacids, took some ibuprofen, ignored it, figured it was just from the all the stress and it would go away.... 


It didn't. 


When I finally got to the airport and sat down to wait to board the plane, it occurred to me that, even with all the antacids and NSAIDS, the indigestion and back pain hadn’t subsided at all.  It finally clicked that my body had been trying to tell me that “something” wasn’t right. I went to the gate agent and started to explain that I wanted to reschedule my flight because I was having these weird pains and I pointed to my chest. Here's a tip for everyone: if you indicate "chest" and "pain" in a public place, be prepared for the response! Within moments, I was surrounded by airport police and paramedics and then I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. And even at this point, heart attack was still the furthest thing from my mind. Yet within an hour of arriving at the ER, I experienced a full cardiac arrest. Full arrest…


The moral of the story is, thankfully, I finally listened to what my body was telling me, and in enough time to get help. Had I opted to ignore the pain and chosen instead to board that aircraft, well, you would’ve spent the past few minutes reading something else.


Heart attack signals for women can include tightness in the chest resembling indigestion, back and neck pain and nausea with or without the more traditional symptoms of chest pain or pain in the arm or jaw and shortness of breath. It is important to listen to your body and recognize when “something” isn’t right. We need to trust our intuition and act upon it. If we go to the ER and it turns out to be indigestion, so be it. But if it isn’t, then we get the opportunity to stay alive. 



February Blog

Blog Author: Julie Legred, CVT

NAVTA Executive Director



Is it a coincidence that Heart Health Month is February?  I mean February 14th is Valentine’s Day and known as the day of “hearts”.


When I was young, I truly thought that my heart was “heart” shaped, but we all know that isn’t true.  When we think of a heart, many times we think of love and compassion, but in reality, our heart is something that pumps blood throughout our body to keep us alive.


I want to grow and excel in my career as a veterinary technician/veterinary nurse and by doing all I can to continue learning and connecting/networking.  I believe this does my heart good, as it is something I enjoy and am very passionate about.  Doing “things” we like to do and working with people we like and enjoy takes some stress out of our daily lives, but it can also push us to do much more than we really should be doing, or puts an amount of pressure on ourselves that is more than we are capable of doing or is healthy for us to be doing.


I got up this morning at 2:30am to leave the house at 3:30am to catch a flight to Orlando for VMX.  As I drove to the airport, I was trying to think of something that I could write about relating to our “heart health” theme this month, but all I could come up with was writing about how we should take care of ourselves.  Same ol’ thing that you hear over and over again, but when I finally got on the plane and sat down to write this, my mind started to think and wonder a bit.


Why in the world did I get up at this awful hour?  I usually go to bed at this time! Why was I leaving my warm house when my car thermometer was saying it was -12 degrees outside?  Am I nuts?!!  Then I realized that it is the same reason I have been doing this every year for the last 30 years or so.  To see my friends, my colleagues, meet new people, learn more about veterinary medicine and finally, for the animals we all care for. I LOVE VETERINARY MEDICINE!!!  I LOVE BEING A VETERINARY TECHNICIAN/VETERINARY NURSE!!!


We need to take care of our heart to prevent damage and cardiac failure so that we can live long and healthy lives.  This means living a healthy work/life balance and not feeling guilty about taking the time we need for ourselves. 


Maybe we need a little help from our friends and maybe they could use a little help from us.  Think about doing something together at lunch time or after work. Stop and let yourself laugh for a good 5 minutes. Try doing a few pushups/jumping jacks with your co-workers at various times throughout the day.  Give yourselves a chance to regroup, together.  In the long run, it is not only helping you, but your teammates, our patients and the clients as well.


NAVTA is currently forming a Wellness Taskforce to identify and develop resources to help our profession with items such as this and much, much more.  Be on the lookout for more to come later in 2018.


