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Thanking a Mentor: Dr. Steve Haskins DVM, MS, DACVAA, DACVECC (Deceased)
Blog Author: Harold Davis, BA, RVT, VTS (ECC) (Anesth & Analgesia)

NAVTA Member at Large

Dr. Steve Haskins was my mentor. He was a pioneer in veterinary anesthesia and emergency critical care and an internationally known researcher, author, and lecturer. We worked together at the University of California Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. In short, he started me on the road to public speaking, a venture I had no desire to do. Steve wanted me to travel to Tennessee with him and give 6 hours of lectures to veterinary technicians while he spoke to the veterinarians at a state veterinary medical association meeting. Apparently, he saw something in me that I did not. It took him a month to convince me to take up the challenge.

Quite frankly, I had a fear of public speaking. Dr. Haskins told me he would help me prepare the lectures and work with me on delivery. He said, “all I am asking you to do is what you do daily with the veterinary students.” I relented and said, “if I end up on the floor in the fetal position, it’s on you.” He said, “I accept that but really do not believe that will happen. I have all the confidence in the world in you.” His encouragement, support, and confidence in me opened doors that I could not have imagined. I have lectured internationally in many countries, authored journal articles, book chapters, and edited a textbook.

In 2012 I received The Zaslow Service Award presented by the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society; Steve was in the audience when I received the award. At the conclusion of the awards ceremony, I had the opportunity to thank him for encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and working with me to become a better veterinary technician, author, and teacher. I told him that because of him, my trajectory in the profession was changed. I greatly appreciated all that he had done for me, and I could never repay him. Steve was modest and said that he really had not done much; he was fortunate that he could stand back and watch me flourish and achieve what he knew I could do.

I am extremely happy that I had and took that opportunity to express my thanks to Steve. On April 26, 2014, he died in a plane crash. To honor Steve and his memory and as a way of continually thanking him, I pass forward what he gave to me by sharing my knowledge, skills, and abilities with others.

If you have a mentor that has made a difference in your personal or professional life, take the time to thank them; perhaps you can pass forward to another person what they did for you. You never know when someone is observing and learning from your actions. I have had people thank me and were not even aware that I had made a difference in their life. I am touched when someone thanks me, I know I have achieved my goal of passing it forward. Dr. Steve Haskins, thank you!



What I Have Learned from Mentors

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Member


When I look back at the mentors who’ve shared their knowledge with me, I remember one thing. Mentorship is sharing moments with people and making them memorable. I remember as a young assistant that some of my guidance didn’t always come from warm fuzzy feelings but were in my face moments of how what I was doing should be done differently. In my youth, I didn’t always know the safest method, most efficient or productive manner to carry out a task. I didn’t realize the dangers in this profession or how to avoid pitfalls.


One of my strongest memories is of me, super excited to work with animals, bending my face down to greet every pet that walked in the door. A senior technician told me over and over that this was how people got bitten in the face. At the end of our day, as we chit-chatted outside, her dog ran around the play yard. He ran up to me, and I instantly lowered my face to say hello. In seconds, he snapped, and I pushed myself backward just in time to avoid a bite to my face. Without missing a beat, this technician helped me up and said, “This is what I have been trying to tell you. Not every pet you meet is your friend.” At that moment, it stuck. And I never made that mistake again.


So often we forget that we don’t know it all. Mentorship is taking the time to ensure that you can guide your teammates to become better. But it also means offering a hand when they fall. Mentorship means being able to take the time and invest in someone’s success but working with them to guide when they make a mistake. We all are still learning. Be receptive to those trying to teach you. We don’t know what we know until we know it. Be a mentor. Share what you know and realize that even if it seems to fall on deaf ears, there will be a moment when it clicks. Do not be too stubborn to listen and do not give up on those you try to teach.


Mentorship can seem thankless, but it matters. Seventeen years in this profession and I remember the words this technician said to me and her lack of judgment when I had to learn that lesson on my own. These are the moments that define if we are teachable and if we are kind. For even in my mistake, she was there to offer a helping hand. We can all do the same.



Networking as an Introvert

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM)

NAVTA President


As an introvert, networking has never been easy or something I am good at. I would often be getting ready for a conference or meeting fighting an urge to find some work to do or fantasizing about an “emergency” that came up that prevents me from being there. Ok…I’m just joking…mostly…But needless to say, when it comes to networking for introverts, the struggle is real.


Yet, I am told networking is hugely important to a career, and I would have to agree that many opportunities have presented itself because I had connected with different individuals at different events. But then why is it so difficult?


Stop “Networking”

When people hear the word “networking,” at worst, people think of it as a way to gain an advantage by knowing people with connections. Slightly better is treating it as a way to connect with colleagues that have expertise in different areas that can work together to achieve common goals. I read an article once that resonated with me, which stated that introverts often struggle at networking because the small talk that goes along with it feels ingenuine if the introvert gains something as a result. Add the energy drain felt by introverts for merely being out in large gatherings, and it becomes a recipe for disliking networking. Of course, if that is the type of “networking” you are doing, then you should stop. I don’t mean that you should stop having conversations or connecting with people. I mean, stop meeting people to seek gains.


Reframing the Relationship

As I grew into this field, I started to realize that the people I “network” with and keep in touch with are people I get to know better each time we meet. What do they do outside of veterinary medicine, and what kinds of experiences have they had and value? How do they feel and think about particular subjects? Even asking about personal topics like kids, travel, or hobbies isn’t really “small talk” if you’re interested in it. Maybe there are common interests that will come up that you’ll keep in touch about regularly. The people I interact with on a professional level are often also people I interact with on a personal level.


Be a Conduit for Others

One of the greatest parts about these conversations is that we often will get to know what is important to these individuals, and what drives and motivates them. As you meet more people through “networking”, you’ll start to see that there are so many interesting, passionate, innovative, and motivated people who are trying to accomplish their goals. A simple thought of “how can I help this person with their goal?” will help you connect with them, and even better, help you connect them with others. Connecting individuals with others that have similar goals or those that bring different skill sets that work together to achieve goals are one of the most rewarding things you can do.


When it comes down to it, it’s a small world out there with so much to be done. It will take all of us working together to achieve goals together. Networking plays an important role in this, so even if you are an introvert, I would encourage you to respond with an enthusiastic “maybe” to the next networking opportunity (safely, of course) because even though some of our mental hesitations, you may end up with a friend or two that you didn’t have.



Networking and the “new normal”

Blog Author: Ed Carlson, CVT, VTS (Nutrition)

NAVTA President Elect


"Networking is a deliberate activity to build, reinforce, and maintain relationships of trust with other people to further your goals. Professional networking is simply networking focused on professional goals."


When I think about networking, in our profession, I think of the social aspect of veterinary conferences, in-person association meetings, dinner CE meetings, etc. All those situations for an introvert like me can be exhausting. Over time I have learned how to enjoy professional social events, meet new people, and discuss our common goals, experiences, and beliefs. Over time some of these relationships lead to trust, which strengthens the relationship. Over the past several years, social media has played a role in networking, but many of us still rely on face to face interactions, especially when we first met someone to begin the process of trusting new colleagues.


The COVID pandemic with social distancing, live conferences being canceled, etc. has reduced or eliminated the opportunity to network traditionally and have increased our reliance on technology to grow our networks. It is now more important than ever to think about your online profile.


Remain professional when using professional social media sites, such as LinkedIn. Of course, it is fine to express your opinion on these professional sites, but consider how you would have handled the situation in person. If you had a different opinion when discussing something at an in-person event, would you have discussed your differing opinion in a one on one conversation? Or loudly in a large group setting? Consider taking disagreements to an email, phone, or video call. And as with all professional correspondence, use punctuation, capitalization, complete sentences, etc. Dress appropriately for professional video calls, check the background others will see (make the bed for example if joining the call from your bedroom), turn off the TV, music, etc. and ask others in your household to keep the noise down while you are on the call. Much of this seems like common sense for putting your best online professional persona forward. Take a few minutes to evaluate your online image during this stressful unusual time and avoid overlooking professional online etiquette, which may deter from the veterinary professional you are.



How to Network Like a Pro

Blog Author: Courtney Waxman, CVT, RVT, VTS (ECC)

NAVTA Member at Large


When I think about networking, I think about it as an essential skill, just like placing an IV catheter or intubating a patient. And like the typical clinical skills you practice every day, networking is a professional skill that is learned over time and takes practice to perfect.


In my opinion, the best networking opportunities for veterinary technicians are at conferences because of the environment they create – likeminded people coming together for professional development. There’s a certain energy and enthusiasm that’s generated, and this is a prime opportunity to network.


With that in mind, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that can help you be successful in your networking pursuits.


First, dress in business casual. While this may seem like something obvious, it wasn’t obvious to me when I thought about going to a conference to get my CE. I wanted to dress as comfortable as possible to sit in lecture rooms all day learning. But when you go to make a first impression, you should look polished and prepared. This doesn’t mean you have to wear business casual all day, just make sure you travel with some outfit options.


Second, invest in a business card. Business cards are both a way to share you contact info but can also be a reflection of your personality in its design. This isn’t something that needs to be over-thought or cost a lot, just something original with your name, credentials, and contact info.


And third, don’t be afraid to get a little extroverted and leave an impression! Most of us are introverted by nature (myself included), but you have to be willing to put yourself out there to advance and grow your network. It’s as simple as saying hello and shaking someone’s hand, the rest of the conversation will flow naturally.


Growing my network has provided me speaking engagements, publishing agreements, leadership opportunities, and my current teaching position. Most importantly, networking has provided me with friends and colleagues all throughout the world.




Professional Networking

Blog Author: Leslie Wereszczak, LVMT, VTS (ECC)

NAVTA District 3 Representative (AL, MS, NC, SC, TN)


Professional networking has taken my career places I never dreamed possible.  It can be intimidating at first to talk to leaders in the field, but making these connections can be invaluable to launching your own career.  You can often gain a mentor who will lead you to opportunities that would have otherwise been undiscovered, such as unique job offerings, speaking engagements, or opportunities to write.


The great thing about professional networks in veterinary medicine is that most of the people in your professional network are also considered friends.  Through these relationships, ideas are exchanged, trends discussed and brainstorming accomplished through creative means.  When a strong network is built, you can draw from your network for a potential favor or two, but it is important to be willing to reciprocate when called upon. 


I think it is important to include people in your network who may not share the same views and opinions as you do or are from other aspects of the profession.  Incorporate other specialties into your network.  While our focus is in veterinary medicine, I find it incredibly beneficial to have human medical professionals in my network to gain knowledge and ideas from the many parallels in our professions.  


A professional network is like a garden.  It will grow if you tend to it and nurture it, but if you leave it to just chance, it is likely not going to be very productive.  So, plant those seeds by making those connections.  Introduce yourself to someone you admire, share your ideas and make it known that you want to be involved.  The great thing is that we share a profession with people who are inherently helpful.  By building a strong professional network, you will find opportunities that you never knew existed!



What can networking do for you?

Blog Author: Ashli Selke, CVT

NAVTA District 8 Representative (TX, LA & AR)


When you network you are putting your personnel brand on display, and when more people know your brand, the more your brand is marketable. This can lead to opening doors and new opportunities for yourself and the organizations you represent. Everyone knows the saying “It’s not what you know but who you know”, but what if we changed that mindset to “It’s not what you know, but the impression you leave on those you meet”!


I attend every vet med function I can - from the smallest events like CE dinners all the way up to major convention meet and greets or mixers. Why?  Because, through networking with my peers and fellow members of the veterinary community, I have found we all have the same goal - We want to make our profession great! We want the public to understand our place in the medical world and how we very much impact case outcomes.


Once I started to utilize my networking powers, I unleashed possibilities and opportunities that I never knew were on the table. Through networking and making those connections I have been able to give myself a seat at the table, a seat that used to only be reserved for veterinarians or business professionals. Now, I not only have the capability to be in the room, but I have a voice that helps the other members of the vet med team understand the importance of the veterinary technicians/nurses.


My networking has given me the ability and confidence to speak with companies who want to help veterinary technicians/nurses. Our conversations have led to sponsorships, scholarship funds and increased revenue for my state association. This budget increase has made it possible for us provide amazing speakers for our CE events as well as the opportunity to give our members benefits they need and deserve.


Professional Networking has given me the opportunity to meet some of the great leaders in our profession, many of whom I admire and now guide me on my personal and professional path to be the best veterinary technician/nurse I can be. All of these interactions have an impact and have the potential to propel my personal brand forward. Many of my professional accomplishments would not have happened if I didn’t put myself out there in the first place. So, get out to those CE dinners, get out and meet your peers, get out and expand your potential with conversations that can take you and your brand to the next level!




Pursue What Matters To You

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM)

NAVTA President


I am not someone that would be heard saying “I’ve always wanted to work with animals”. The truth is, I aimlessly felt forced through grade school without knowing what I wanted to do.


My first experience with veterinary medicine goes back to the Fall of 1995. I started volunteering at a two-doctor practice in Davis, CA while going through my undergraduate degree. So, looking back, I’ve actually been in the field 25 years, 20 of which has been employed in a clinical role in the hospital.


When I started at Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, CA and working in the ICU, I started as what we call today, an unregistered assistant. I worked hard, asked questions, learned from my team, and helped many animals.


It was a few years in, when I met Nancy Shaffran who came to provide some in-house training for us that asked me the question. “Do you like it?”, referring to the work I do. My answer was “You know what? I do.”


“Then get yourself credentialed. There’s also something called a Veterinary Technician Specialist you can become”. It took me years before I actually became credentialed as a RVT, and even longer for me to become a VTS in Emergency and Critical Care, and then in Small Animal Internal Medicine, but this opened up a window that I had not thought about if it weren’t for the nudge.


Thinking back, the question that she actually asked me was “Does this matter to you?” and the answer was an unwavering “yes”.


The next time I saw her, Adobe had entrusted me to be a supervisor of the ICU and we were discussing a difficult mechanical ventilation patient that we struggled to care for, and she said “What do you think about presenting a case report at IVECCS?”


“I didn’t know that’s something someone like I could do…” I remember saying, and this was the nudge Nancy gave me to try public speaking. I remember thinking “Why did I sign up for this?” trembling in fear as I walked up to the podium, but also remember the excitement in being able to share the passionate feeling we all have for the work we do as Veterinary Technicians. This was how my career as a conference speaker, aiming to share the knowledge started. For a short while, I had worked as a part-time faculty member at Foothill College having the honor of playing a part in aiding future veterinary technicians.


As I took over managing the blood bank and started looking into component processing, I realized detailed information related to blood banking was rather difficult to gather, and teamed up with Dr. Marie Holowaychuk to co-edit the Manual of Veterinary Transfusion Medicine and Blood Banking so it can serve as a resource.


Losing a patient when CPR goes wrong with orders being barked out with some being followed and some being dropped while team members run into each other many times left us thinking, “was this what the patient and our team deserve?” This led me to jump on organized CPR training as soon as we heard about the RECOVER Guidelines. The results of the training were incredible, and I became a believer, wanting to help RECOVER however I could to develop and spread the certification process so veterinary professionals can confidently perform CPR. My involvement eventually led to my current role at Cornell University where I am helping develop simulation-based education.


Through the course of my career, I’ve been a volunteer, veterinary assistant, veterinary technician, a VTS, a supervisor, a manager, instructor, speaker, author, editor, program director, and a simulation lab manager as my role went from being the person providing the patient care to being the person that helps other be in that role.


I am not someone that would be heard saying “I’ve always wanted to work with animals”. In fact, I used to think that I didn’t like people but I now find myself dedicating my time to helping people so they can help animals. There is so much that can be done as a veterinary technician, and I hope you also find your path through your passion, driven by issues you solve for yourself, and others. Pursue what matters to you.



Follow Your Arrow, Even When it Heads Into Some Fog

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


Reading through Michelle and Courtney’s blogs from earlier this month, I immediately saw a trend in our stories. Courtney had planned to be a veterinarian, Michelle stumbled onto veterinary technology as a bio/chem major through an elective.


I graduated high school and headed to college to be a physical therapist...then transferred to be a marine biologist...then changed my major to pre-vet...then did some shadowing at a clinic and finally realized I wanted to be a veterinary technician...after several years of doing that, I was burnt out and decided to become a history teacher...hold on, I decided I really liked the veterinary field by the time I got my teaching license so stayed as a veterinary technician. And that isn’t even the part of the journey I want to talk about!


Since I committed to veterinary nursing as a profession, I have had some amazing experiences and opportunities. After over 20 years in the field, I am a business owner. Brown Dog Veterinary Solutions combines my love of veterinary medicine with my love of teaching. I feel like it is the culmination of me “following my arrow”. If you know the song by Kacey Musgraves, you know it is about remaining true to yourself. Deciding to go back to get a Master’s degree in Adult Education when I was not working in any official teaching capacity (and really didn’t have the time) or quitting a comfortable teaching job because I didn’t align with the future plans for the program are two examples of decisions I made because I listened to my gut. Both of those decisions were important steps along the way to getting to where I am now. I was able to get a teaching job months after graduating because of that degree and, after leaving that job years later, I had earned enough clout to start my own business consulting and training. Becoming part of the leadership of associations like NAVTA, while intimidating at the start, has also opened doors for me to be able to get my business up and running.


Why am I talking about this in a blog that is supposed to be about career options for vet techs? Because if you don’t keep your eyes, ears, heart, and intuition all open and receptive, you will most definitely miss out on opportunities that may just bring you to a fulfilling career option. Be open to the possibilities and the opportunities, even when the end is not entirely clear. Follow your Arrow! You won’t be sorry!



My Career Path: Tech to Teacher

Blog Author: Courtney Waxman, CVT, RVT, VTS (ECC)

NAVTA Member at Large


I always knew I wanted to work with animals, but my start in veterinary medicine was initially the wrong career path. I wanted to be a veterinarian and it wasn’t until high school when I got my first job in a hospital that I realized I actually wanted to be a veterinary technician.


I started my veterinary technology program full of enthusiasm and excitement that what I had been dreaming about was finally happening. I was cruising along in my courses my first year (and loving every minute of it!) and looking forward to the clinical externships over the summer. When I was filling out my externship paperwork, my world regarding veterinary medicine completely opened up. Up to that point in my schooling, I only knew of general practice care for either small animals or large animals. But in addition to these types of practices, I had to complete an emergency/specialty externship.


The general practice I was working at recommend a local emergency/specialty hospital – I contacted them and got setup with a schedule and point-person to complete my hours with but didn’t have any idea of what to expect. On Day 1, I walked into the hospital and was completely blown away. The hospital was massive, the staff was extensive, and there were six specialty departments, all working together to provide patient care. I had no idea that there were specialists for pets like there were for humans.


I was hired on in the emergency/critical care department following my externship, had an amazing mentor, and learned that veterinary technicians can become specialized like DVMs. I was hooked on ECC from Day 1, and once I learned about VTSs, I knew it was a path I wanted to pursue. Fast forward 8 years and I reached my VTS goal with a lot of determination and perseverance and was ready for the next step.


With my VTS, I took on a training position that involved onboarding new staff, establishing a training program with different technician levels, creating SOPs, and providing CE in-house and outreach to the referring community. From the experience, I developed a second passion for teaching.


Working one-on-one to train new technicians was energizing – I got to see firsthand their excitement and “AHA!” moments and general eagerness to learn. I realized I wanted to share my passion, knowledge, and skills with the next generation of veterinary technicians, and I wanted to make sure they knew all about the career opportunities that’d be available to them.


I started looking for adjunct teaching positions and networking with programs at conferences. It was during the technician case report reception at ACVIM Forum that I learned about an opportunity at Purdue from a friend. The timing was right and I had a very supportive husband, so we relocated and embarked on a new adventure.


Teaching at Purdue has provided a few major opportunities – I get to be part of the learning and skill development of veterinary technicians and DVMs, I get to work in a university teaching hospital to use my own knowledge and skill set, and I get to pursue an advanced degree in higher education so that I can be the best teacher for my students. The experience has been incredibly rewarding in more ways than I imagined, and I’m looking forward to seeing where teaching takes me.



What’s Your Path?

Blog Author: Michelle D. Krasicki-Aune, MBA, BS, CVT

NAVTA Treasurer


This was not my path.  No, in all seriousness, this was not my path. But since becoming a ballerina was ruined by puberty…and becoming a starving artist most likely meant no ice cream…and the preserved heart complete with heartworms at our veterinarian’s office was super cool, I decided veterinary medicine was the way to go.


I enrolled in college pursuing a pre-vet bio/chem major that had been strongly encouraged by the staff at the veterinary facility I worked at. Freshman year did not go well. The school was not the right fit for me academically or socially, and the one way 2-hour drive took a toll on my energy, enthusiasm, and (eventually) GPA. Luckily, I was able to transfer to a different college and press the restart button. With my schedule lacking one credit hour to be a full-time student I took the chance of taking the “Animal Restraint” course in the fellow Ag program. I mean, I missed being able to have a pet, I already had been taught how to restrain as a veterinary assistant, and this would also help me achieve the full-time status I needed, result was an easy A!


I did not know it, but on the first day I was walking into a whole new world! By the end of the first lecture I was already speaking with the instructors about how to transfer and apply to the veterinary technology program. No one had ever told me you could do something besides be the veterinarian! The remaining three years of my undergraduate career were successful and helped me formulate my future of owning and operating a wildlife rehabilitation facility. 


If you look at the Vet Teams website you will note that we do not offer wildlife rehabilitation as one of our services. While my dream seemed viable, reality quickly taught me that unless I had an unknown independently wealthy relative that was willing to fund my facility, it would most likely never have enough funding to treat patients, especially on a CVTs salary that often meant working 2 jobs.