January 2018

Blog Author: Kara M. Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, VTS (Nutrition)

NAVTA President


As we move into 2018, I am honored to serve as your NAVTA president. I have acted as the NAVTA Ambassador for a number of years, encouraging colleagues to become NAVTA members, become actively involved in NAVTA’s mission when they were ready, and make a difference. Our profession is made up of individuals who want to make a difference. We became veterinary technicians/nurses because we want to make a difference in the lives of pets – and yes, the people that love them.


We make a difference with our words AND our actions. Let us make sure our difference-making is positive and uplifting. Instead of being down on a colleague who is late for work, reach out and ask if they are ok? The pet owner who purchased just one month of heartworm prevention, let us not judge, but rather schedule a reminder call for next month, so they are reminded to pick up heartworm medication for their beloved family member. We may not know the family’s water heater failed and they needed to replace it, or another unavoidable expense has left them short on money.


In today’s society, we are quick to judge and ridicule. Let’s make 2018 the year each of us focuses on listening and lifting each other up. Wow – talk about making a difference!


We see difference-makers in the individuals who help pets and their families during natural disasters as well as those individuals who stay late for a shift because they are the team member with whom the scared patient is most comfortable. We see difference-makers in the team member who meets the elderly owner at their car to assist in bringing their furry companion into the hospital. We see difference-makers in the team member who notices that a co-worker has been a little quieter, and reaches out to let them know they are there for them.


Is this you? It can be! In the words of John F. Kennedy, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try”.


I have always wanted to try to make a difference; in the lives of pets through proper nutrition, in the lives of people by simply making eye contact and smiling, and in the profession by getting involved and lending a hand. Have I made a difference? I do not know. What I do know is that I have tried and I will continue to try. Will you join me? Together we can move our profession forward and make quite a difference!


New Year, New Chapter

Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT

NAVTA Membership Committee Chair

As Chair of the Membership Committee I am looking to help NAVTA and its Members achieve greatness through opening lines of communication and showing members just what NAVTA can do for them.  As a Technician in the trenches, I feel I am able to bring a valuable perspective to NAVTA and speak for those who feel they have no voice. Over the past 5 years NAVTA has increased its membership numbers from 3,000 to over 14,000. That is speaking volumes in itself. Credentialed Technicians and Assistants are realizing the importance of belonging to a National Association that respects them and helps them grow to their fullest potential, all while learning what our members need from us in the journey this takes us on. 

I would like to see the Membership Committee continue to grow the number of members that are a part of NAVTA, allowing them to get more frequent, open communication from NAVTA as well as help people to utilize their membership to its fullest. I would also like to see NAVTA continue to work on the VNI, helping the initiative to reach its highest potential. NAVTA has increased its member communication this past year through email blasts and the revamping the Journal. We can only continue to improve this through outreach to our members, State Associations and Specialties. 

Over the next year I think NAVTA will continue to grow as an Association, creating new committees to help Technicians and Assistants professionally as well as personally. 

Run for the Executive Board? Uh, hell yeah! I hope to wear that President's hat someday, but for now, serving on committees with suffice!

My hope for the profession is recognition and respect for Credentialed Technicians and Assistants in the field of veterinary medicine. I long ago graduated from the false perception that Technicians spend their days playing with puppies and kittens to acknowledging that our days are truly spent nursing the ill, saving lives and helping others end theirs peacefully. I wish for others to see this as well. 


NAVTA's Membership Committee is starting out the New Year with a new Membership Chair. Jamie Rauscher is a Registered Veterinary Technician with over 22 years in the field. She is currently President of her home state's Veterinary Technician Association. As President of the Georgia Veterinary Technician and Assistant Association, she has been very active in procuring new memberships for the Association and helping them to provide quality continuing education for its members. She is also currently involved in several of NAVTA's committees. She is the Medical Manager at a large practice north of Atlanta. She is married, has a 13 year old son, a golden retriever and 3 cats, including a super cute sphynx kitten

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