It was during one of the many years of working multiple jobs that I had an epiphany: why didn’t I turn my second and third jobs into a business enterprise? Here, let me explain:  Job #1 was my full-time Monday-Friday, 8-5, type of job. Jobs #2 and #3 were often working at other clinics, in a part-time capacity, as a Relief CVT. As my professional associates and friends heard of me doing this, I had more and more people asking if I could come and help at their organizations. I also noted that the wage they were willing to pay was often higher than I was making in my full-time position. Could this take the place of the wildlife rehabilitation facility that never came to fruition? After all, I had worked in a family business for my entire life, as well as helped my husband start and run his business, who said I could not have my own!


It took almost a year of research, continual modification of budgets and business plans, but in October of 2014 Vet Teams was officially incorporated! However, as any small business owner knows, that was the easy part. What followed was learning how to balance the administrative, financial, marketing, and scheduling needs with the actual shift work. After only a year Vet Teams had become successful enough that I needed to add more credentialed veterinary technicians to the team. Fast forward to 2020 where plans were in motion to add DVMs and veterinary assistants.  


COVID-19 has put a little wrinkle in the plan to add new members to Vet Teams but has given me the opportunity to better evaluate the needs of our community and my services in response. COVID-19 was not part of my path, and I am ok with that, because changing my path is where I found success.    



The “F” word = Future Opportunities

Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT

NAVTA Secretary


In writing this months’ blog for NAVTA, my topic was the “F” word. As in fired. Thinking long and hard on this topic, I realize I have the opposite perspective on this than what one would normally think. In my 25 years in the field of Veterinary Medicine, I have never been fired.  I do not know what it feels like, the anger or sadness involved or the repercussions one experiences from being fired. My side of the coin is as a manager, what it is like to fire someone and what that can mean for the employee moving forward. How do future employers view people that have been fired from a previous job? Is it a death sentence? I think not. Think of the experience as a door opening to your future opportunities. 


Firing someone is never pleasant for anyone. No matter your personal feelings about the employee. If you have them or not, it is a job no manager enjoys.  Whether you are firing someone based on their skill level, lack of, inability to come to work on time, inappropriate behavior or lack of work, it just plain sucks.  Firing someone takes an emotional toll on everyone. It may leave you with the feeling that you have failed this employee by them not being able to succeed in your clinic.  Have you made the effort to provide them with all that they need? Have you coached them, helped them to right their wrong ways? How many times is enough to sit and talk with a staff member? Do you have a three strike and you are out rule? Do you just say “enough is enough” and walk away from the situation? Do you feel like the employee has had every opportunity to improve and still cannot? Do you feel bad that they will be without income? Do you think that it is best to just let them go and collect unemployment if they can? How will they feed their families? What will this do to the employee emotionally if you terminate them? Can they handle the financial loss? How will they recover?


All of the above are concerns for any manager. While it may seem to the rest of your staff that you do not care about said employee or do not have a heart, know that there are always 2 sides to every story. Know your boss let your friend go because they had to. They had a reason, whether you are aware of it or not.  Your boss is worried about the perception from staff in being a bad guy. That the staff will not understand why you had to let the person go and that you are concerned about the fallout from this HR duty.  Your boss is also worried about being short staffed due to the decision that had to be made. They are worried how it will affect the day to day operations of your clinic and are madly scrambling for a solution if there is one to be had.


As an employee, being fired is not the end of the world.  If you have been fired, in some ways you knew it was coming, one way or another. You saw things slowing down in your clinic, appointments been less and less each day. You wholeheartedly acknowledge your tardiness and knew that each time you clocked in late, that you should have gotten up a little earlier in the morning to get to work on time.  Maybe you did not mesh with your co-workers, you did not agree with the practices of the clinic you were in.  You know that you have not been giving it your best each day and realize deep down that you were ready to move on in life.  See this an opportunity for your future. Employers that are interviewing will often times ask why you were let go, what happened? They will ask for your side of the story and want to know details. A fired employee may be someone else’s treasure. Being fired is not the end of the world. It may lead you to find your unicorn clinic after all.



I Was Fired

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Member


“We don’t think you are going to be a good member of this team.” In that sentence everything I had worked for was shattered. This was a clinic I had poured my heart into. A clinic I fought to keep positive even with changes in location and ownership. A clinic I had trained staff, created schedules for, filled in shifts for and had tried so hard to keep whole. That moment made me feel devastated, worthless, and unappreciated. I went home that night and sobbed.


I was fired. What came with that is feeling like I was disposable. Feeling that nothing I did mattered. And I felt that I wasn’t a likable team player. My heart was literally broken. I spent the next week sobbing uncontrollably while trying to figure out what my next step was. I honestly contemplated switching careers from being a licensed veterinary technician to becoming a barista at my local coffee shop. I filed for unemployment which was something I had never once had to consider in my life up to this point.


Once I got done crying, I decided that this was the field I wanted to be in. I wanted to help patients and their people. So, I kept looking and I found a new job as a tech that pushed me and challenged me but also allowed me to be myself. I worked on trying to heal. This loss of earthshaking proportions knocked me down. But it did not keep me down. I began to search out a job that encouraged me, challenged me, and respected me. And those clinics were out there.


Had I not lost that job; I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have become a technician who worked on creating a positive environment and leapt into becoming a practice manager. I wouldn’t have become a public advocate on discussing toxic teams and how to navigate them. I wouldn’t have learned the most important lesson in my life - I am not going to make everyone happy. I am not supposed to. I want my job to make me happy.


I still rehash the pain of rejection when I think of being fired. But I have to remember as horrible as this event was it put me on MY path. It directed me to where I was supposed to be and above all it never broke me. Sometimes endings aren’t endings at all. They are just the start of your story. Remember you always are the author of your story. You get to choose what makes you happy. You matter.



The “F” Word

Blog Author: Ed Carlson, CVT, VTS (Nutrition)

NAVTA President Elect


The “F” word, well in our current COVID-19 world there are actually two “F” words, “fired” and “furloughed”! Either one could be related to the economic impact of the current pandemic on the veterinary industry. The financial and psychology impact of both can be tremendous. Some individuals may feel ashamed, some anger, some despair, all normal reactions. How do you cope with these emotions?  Often, we take our emotions to social media, sharing our experience, our frustration, seeking the support of our friends.


Perhaps it is the perception of poor performance or “doing something wrong” associated with termination that causes us to post on social media. But before you login and start typing - STOP! Take a deep breath and step away from the keyboard! Venting online can have a negative affect on your reputation and possibly future opportunities. Current and potential future employers and colleagues may form negative opinions of your character and personality which are not accurate.


If you do decide to share your experience on social media, keep your comments professional. Maybe something about looking for the next chapter in your life or an exciting new employment opportunity. Perhaps a better option for getting any frustration or anger off your chest might be a phone call or meeting with a trusted friend for coffee (once that is a safe option!). Honestly, being terminated can be the start of a new adventure! Stay positive, consider your options. What are you passionate about? Explore other potential opportunities in veterinary medicine you haven’t considered in the past. Who knows, being fired could turn out to be a good thing, you might find a better position, maybe your dream job!


And hopefully, everyone who has been furloughed will hopefully be going back to work soon!



Why did I start volunteering?

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM)

NAVTA President


When I think back on where all of my involvement with volunteer organizations started, it takes me back to the ACVIM Forum I attended many years ago. There, I sat with Vicky Ograin who was the President of NAVTA at the time, having a conversation about being a veterinary technician, our experiences, and what kinds of things excites us about each of these experiences. In these conversations, I was able to hear her perspective on the profession and the challenges we were facing. During the conversation, I found myself saying “I’d like to help but I don’t know how. How can I help more?”


I remember an association leadership CE I once attended where the takeaway message was that there are 3 reasons why people volunteer. Because they want to meet and interact with more people, because they want to learn and experience new things, and probably what most resonated with me – to help more people.


This is where much of my volunteerism started. By being at these conferences meeting people who are dedicated to the field and hearing their diverse thoughts, it was as though my world within the four walls of the veterinary practice started to break down and I started to see what else was going on in the world. It was several months later, when I received an email from Vicky regarding a committee position with NAVTA that started my involvement with NAVTA. Since then, I have had the pleasure of working with so many dedicated advocates towards progress for our profession.


The Veterinary Emergency Critical Care Society (VECCS) is another organization that I volunteer with. I still remember the warmth (and maybe the pain) of Dr. Stamp’s very firm handshake as he told me “You’re one of us now”. As I started working with VECCS in its contributions to the world, I learned what that meant as I met the people involved with VECCS. Just as much as they were dedicated, passionate, and driven, they were warm, caring, and kind. The story behind the pigeon statue that is brought to each IVECCS (which I won’t repeat online here) and other anecdotes and the warmth felt through these shared experiences are what truly makes VECCS feel like a family that I look forward to seeing every occasion. The Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians and Nurses (AVECCTN) is a part of this family and I have met people along the way that I will never forget.


I am also involvement with the RECOVER Initiative – an initiative that seeks to internationally standardize veterinary CPR through an evidence-based guideline. As I went through my involvement of implementing and structuring the certification process and organization, I had exposure to various elements different from what I experienced being a veterinary technician. Instructional design, e-learning, website development, communication tools, organizational structure, project management… and the list of what I experienced as I took my journey of helping implement the guideline at my workplace and becoming the Program Director for the initiative goes on. Many of these things have been a learning curve, but without having put my hand up I would not have been exposed to them. And maybe the biggest insight from these experiences – what do I enjoy doing the most?


Whether it’s that you want to meet more people, learn new things, or help others, volunteering with organizations bring together the people that allows us to pursue changes that we cannot make happen easily as individuals. Through my involvement, I feel I have been able to learn more and more about myself which gives me the stability to keep moving forward. One of my biggest learnings through all of this, is that being an introvert, I never thought of myself as someone that wanted to meet more people, but now I stay because of people, and hopefully help more people and learn new things along the way.



Volunteering isn’t always easy…. but it’s worth it

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


So, this month is National Volunteer Month. As I write this, I am reminded I’m supposed to be on a field clinic right now, with a team of volunteers, providing free veterinary care to animals in a remote Native American community in Arizona. Instead, I’m only leaving home to go to work. This pandemic has brought out some types of volunteering we haven’t really seen before.


How many of us know someone making masks for human and veterinary medical workers? Anyone asked their elderly neighbors if they need anything at the grocery store? Even just staying home and social distancing is volunteering. It’s volunteering to keep not just yourself but your neighbors, family, and friends safe and healthy. And it’s worth it.


At the end of a field clinic, most volunteers (whether they’ll do it again or not) say the week was exhausting and satisfying all at the same time. When we volunteer in difficult environments, be it on a field clinic or just staying home, we learn things about ourselves. We learn what we can handle and what we can’t. It is all important and, again, worth it.


Thank you to everyone for doing the simplest and hardest voluntary act you may ever face, simply staying away from the people and things you enjoy and love. This is a hard time for all of us but we will, truly, come out stronger in the end.



Why volunteer?

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

NAVTA DR Committee Chair


Many veterinary technicians are working hard and risking their safety to keep veterinary practices running, albeit, in many different ways than we ever thought possible.  Thank you to each of you!  Others of us, myself included, are on stay home orders as we can’t travel to do our jobs. This pandemic is putting a strain on all of us physically, emotionally, and financially. I have seen many people stepping up to the plate by looking for ways to volunteer, including making masks, ordering food deliveries to practices, hosting webinars, or online meetups.   While this pandemic is something I never envisioned, except in a book or movie, it is helping to bring people together while we are apart.  If you are in the stay home category, consider using this time to find a way to give back to your community or profession. 


Why do I volunteer?   When asked why I volunteer so regularly, and it can be tough to give a single answer.  In part, I volunteer because my parents volunteered (a lot), and I learned the value of giving back.  But I feel that volunteering has given me much more that I have ever given to any organization.  When I look back over my life, I have volunteered in one way or another since I was a child. Starting as a 4-H member, volunteering in high school and college, teaching CPR courses during college, serving on the volunteer ambulance service, working in a military hospital ER, continuing as a   4-H leader, school, and sports parent, and through my professional organizations.  


What can you gain by volunteering?  Volunteering allows you to connect with others in your community and to make it a better place. You will make new friends, develop new skills, and learn to network and work as a team member.  Volunteering can help you with your social skills.  Maybe you are shy but want to help.  It can be hard to meet new people, but when you volunteer with others that have the same interests and goals, it can be more comfortable.  Volunteering can boost your self-confidence by giving you a sense of pride and accomplishment as well as giving you a sense of purpose.


Volunteering is an excellent way to counteract stress, anger, and anxiety.  The social connection of working together for a common goal can influence your psychological well-being by combatting depression and making you happy.  Researchers have shown that being helpful to others can make you a happier person.


If you are feeling stagnant or frustrated by your career, volunteering can help you gain experience in areas of interest to you by exposing you to new ideas.  Volunteering can help you develop skills that can be used in the workplace, improve communication, problem-solving, task management, and project planning.   


Doing volunteer work can help you find meaningful and exciting ways to escape from your day to day work, school, or family commitments.   When deciding how to volunteer, you should ask yourself what you want to do.  Do I want to:  meet new people, try something new, explore new job opportunities, work in an area you are good at, or share your hobbies? 


What have I gained through volunteering?  I have made invaluable connections with individuals all over the globe, whom I call friends and colleagues. I have gained leadership and organizational skills, increased job opportunities, and the satisfaction that I know I’m helping my chosen profession move forward.  All of the reasons I listed are great, but the most rewarding for me is the "thank yous" I have received. 


My advice:  Start small, be brave, and never say no to an opportunity even if it scares the bejeebers out of you!  You never know where it can lead!



What Quarantine (and art class) Taught Me

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM)

NAVTA President


I finished my 14 days of Health Department instructed at-home quarantine yesterday, and I have mixed feelings about the experience.


I had been on a trip through Edinburgh into Sweden to help certify more RECOVER CPR Instructors when COVID-19 started to spread globally. My travel plans were not interrupted and I safely returned home to Ithaca, NY right as the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. I reported the progress of my travels with Cornell University, and soon after, I received a phone call from the Tompkins County Health Department being placed on at-home quarantine.


The instructions were to:

  • Stay in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom from the family
  • Wear a mask at all times (and I get these masks where!?!? Thank you, Tompkins Health Department for offering to give me some, but the healthcare system needs it more.)
  • Use a strong household cleaner to disinfect everything I touch
  • Stay away from everyone, minimum 10 ft. Can go outside but stay within your own yard
  • Follow hand washing rules of 20 seconds. Don’t recontaminate the sink and wash it down well
  • Check in with the health department once a day with progress and report if any symptoms
  • And the hardest of them all – Don’t interact with your children

These are all sound advice and being a VTS in ECC, isolation was not at all a foreign concept and I thought to myself “I guess I’ll get more work done being left alone” and didn’t feel it would be a big deal.


But it sure was…


The hardest part? I lost my usual way of winding down and recharging away from veterinary medicine and nursing. I soon found out that after just getting home from a 2-week trip and then being unable to interact with the family and kids brought on a different kind of stress.


Sure. I have been constantly in touch with Phil Russo, Erin Spencer, Ed Carlson, the NAVTA district representatives, and other colleagues and friends in the veterinary technology and nursing field to do everything we can to help in this time to keep the field informed and advocate for changes and adjustments to get people through this difficult situation.


Sure. I have worked with the tireless RECOVER team to bring free online courses to veterinary and veterinary technology/nursing students, so far, receiving requests from 161 institutions totaling access for 11,092 students. Students, especially those graduating, have had to cut short the last months of their academic year depriving them not only of education but also of moments that become memories that last for a lifetime. Working with champions like Dan Fletcher, Jamie Holms, and Rebecca Giacomini to help ease some of the stresses of today.


The list can go on in terms of how much good work done by good people I’ve been fortunate to be involved in during the current situation of today nobody ever wanted to be in.


But with all of that said, there is nothing like an imposed self-isolation and quarantine that can make you aware of what about your daily life you can take for granted. For me, a major wind down process involves our kids. Especially our 7-year-old daughter who “forces” “art class” on me almost every day. In just 10-15 minutes out of a day she makes me realize my untapped potential for arts and craft (no, not really. I just follow what she tells me to do) and more importantly, that there is more to my life than veterinary medicine.


There were no amounts of air hugs and across the room high fives that would make up for being able to spend real, quality time with the family. The imaginary line drawn on the floor of the entry way to the office to serve as the isolation room barrier is much more of a big deal than originally thought.


During these trying times, it is important or all of us to be able to keep our mental break routines and activities intact and utilize them as we normally do. Our path through the pandemic is not a full sprint, but a long-distance marathon where we need to be able to sustain the work required through it. Take care of yourself.


Jamie Holms, a dear friend of mine said the other day “Stop saying ‘social distancing’. It’s ‘physical distancing’ while keeping the social connections,” and I can’t agree more. Let’s all support each other through this situation that seems to change moment by moment.



Disconnect from the stressors of work

Blog Author: Ed Carlson, CVT, VTS (Nutrition)

NAVTA President Elect


Spring is in the air here in Massachusetts, my favorite time of year. I love sitting out in our yard, watching our Dexter Cattle wandering around the pasture, or taking a walk in the woods and fields of our little hobby farm. During the winter months, I enjoy sitting at our kitchen table watching the birds at the feeders just on the other side of the window and sometimes the deer grazing on the front lawn or eating acorns under the large oak tree where our driveway meets the dirt road which leads to our farm.


My other hobby is collecting White Ironstone china. My husband Walter and I started collecting it for the past 23 years. We poke around antique shops, auctions, and flea markets looking for unique pieces to add to our collection. Spending time together on these little excursions is so much more important than whatever pieces we might purchase or the new places we find to have lunch while we are out.


Those are a couple of ways I disconnect from the stressors of work and life in general. It is also essential to find ways to lessen stress at work. In my current position, I have the luxury of making my schedule and working from home if I choose to. Not everyone has those options since I do, I take full advantage. Sitting in traffic, adding significant time to my commute to work frustrates me, so I often work a couple of hours at home in the morning then drive to work after the rush of the commuting rush is over.


Earlier in my career, when I was working on the hospital floor, I also looked for ways to lessen my stress and my coworkers' stress by discussing what tasks we disliked or found stressful. For me making memorial paw prints was stressful because I knew how important these could be for owners. I am not crafty or artistic; I was never good at making paw prints or making them look as beautiful as many of my coworkers could. Maybe if early in my career we made paw print memorials I would have learned the skill, but in some cases, you can't teach old dogs (or techs) new tricks, and yes, I am so old I remember when we only sent sympathy cards to clients who lost a pet before paw prints were a thing. So, at the start of an ER shift, I would seek out the person who made the best paw print memorials, ask if there was a task I could do for them in exchange for them doing this task that I dreaded. Often, I would end up reading all the differentials or urine sediments on the shift, both I which I enjoyed, so it was a win for us both! My point here is taking care of yourself may not always require completely disconnecting from work. Many of us spend a lot of time at work, so making the time at work less stressful and more enjoyable is vital to self-care!



What do You do to Unwind?

Blog Author: Courtney Waxman, CVT, RVT, VTS (ECC)

NAVTA Member at Large


A year and a half ago I made a career transition from working full-time on the floor to a “desk job” as an educator. For the past 12 years, I’ve known how advantageous a physically demanding job was to health and well-being – on your feet for 10-14 hours a day, bending, lifting, and walking throughout your shift. Over the first month of working at a desk, my legs and back were sore from sitting and I had to conscientiously remind myself to get up and walk around every hour or so.


I realized that I needed to take more control of my activity level and start exercising more routinely to offset my lack of physical work on the floor. I joined a gym that offers a variety of group fitness classes at multiple day and time slots that fits my new work routine. Getting more active and physically fit has been my approach to unwinding. When I’m at the gym, I don’t think about work, I don’t think about checking emails, I don’t think about what’s on my to-do list. I focus on the workout, on my breath, on pushing myself to get stronger. I’ve scheduled in exercising as part of my daily routine, making it a priority and setting aside time to be sure I can get a workout in. My coworkers and husband know that going to the gym is important to me and respect that that time is for me. After about two weeks of regular exercise, I had more mental acuity and a general feeling of energy and accomplishment.


Having this hobby allows me to completely unwind from veterinary medicine, which is important to combat the issues of stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue. Going to the gym forces me to literally remove my “work uniform”, which helps to take away thoughts about work. Being able to take a mental, emotional, and physical break is also an important aspect of self-care, which is putting your needs first (which I know can be challenging to do!). While exercise might not be for everyone, take some time to think about a hobby or activity you can do to unwind, relax, and recharge. Some great examples include playing with your pets, reading a book, adult coloring books, completing a puzzle (or a puzzle-type phone app), walking around your neighborhood, watching a show/movie, cooking/baking, learning something new (i.e. how to play an instrument), volunteering, and pampering yourself (#treatyoself).


By taking care of yourself and unwinding from the work stresses of veterinary medicine allows you to have a greater well-being and work-life balance.



Pushing Paint

Blog Author: Oreta M. Samples, BS, MPH, DHSc

NAVTA AVA Committee Member


I first began experimenting with water color when a dear friend and fellow veterinary technician introduced me to scroll painting for her local chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism.  According to her, there was not a problem that could not be solved mentally by “pushing paint”. And she was right!!!  As both of us are veterinary technicians in an academic setting, it was the perfect way to meet at lunch in someone’s office and blow off or rather paint off steam.  Painting, especially with watercolor has a calming effect on me as I have to stop, relax and let the water take control.  Because this is a very fluid medium, you cannot reliably place the paint where you want it; rather you allow the paint to flow from the brush onto the paper and oftentimes “run” where it wants.  Rather than frustrating the artist, this is (for me) a delightful way to let the paints themselves guide the project.


My friend Ann is no longer with us, although she lives in my heart and my memories.  She comes to the forefront every time I pick up a brush. In many ways it is like she is still here coaching, kidding and supporting my watercolor efforts.  At the risk of sounding strange, I have some of my best conversations with Ann in my mind while surrounded by tins of watercolor, a few brushes and the quiet of the day.


Water color is a forgiving media that often seems to “shape-shift” overnight while drying. If something does not look “just right” or seems out of place, sometimes, letting it dry overnight is the answer and I have been amazed at transformations that have occurred in things I was ready to trash.  Likewise, there are special brushes which will lift the paint from the paper and allow you to start afresh.  The same, I am afraid cannot be said of oil or acrylic paint (just trust me on this…).  My favorite and most simplistic exercise is creating Christmas cards using water color. For ideas, I take photos, prowl Pinterest® and sometimes just let my mind wander searching for ideas. Each card is a one-of-a-kind and is painted for with someone special in mind. I take pictures of all finished cards so that I can modify, tweak and change them in a later creation guaranteeing that no two are alike.


My yearly “quota” of cards to be ready by December 10th is around 30-50 cards. I normally start the process around October 1st to give myself plenty of time. Some cards are whimsical, some are religious themed and some are campy, art-deco snow-men themed. The beauty of watercolor is that it is a fast craft. A card painted today can be stamped and mailed tomorrow. Another great thing about watercolor is in is inexpensive to take up while still using artist-grade brushes and paints.


I use artist-grade tubes of paints which if bought as part of a set may be less than $20.00 at hobby stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby and even cheaper if purchased through Ebay or other online outlets. Individual tubes of paint (for the weird color that you just have to have) may be purchased for 3.00 to 4.00 and despite their small size, they last almost forever because, let’s face it, they are called water colors for a reason and most can be reconstituted easy enough. One color can become several shades of color depending on the amount of water you add.

Here is a simple card that you can make for Christmas 2020:


1 card (cardstock for watercolor) and envelope

1 wide 1 inch brush

1 small flat brush

Green watercolor paint

Brown watercolor paint

White watercolor paint

1 brown watercolor marker

1 Micron pen Size 01

1 Pencil and eraser




1.     Draw design lightly with pencil on card stock

2.     Using wide 1 inch brush, paint over entire card with a very diluted mix of white paint (i.e. whitewash) and allow to dry.

3.     With small fat brush, paint the green trees, the rinse brush

4.     With small brush, paint the brown tree trunks

5.     Let dry for 2-3 hours or less (if using an overhead fan to speed drying time).

6.     Using 01 marker trace the tree, a star or swirl on top of trees and add musical notes

7.     Using brown watercolor marker, trace tree trunk and draw sloping earth under the trees and add Fa La La La La…

8.     Add a personal message inside. On the back, add your own personal signature/icon.


I dedicate this blog to the memory of Mrs. Roseanne Gillespie, one of the finest technicians and friends I have ever known.


Keep Pushing Paint…



What Does Showing Compassion To Yourself Do?

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM)

NAVTA President


“I should have done that”, “I really shouldn’t have said that”, “Man, you’re so stupid”… the list goes on when I think about the many ways I talk down to myself when something doesn’t go right. I think these thoughts have been prevalent, although at varying degrees, throughout my life. I didn’t think much of this pattern as it was something that kept driving me to improve by making me think about how I’m going to do better next time and it also helped me keep myself in check to gauge how well I can handle different situations. As I was sitting with my friends at WVC last week it was made known to me that this mindset isn’t really “normal”, though prevalent.  


Recently, I have started to feel the thoughts leading to net negative effects. Maybe it was because they tended to become more intense or frequent, forced on me by outside factors, with the outcome of events I am involved in having the perception of being higher stakes. Even the smallest mistakes started to feel like the end of the world. The feelings became less of an internal barometer of how I feel about the situation, and more a feeling of being judged. So, what’s one to do when feeling crushed by judgment? That’s when friends came to the rescue.


One take-away message from the chat with friends is that we need to practice a little more “self-compassion”. For example, a friend let me know that a simple exercise of imagining yourself sitting in a chair placed in front of you and thinking about what you would say to yourself as a friend allows you to realize that your words would be much different than what you normally say to yourself in your head. Instead of emphasizing how horrible they are and telling them to “suck it up and move on”, you would be thinking “how can I help” and treat them with kindness and understanding. When feeling judged, the individual from which judgement matters the most, is yourself. Instead of judging yourself, think about what being kind to yourself looks like.


Of course, practicing self-compassion feels much easier said than done. How do I change a mindset that has been a part of me for so long? I feel I took away pieces to that answer from my recent trip. First, I realized that I am not alone in this feeling. There are others that have forgotten how to be compassionate with yourself and need some reminders that you’re not the only one that makes mistakes, and you also have friends that support you. Second, those negative emotions are there for a reason and they are not something that should be just ignored or written away in the name of self-compassion. It’s having an accurate sense and self-awareness of it that matters. Just make sure you aren’t over-exaggerating it and blowing it out of proportion. But at the same time, don’t dissociate from it by suppressing it either. That’s what bottling things up looks like. Again, having friends that can give you frank and honest feedback and dialogue will help you stay grounded. Talk to someone.


I gave a talk at WVC sharing my ups and down in my life and career that has made me who I am today in the search of my purpose. Various individuals came up to me throughout the conference afterwards to let me know how they especially appreciated hearing about the downs of my life (and maybe the recovery from it) because there are elements of hardship that we all experience through our lives. Life is hard enough as it is, especially in our role where compassion for others is a main source of our sense of purpose. Don’t make it harder by being constantly critical and judgmental of yourself and apply that compassion to yourself as well. Thank you to all my friends who have made me realize this, and to my family who are there for me and keep me going.



Compassion For Others is Compassion For Ourselves

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


I can remember being a “baby tech” and getting so angry at clients. “Why do they have a dog if they can’t afford to take care of it?” “This cat is only 2! Why are we euthanizing him?” In fact, I heard that second one just today during a shift from a technician just starting out in the field. After starting to work in a field setting, with clients who literally have nothing but their love to share with their pets, my attitude began to change. I was able to see what it meant for a pet owner to make a tough decision to euthanize a young animal because they knew that they could not afford to help that animal if their injury didn’t heal well or there was a relapse of illness after my team left town. They opted to make a difficult decision to ensure no potential for pain and suffering. I was able to bring that back to my “real world” and I was able to show compassion for clients, even when they were breaking my heart with their decisions and I totally disagreed with them. First came the empathy. Putting myself in their shoes to understand why they made the decision they made. Then came the compassion. That this was not an easy decision for them, and they were likely going to be way more heartbroken than I was at what they felt was the difficult, but right, choice for their beloved pet.


This newfound compassionate approach then led me to extend empathy and compassion to my co-workers. Maybe that person didn’t mean to leave me hanging in x-ray for 20 minutes, they were just pulled in too many directions at once. Maybe that person who just did everything wrong while admitting that patient wasn’t trained well and was just trying to be helpful.


The surprising bonus to this change of outlook was that I found that, over time, I was able to deal with the heartbreaking cases and frustrating moments in a much healthier way. And I started to really embrace my career again. Having compassion and empathy allows us to process the tough situations through a different lens and that has led me to be able to see these situations in a much more logical light. This ability has enabled me to find much more joy, even on the sad and “pull out your hair” days. I find that compassion and empathy has made me a better person, more willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt that they want to do the right thing.




Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT

NAVTA Secretary


Today I cried. I started my day with a text that one of my all-time favorite clients had walked in for a euthanasia appointment. I rushed to get ready in record time as I was not due into the clinic for another hour. I walked into the clinic without my coffee (my much-needed fuel for the day), wet hair and literally dumped my purse and backpack on the first person I saw.


I went in the exam room to sit with this client, a man I have known for 20 years. We remembered together when Scout (the best sheltie ever) was young and his wife was healthy. At almost 12 years old, Scout had multiple issues and had been rapidly declining over the past few weeks. To add to this man’s plate, Scout’s mom has dementia and Parkinson’s. Over the years we have watched her decline from the amazing, vibrant woman she once was, to a virtual stranger. The DVM came in to do Scout’s euthanasia. And as we always hope, the procedure was peaceful. I took Scout out of the room with the promise to take good care of her.


Moments later I stepped back into the room to say goodbye to Mr. Bell and ended up sitting with him on the bench in the room for half an hour. We held hands and cried together remembering Scout and the impact she had on her family. We talked about his wife and the stranger he had become to her. His loss as a husband, not just as Scout’s owner.


He kissed me on the cheek and hugged me. Thanking me for all I had done for them over the years. I truly love that man and his family. After 24 years into the profession, not many euthanasias make me cry anymore. This one hit me hard.


He sent an email late in the day today, thanking me for all I have done for them over the years. I cried again. As hard as it gets, as busy as our days are, this is why I do what I do. Each and every day. We sometimes forget that it’s not necessarily the compassion we show to our patients, but to our clients that leave lasting memories. I was grateful enough to get to know this particular patient and this particular family, but remember, we don’t always know the entire story. Just like Mr. Bell, there is always more going on than we can even imagine. Let us not judge, let us not assume. Compassion towards every patient, every client, every time make us who we are.



2020 is the year for our profession

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM)

NAVTA President


2020 is the year for our profession. As I type that, it makes me think that the past couple of years have all been great years for our profession and also that every year should be a year for our profession since high quality veterinary care simply cannot be made accessible to as many patients without our involvement. With that said, 2020 is going to be amazing and building on top of past efforts.


The focus on providing an environment where veterinary technicians lead a fulfilling career by the rest of the veterinary field has become more and more intense as we cited data on challenges in our field (low wage, lack of respect, underutilization, lack of public and professional recognition; see 2016 NAVTA demographic survey for more information) to explain the current shortage of members of our profession.


Through it, the Veterinary Nurse Initiative emerged to address key issues of our profession and for our profession to take a stand to create the change we want to see. NAVTA participated in the AVMA Veterinary Technician Utilization Task Force, bringing forward issues and solutions to how veterinary technicians can and should be utilized in practice to bring benefits to the patients and the entire team. The NAVTA District Representatives spoke on behalf of the profession on current profession issues to veterinary organizations in the 11 national districts at the Veterinary Leadership Conference and continue to support our profession around the nation. NAVTA is providing input into the AAVSB model scope of practice regulatory language, and working towards making a statement on title protection, all the while giving members of the profession the ability to voice their thoughts. The Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties is setting guidelines and creating resources to strengthen the specialties. The list goes on.


I recall being frustrated about how slow the pace of change seems to be with so many obstacles in the path towards a better tomorrow. Several years later, I am starting to see the effects of the small steps taken at a time, leading up to the greater changes we want to see. Real change takes time, persistence, and dedication. Looking back at where we are today compared to the several years ago when I started to become involved with the profession, I feel a sense of accomplishment in the fruits of our labor.


What is especially rewarding about the changes we are seeing today is the level of collaboration between our profession and organizations involving veterinarians, practice managers, and industry partners to ensure that we are doing everything that we can to improve the current situation. We have gained many seats at the table for discussion and our reach continues to grow.


That is not to say that everything has been perfect or that our hard work is done, and there is no better time as today to step up to the plate to become a force for change. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by our highly engaged board members that aren’t afraid to debate the direction of our profession, the talented and dedicated committee members, association management experts to support our work, and each individual in our profession that strive to do the best for our patients and their families, because it is with each and every one of your efforts that we will see real change. Thank you for all you do. It’s going to be a great year.



2020 is the Year of Positivity!!

Blog Author: Ed Carlson, CVT, VTS (Nutrition)

NAVTA President Elect (2020)


On this snowy winter day in New England, looking back on 2019 and to the endless possibilities 2020 may bring, my goal for the New Year is to be positive and kind. Over the past several years, social media has become increasingly prevalent in our lives. In my personal life, I love seeing family and friends post about their kids, sometimes watching them grow from across the country, seeing the silly things they do, and admiring their accomplishments. In my professional life, following the careers of colleagues, promotions, awards, taking on challenging new positions, traveling, educating others and themselves, and promoting our profession is gratifying.


I follow many vet med and veterinary technician groups, enjoying the sharing of knowledge, discussion on studies, offering best practices and “how-to” instruction. Unfortunately, social media, including many of these groups, are becoming increasingly places to complain, find fault with others; bash employers, organizations, and clients. Sure, we all need a place to vent, to get things off our chest at times, but is social media the right place to do this?


I can’t help but wonder if this sometimes-toxic online environment might be contributing to the increase of compassion fatigue and the suicide rate in our profession. Are we encouraging negativity in our hospitals and teams? What if, instead, we replied with positive suggestions and encouraging words rather than adding our own negative experience on the topic? Rather than speculation, rumor, and jumping to conclusions, what if we went directly to the source? Ask questions with an open mind? Understood the situation better by reading accurate information before responding, then responding thoughtfully?


I’m ashamed to admit that I have sometimes contributed to the negativity, commenting without having the facts. My challenge to myself, and for all of us in 2020, is and should be to be kind and have a positive attitude; not rush to judgment, but to learn, understand, and ponder before posting. Perhaps, together, we can try to turn a spiraling downward online conversation around with encouragement or a kind word. Thinking before typing or speaking, helping one another to look towards the light, and not be sucked into the darkness of the negative culture, to be positive and not negative. Who’s with me?!



Resolve to do something or NOT! Better yet, set Goals

Blog Author: Rebecca Rose, CVT

Wellbeing Task Force Co-Chair


Whether you are in the habit of creating New Year’s Resolutions or not, you have 12 months ahead of you to make a difference in your daily life, career and profession. I for one have not been able to keep a New Year’s Resolution past the middle of February. Now achieving personal and professional goals is a different story!


Where do you place your energy, in Resolutions or achieving Goals?


Let’s dissect it out and see how making goals for your daily life, career and profession can make a difference.


I recall working along side my doctor in 1996 explaining I wanted to retest to reinstate my credential (I had let it lapse while my children were young, and I stayed at home for a couple of years). He was all for it and we negotiated a compromise. If I were to study, pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) and stay employed at the hospital for three years he would pay for the expenses related to the testing (fee to take the exam, travel to Denver and lodging). PERFECT! I was all IN! The Goal was established.


The Plan. I received support from my veterinary team in studying for the exam. I had set up a study program, tackling McCurnin’s Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians covering a different topic each week for three months. Seriously, it was a team effort. Keep in mind, I had passed the first exam in 1987. Nine years had lapsed since I had taken classes, but I was determined to become credentialed, again! Because I had attended an AVMA accredited program I was eligible to sit for the exam ten years later. I had a plan!


OK, this is where I am challenging you if you are sitting on the fence in a similar situation, TAKE THE VTNE TEST! Regardless of the circumstances, take the test. If you need help in preparing for the exam, there are apps, study groups and many more resources available to you. It amazes me how many students attend classes, pass the courses and don’t sit for the VTNE test. Are you one of them?


Anyhow, back to Resolutions and Goals.


In 1997 I did sit for the VTNE and passed; the plan worked. I achieved my Goal!

The point is this, to resolve to change a habit is a noble cause, but to define personal and professional goals may be a better use of your energy and time. 

  • Establish a goal to improve your wellbeing. Define it, be specific: Walk the dog 20 minutes 3 times a week. Track your progress on your calendar. Celebrate each month you achieve the walks with ice cream (of course you get to choose how to celebrate!)
  • Design a career goal. Define it, be specific: Become certified as a Pet Loss Grief Counselor. Create a plan to participate in the course and celebrate when you receive the certificate. Proudly display in your veterinary practice.
  • Engage in your profession. Define it, be specific: Step outside your comfort zone and sit on a State and/or National Technician Association Committee. Show up as a professional, offering your ideas and supporting the profession. Celebrate after your first year of participation by capturing a list of inspiring veterinary professionals and treating yourself to more ice cream!


You have an entire year ahead of you to make an impact on your daily life, career and profession. Create a plan, keep it simple and stick to it. Resolve to skip the resolution and work the plan to achieve your goals! Let me know when I can join you in celebration with ice cream.


Seriously, we are here for you! Look to NAVTA for resources throughout the year in Continuing Education, articles in growing your career and ways to stretch yourself in leadership.




Getting to Know NAVTA’s New Executive Director

Blog Author: Phil Russo, CAE

NAVTA Executive Director


I am very happy to introduce myself as the relatively new Executive Director of NAVTA.  I began my tenure on November 11 and have spent the last few weeks getting to know the board members, association programs, policies, and inner workings.  I have been incredibly impressed by the dedication shown to the association by its leadership and members!


I have spent my entire career in the not-for-profit association world.  Right out of college I worked as an editor for the National Association of Fleet Administrators, Inc. (NAFA), an association for individuals who manage fleets of cars, trucks, vans, and equipment for corporations, government agencies, utilities, and other institutions across the globe.  I was promoted at NAFA to Director of Communications, then Deputy Executive Director.  I left NAFA to become Executive Director of the International Recording Media Association, a trade group representing compact disc and DVD replicators and duplicators. As online streaming began to take hold and physical media began to wane, I was presented with an opportunity to return to NAFA.  In 2005, I went back to NAFA as their Executive Director and became their CEO in 2014. 


My work in the not-for-profit world fits very nicely in to my desire to help and to serve.  My entire career, I’ve been able to honestly say that the work I’ve done has helped someone become a better employee, or a better person, or has helped fix a situation.  That is very much in line with the traits I’ve seen and experienced from NAVTA members, who are helpers to the Nth degree. 


I have a bachelor of arts degree in Journalism from Rutgers University and an Associates in Applied Sciences degree in Marketing from Middlesex County College.  In 1997, I earned the Certified Association Executive designation, attesting to my expertise in running non-profit organizations; I have maintained that designation continuously since that time.


I live in a historic little suburban town in Central New Jersey with my wife of 33+ years. I have four daughters and three cats, all of whom have me wrapped around their fingers (and paws). I am an avid New York Mets baseball fan, and just a bit obsessed with Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. 


I sincerely look forward to meeting you and working with and for each of you!



A Thousand Thanks To You

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


As I approach the end of my three-year presidential term on the NAVTA board of directors, many emotions pour forth. How did three years pass by – that was fast!  Truly, I am grateful. Grateful to be part of the best profession on earth! Grateful to have been elected to be part of a team leading NAVTA forward.  Our profession is on an upward trajectory!  We have the entire veterinary profession talking WITH us about how to better utilize our skills and credentials. Look around you – no matter what area of medicine you enjoy – veterinary nurses/technicians have a seat at the table! Pain management, ECC, Fear Free, technician utilization, dentistry, and yes – my particular favorite, nutrition – amongst many others are listening to us and including us. The future of the veterinary technician profession is bright!


I am truly humbled to have had the opportunity to serve as your NAVTA president. There has been a tremendous amount of change over the past three years within NAVTA and the profession. Change is necessary and is a constant in life. If you think about it honestly, we cannot become what we want by remaining what and where we are.  Small changes eventually add up to huge results and I believe our profession is seeing these results firsthand.


I hope that each of you see the passion I have for our profession and for each of you in our profession. I firmly believe each of you can do anything you want to do! I have been and will always be your biggest champion. Remember great things come from stepping outside of your comfort zone, so take that first step – I will be there to support you.


Finally, I ask that you watch out for your colleagues, for it is under the shelter of each other that we survive. Remember everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about and that you cannot see. Smile. Laugh. Stop and listen. Give a hug! But above all, Be Kind – Always.


It has been an honor to represent you on the NAVTA board – Go raibh mile maith agaibh (Gaelic for a thousand thanks to you).


Peace, health, and joy to you in 2020.



Stay Engaged

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

NAVTA President


Is 2019 really almost over?  This year has been a whirlwind of changes, travel, meeting new people, strengthening relationships, and new experiences. And that is just the NAVTA part of my life! Serving as the NAVTA President at such a busy and exciting time has been both intimidating and exhilarating (depending on the day). As I get ready to move in to the Past President role, I feel I have gained a new skill set and knowledge base that will serve me well in years to come.


Since I’m moving into the “elder statesman” role in another month, I want to take this time to share some advice, if I may be so indulgent. GET INVOLVED! Of course, I would love to say that everyone should be involved in their national professional association but that, in reality, does not hold everybody’s interest. So, find something that does interest you – a committee, a board position, volunteering, anything!  Being involved in your profession is one way to stay engaged. Beyond that, it allows you to meet people and possibly open doors when you are looking for a new adventure or a step up that career ladder.


I made some huge changes over the past year. Many of those changes were made possible by the connections I’ve made through my involvement with NAVTA and professional relationships I have fostered over the years. If you aren’t someone to be formally involved, at least stay engaged in your professional environment. Foster relationships with those you meet in the course of your day. You never know when those relationships will come in handy!



How I Have Learned to Grow

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM) 

NAVTA President Elect


When I look back on this year, the words of advice of “To grow, stay uncomfortable” comes to mind. These words contributed to a decision to make a family move across the country after 19 years in private practice, moving further into the role of developing ways in which veterinary professionals can gain practical training and knowledge that makes them more confident and competent in what they do in the field as a simulation laboratory manager at Cornell University.


2019 was the first whole year in this new role, and I was certainly uncomfortable. I left the hospital I grew up in, the amazing team I grew up with, and a hospital management team with a dynamic relationship that I loved, and went into a university position with only a handful of people I knew, serving a role much different than the clinical position I was in for my entire career prior. Wow, have I learned a lot. 


Understanding the mechanics behind the simulators, learning to assemble them, suggesting improvements in software, or even just trying to communicate specifics regarding bugs encountered to the programmers were all a new experience (I had to describe end-tidal CO2measurement and behavior of waveforms without using medical terminology, for example). Familiarizing myself with the structure and scale of a college and university, not to mention living in the north east climate from the stable, sunny California weather, would be understated if I said it was “different”.


Considering this concept from a different angle, our profession has had to put ourselves out there and be “uncomfortable” by confronting the field with issues we face today. The year has been full of members of the profession stepping up to represent at leadership meetings participating in passionate debates, tackling legislative issues around the nation, filling national scale practice management and nursing director roles, stepping up to various committee/task force/council seats, leading various clinical and wellness groups, and being personal leaders within veterinary practices; a non-exhaustive list of ways to serve as a voice for our profession and team. As I listed these avenues, each of you have something you did that has created positive change as you look back on your year. Thank you for putting yourself out there for all of us. 


Putting yourself in an unfamiliar environment, working with a new group of people, navigating through uncertain territories to forge new paths, trying to create change in a world that so much feels out of our control must bring up various feelings like fear of rejection/embarrassment/failure, imposter syndrome, or helplessness (just to name a few). I’ve learned to embrace these feelings to do something, act, and confront the issues we face today.


There are leaders around the world today, serving as advocates for the profession. Each of you are leaders that bring us closer and closer to where we want to be each day. I would also like to take a moment, as we look back on the year, to express how grateful I am for those that continue to step up to the plate to join the conversation and advocate for our profession at the state, national, and international level. They do not receive enough credit for the tremendous amount of thoughtfulness, passion, talent, and dedication brought to the table. Issues surrounding our profession today are not easy to solve, and our path forward is to be the change we want to see. Thank you for all that you’ve done in 2019, and I’m honored to keep moving forward, staying uncomfortable with you in 2020. 



2019 Let’s take a look!

Blog Author: Anna Santos, RVT

NAVTA outgoing DR Committee Co-chair


When I look back at 2019, I have a lot of mixed feelings … a lot of mixed feelings!  This year threw me some major curve balls. These included some significant personal health issues, the diagnoses of a rare and potentially terminal cancer for the child of a colleague, coworker and dear friend. Career and job changes and challenges for both my husband and myself. As well as, enduring and processing both family and personal loss.  For the first time in 23 years working in veterinary medicine I felt (and truly understood) Burnout!!


I had to reassess. But, I realized I really did not know how to do that. Me, the person who manages a large unit at a major university veterinary hospital with a staff of over 50 individuals and who always had the answer for everyone else (or at least could find one), could not figure out how to realign myself.  Then I remembered what one of our veterinary nursing community leaders, Rebecca Rose, said to me - CELEBRATE!


So, I started looking at 2019 in those terms. I got rid of the “Woe is me” attitude and found some good in each of my challenges. My personal health, although not 100%, was improving every day, my colleague’s child was fighting and WINNING his battle with cancer, my husband and I both had jobs we enjoyed and had opportunities ahead of us, and I was learning to embracing loss as a part of life and celebrating the life of each person/pet who had moved on.  When I started looking at life this way, things began to improve.


Our Veterinary Nursing community is also a place we need to celebrate. It is an amazing place, filled with remarkable, intelligent, passionate individuals.  Some of these individuals are the NAVTA leaders. They have worked tirelessly to move our field forward in a positive and productive way. This hard work has brought veterinary nursing to new heights. In 2019, leaders such as, Erin Spencer, Kara Burns, Ken Yagi, Ed Carlson, Mary Berg and Jamie Rauscher, along with countless others, have forged a new partnership with the AVMA, employed a new association management firm, made significant strides within the Veterinary  Nurse Initiative, and cultivated the District Representative System, allowing it to take hold and grow. These are all significant accomplishments and should be celebrated. Not just for the accomplishments, but for how these accomplishments have escalated the status of veterinary nursing.  We are now at the table my friends. Not as a guest, but as a needed and desired member of the Veterinary Team, and that is something to truly CELEBRATE!  



Vacations Make Us More Productive

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

NAVTA President


Ok, let’s just get it out there right now – this year has been rough!  I travelled so much I have a pretty sweet status level on my airline but that travel has come at a price. Add all that lost time (I’m not good at working on planes or in cars) together with all the other commitments I have had on a daily and weekly basis, and what you see is one tired person in need of a vacation. Twice this year I headed to our family home in Nova Scotia for a “vacation” …where I worked 2-3 hours every day during both trips and held at least one conference call each week. As I neared the end of the year and my last trip, I decided, I needed an actual vacation. And, thanks to a family member getting married in Jamaica, I had a ready-made destination. 


I have taken some time for myself along the way this year but had not really “checked out” to reset and rejuvenate. I headed for Jamaica without my computer. I realized it was the first time I was without a computer in over a year and it was AMAZING! 


I worked a couple of relief shifts right after I got back and no less than 3 people in the course of one day commented on how I looked young (thanks!), relaxed, and well rested. Take time when you need it and take those vacations. Taking time for ourselves allows us to ultimately accomplish more of what we love and better positions us to be the caregivers we want and/or need to be. 



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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


Who knows the meaning of caregiving more than those in the medical profession? This is what members of the veterinary profession do on a daily basis – care for our patients, their owners, our colleagues. But what about caring for ourselves? Well, we have our families to care for before our individual selves enter the equation. Some of us are also ‘sandwiched’ – caring for children and caring for aging parents. Wow! Look at this – it is a lot of caregiving. 


We chose this profession because we care, we want to help. Maybe we didn’t expect the toll it may take every day. Are we caring for ourselves? I would venture to guess that we are not. We need to be a caregiver for ourselves as well. If we do not – we become a shell of the once incredible individual we were. I know we have so much on our plates – but without self-care, our plates shatter, and the ripple effects everything we touch.


If we look at the definition of ‘Caregiver’, it is a term referring to anyone who provides care for a living being who needs extra help. But I think it goes well beyond this most basic of definitions. To me it is doing what no one else will do, in a way that no one else can, in spite of all we go through – that to me is a Caregiver. 


Who is caring for you? First and foremost, you need to care for yourself. Take some time, do something you enjoy, rest. Without self-care we cannot be the superhero I know each of you to be! The simple act of caring is heroic, so now Take care of you! It is a privilege to be a caregiver – so afford yourself this privilege. 


Truly, there is no higher honor than being welcomed into another being’s life, hopes, fears, memories, dreams, and desires. Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we did not know possible. We experience this with our patients. Mother Teresa said, “It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing”.  



Caring for the Caregiver Blog

Blog Author: Harold Davis RVT, VTS (ECC) (Anesth/Analgesia)

NAVTA Member at Large


As veterinary technicians in the clinical setting we are in the position of being caregivers.  The role of caregiver can extend beyond our daily responsibilities at work.  Many of us in our personal lives may care for disabled, older, or ailing family members. The one thing that these variations in caregiving have in common is the potential for caregiving stress or burnout. Caregiving can impact emotional and physical health.  Caregivers may experience one or more of the following (not conclusive):

·      Lack of energy

·      Sleeping problems

·      Overwhelming fatigue

·      Withdrawing from, or losing interest in activities

·      Neglecting one’s own physical and emotional needs

·      Anxiety, depression, or mood swings


I can speak from personal experience on this topic; my sister and I were part-time caregivers for my mom who was suffering from dementia, my father was the primary caregiver.  For me the big takeaways were the following:

1.    The importance of having a support system 

2.    The need to make time away for one’s self, and 

3.    Taking care of one’s own personal physical needs.  


There are community resources that are available to caregivers; take advantage of them.  I have included a link to one resource that may be helpful

In summary, caregiving begins with caring for yourself, if you are not well it is very difficult to care for others.



Care for Yourself

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Chair


When we think of caregiving, I think many of us think of the patient care we provide. We provide medication to keep our patients comfortable, perform treatments to hopefully better their prognosis and provide husbandry and kindness to help heal. These skills are why we joined this profession. We have the heart of a caregiver. But what happens when we continue to try and be a caregiver in all aspects of our lives?


I have always been a people pleaser. I try to go above and beyond to take care of family, friends and anyone I meet. Unfortunately, at times it has left me exhausted and frustrated with trying to solve all the problems and do all the things to try and make people happy. Being a problem solver and someone who takes care of what needs to be done can be honorable. But don’t forget to take care of yourself while you are pouring your heart into everything else. 


For me, I had to learn to have boundaries. I had to learn when to say “no” when there was too much on my plate. Even if it meant that people didn’t like the answer. It meant asking for the things that I need to take care of myself emotionally. After a long day of caring for everyone and trying to solve problems and fix things, I have had to prepare my family that I need time to decompress. It means that when I am home, I try not to think about what’s going on at work and take time for myself, doing the things that I enjoy. 


When we spend our lives being caregivers, it’s easy to forget that we must take care of ourselves to truly be able to take care of others. Whatever that looks like to you, whether it is setting boundaries, letting go of work in your off time or having a conversation where you explain what you need to be your best, please make the time to that this month. When we forget to take care of ourselves, we don’t allow ourselves the same gift we give our patients. The gift of healing. We deserve that. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. 


My Ever-Evolving Career, What’s Next?

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

NAVTA President


It seems like every year when National Vet Tech Week rolls around, I seem to be doing something slightly different than I was the year before. I started out as a veterinary assistant at a general practice just over 20 years ago after realizing I did not really want to be a vet, I wanted to be more hands-on with the patients and provide the nursing care. While in school, I stared feeling that this position was not for me and a fellow student introduced me to emergency medicine. Well, my credentials illustrate that was obviously a game-changer, but it hasn’t been a straight path to where I am today. I worked in neurology because the schedule was a bit better. Then I went back to school to finish my undergrad degree - in History - because I was burnt out and didn’t see a career path in veterinary medicine. Well, I got past that and pursued my VTS, moved into management for the ECC department and then as a technician manager for an entire hospital. Along the way I found a field medicine teaching program where I restored my passion each summer providing free care to animals in need. When an opportunity arose to work full-time with that group as their volunteer coordinator and field technician, I did it. This led to me really see how much I loved teaching, so I went back to school for a M.Ed. and then put that to use teaching in a veterinary technology program all the while putting myself out there to speak and present on the national level. 


This year, I left that post and am now back to my routes doing relief shifts to pay the bills, while I get my own training business up and running. And this little walk down memory lane doesn’t even include my participation on the boards of my state association and NAVTA and with other organizations in the veterinary space. 


It has been quite a ride! The one thing I have taken away from this journey is that being a veterinary technician does not have to be a “dead-end” job. I often hear from people that they aren’t challenged where they are or don’t feel there is any other option for them, so they are going to leave the field. These should not be reasons to leave the field. Every “opportunity” that has come along in my career has been a result of me taking a risk or accepting a challenge. Challenge and risk are what keeps us from being stagnant in our lives. Even when we aren’t successful or have to go through a temporarily rough patch, it strengthens us and prepares us for the next time. 


As I often told my students, this is a great time to be in our field. There is so much opportunity to do new things. If what you want to do doesn’t seem to exist, make it exist! Be on the lookout for those opportunities and challenges and be willing to take the risk when they present themselves. 



Thirty Years and Counting!

Blog Author: Leslie Wereszczak, LVMT, VTS(ECC)

NAVTA District III Representative


To answer the question, “How I Became A Veterinary Technician”, I have to go back to my 13thbirthday present- a pony, and to be honest, she is probably the reason my life took this path.  Through her, and her need for veterinary care, I became fascinated with veterinary medicine. In high school, I worked in two veterinary practices, one small animal and one large animal ambulatory practice.  These veterinarians fostered my medical curiosity in the veterinary format.  It was after my 4thcollege major change and a year off, I decided to go to veterinary technician school (SUNY Delhi) at the encouragement of the large animal vet.  I remember him saying, “This is an emerging field.  You would be so good at it.  You really should do this.”  So, I did.


I accepted a job at the University of Tennessee’s small animal ICU right after graduation.  This was a stepping stone job for me, with intent to stay perhaps a year.  That was 30 years ago.   Critical care in an academic environment ended up being a perfect fit for me.  It fed my adrenalin junkie soul, put me in an ever-changing and challenging environment, and I got to work with veterinarians and technicians who are committed to teaching, and teaching meant everyone- students, residents, interns, technicians, assistants.  Every single day, you have the opportunity to learn something new, and pass that information on through teaching. 


I was drawn to my career in veterinary nursing for the same reasons my human counterparts, registered nurses, are drawn to theirs.  I want to provide the patient care, I want to be the patient advocate. I have intuitive instincts that guide me with my patient care. I am fascinated by medicine and can combine that curiosity with critical thinking and technical nursing skills to best serve my patients.  There is a vulnerability with a sick animal that makes me want to help, but I also want to be sure I am providing the best, evidence-based care I possibly can.


Every animal patient has a human attached to them.  Being there for them in their time of worry or grief can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of the job.  Positive experiences feed your soul and negative ones leave a void, yet through the years, I have tried to reach a balance of understanding. Difficult cases and difficult clients, though challenging, don’t define my outlook on my profession.  Veterinary nursing is like a good book: it makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think, and it keeps you in suspense! 


During this National Veterinary Technician Week, I ask that each of us think of a way to be a better steward of this profession we love.  Encourage and build one another. Be a mentor.  Set a goal.  Teach a class.  Volunteer. Learn something new everyday.  Grow. Be the change you want to see in the profession.



What VTS means to me

Blog Author: Linda Merrill, LVT, VTS (SAIM) (C/F Clinical Practice)



I sat down to write this blog and I was surprised at how hard it was to answer this question!


When I first heard about veterinary technology I immediately knew that was for me. As all of us say “I love animals” but I had no idea that it would mean so much more. I’m sure I was the annoying kid always asking why and taking things like the toaster apart to figure out how they worked. Fast forward, and the why of medicine and the intricacies of how the body works continues to be a theme for me.


Even as I worked at a general practice and then a specialty practice I loved to learn and luckily both practice philosophies encouraged improvement. I loved the sense of accomplishment that came from dentistry. The fascination of assisting in surgery and holding organs in my hands. I was captivated by the heart, ECGs and then echocardiography. I felt the pride of successful anesthesia, even in complicated cases. 


All of this (and more) led me to the road of specializing and achieving my VTS. First in internal medicine and then as I returned to general practice to clinical practice. To me, achieving VTS was a tangible accomplishment of my success. I did it for myself. Not for the prestige, not for the money, not for the recognition.


I can say with confidence that the process of achieving a VTS is the reward itself. Attending continuing education improves your understanding of the patients you treat. Checking off the skills required pushes you in new directions. Fulfilling your experience requirements exposes you to a range of different problems and solutions. Case logs challenge you to present a variety of patients, conditions and skills and in the process self-improvement comes about. Case reports force you to take a very close look at some of our patients and rewards you with the confidence to handle these patients with the utmost care.


VTS then seems to naturally progress to speaking and writing opportunities. How great is that to share your hard earned knowledge and experience. My best advice to my younger self, or to anyone in the field, is to continue your own personal journey, wherever and whenever it takes you.




Why I Became a Veterinary Technician 

Blog Author: Courtney Waxman, CVT, RVT, VTS (ECC)

NAVTA District 6 Representative


For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to work with animals. This intro to my story probably sounds familiar - we all got into this field because we love animals and medicine (and because humans are gross!). This led to me doing a lot of research about how to become a veterinarian - what the schooling looked like, and the types of jobs I could get. It wasn’t until high school that I realized I was interested in the wrong career. 


I landed my first veterinary job working as a technician assistant at my family’s primary care vet. After spending two weeks shadowing the head CVT, I knew I wanted to be a veterinary technician quite simply because I wanted to be involved in patient care. 


Patient care and nursing care is at the very heart of what veterinary technicians do. I wanted to be the one assessing and monitoring patients during their hospitalization stay. I wanted to be the patient’s advocate by communicating concerns to the veterinarian. I wanted to provide patient treatments, such as diagnostic testing, fluid administration, medication calculation and administration, oxygen therapy, physical therapy, anesthesia, and advanced monitoring procedures. I wanted to be the one treating each patient like a pet by minimizing stress/anxiety and ensuring their overall comfort. 


During my veterinary technology schooling, I found my passion for emergency and critical care after completing an internship. I fell in love with the advanced level of specialty care, the patient case variety the meant no day was the same, the adrenaline rush, and the overwhelming experience of literallysaving an animal’s life. 


I’m 12 years in and can’t imagine doing anything else!



Your Coworker is a Role Model, not a Wimp

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

NAVTA President


I just finished reading the other blogs for this month and there are some amazing tips that we can all utilize. It got me thinking about an incident during one of my relief shifts this past week. We had a large dog that needed radiographs. The veterinarian gave us a (very) mild sedative to start. However, it was not enough. I stopped the struggle almost immediately for the v/d view and the other veterinary technician went to get another dose of sedative. Once we were done with the radiographs, we needed to move this dog from the radiology room back to the treatment area. My colleague’s body language told me she was planning for us to carry this dog back (it wasn’t terribly far but certainly not right outside the room). I quickly asked if we could get a gurney and we did just that.


My reason for sharing this story is that my colleague never questioned my requests and she never made me feel I was being “wimpy” or a “diva”. The impression I was left with was that she acknowledged I was looking out for both of us (and the patient). We need to be sure this is happening in all our interactions. Sometimes we are busy and don’t think about self-care for ourselves or our fellow team members. Even if we think what they are doing may be more than is necessary, we need to remember that we aren’t in their body. If they are asking for a gurney for a 10-pound dog, get them one. Maybe they are trying to avoid a situation where they would have to go out on leave for surgery or a worsened injury. We should always be supportive of each other’s self-care needs. Maybe we can even learn something from them!!



No Pain, No Pain!

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

NAVTA Past President and Wellbeing Task Force Co-Chair


Pain is weakness leaving the body!  No Pain. No Gain!  Many of us that grew up in the ’70s and ’80s heard those phrases at every sports practice or physical training session we attended.  I grew up thinking pain was a normal part of life and lived by the motto “Suck it up, buttercup!”  Now, I’m not saying I was the stoic, non-complaining person because I complained about the pain – a lot!  (ask my husband!) Even though I complained and hurt, I continued to do things that I knew I’d pay for later in life.  I was the superhero tech, who lifted the 100-pound dog from the floor to the table and back again, I hunched over the makeshift dental table for years. I prided myself on being the bale throwing champion in our county for over six years, beating women 20 years younger than I.  Yup, pretty stupid, huh!?


All of this caught up to me a couple of years ago when the pain in my lower back became so bad that I sought professional help. Long story, short, an MRI showed five things were going wrong in my lower back and needed surgery to repair the problems.  Last November, I had spinal fusion of L3-5 and let me tell you, it’s not a procedure for the faint of heart!  I’m still working my way back to be the person I was before, but I know I’m on the road to recovery.


Listen to your body!  Pain is not normal, and we all need to take better care of ourselves. Learn about ergonomics and little things you can do in your practice daily to ensure your longevity in this profession we all love so much!  


What can your practice do to help you? 

·      Have physical therapist evaluate your work environment, give ideas on how to make things more ergonomic in all areas of the practice, how to properly lift, and even how to stand and sit properly.  (Like we get to sit, right!?)

·      Use saddle chairs and magnifying loupes during dental procedures.

·      Offer chair massages to employees on a weekly or monthly basis.  If you have a massage training program near, you the students are always looking for people to practice on! 

·      Take a clinic yoga break and stretch for 10 minutes.

·      Have a walking clinic meeting.

·      Give gym memberships as an employee benefit.

·      Challenge each other to be better physically.  

·      Have a code word, and when said, everyone strikes a power pose!


Take care of your body. You only get one so make it last!!



Pain Control

Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT

NAVTA Secretary


Adequate pain control is something we strive for in our patients each and every day. We are constantly scrutinizing our hospital protocols to make sure we are giving the patients that we see the best medical care possible. From up to date pain management protocols for our surgical patients to the most effective medications for our chronic pain patients, we are always looking for ways to improve. We spend all day and sometimes the night worrying about our patient’s comfort level and alleviating their pain, so why do we ignore our own physical pain?


Sitting here now writing this blog, my back is only slightly aching, but so much less than it would have been a year ago.  I have been performing COHATs for a majority of the day here in my clinic. For 24 years I stood bent over the wet table to do my cleanings. Over the past year I have tried to sit down for my procedures. Something as simple as sitting on a saddle stool instead of standing for hours on end has made a tremendous difference in my body’s pain and fatigue.  


Footwear is one of the most important things we can provide for ourselves.  Invest in a good pair of shoes. Whether they be running shoes, clogs or crocs, spend a little to make yourself more comfortable.  We are on our feet for hours at a time, sometimes longer than the time as spend sleeping. A good pair of shoes are worth their weight in gold. Remember shoes wear out too! At least replace them yearly! Does your clinic offer a uniform allowance? Ask if it applies to shoes!


Use a friend to help carry the load. Literally. Does your patient weigh more than 50lbs? You should be asking for help when picking up a large dog.  Lift with your knees and not your back. Think of alternatives to lifting our giant breed friends. Use lift tables and gurneys, do exams on the floor with your patients.  Think outside the box.


Take a break.  Appointments as well as emergencies seem to never stop some days.  It is all we can do to keep up and remember to take a bathroom break.  Every clinic should have some type of break fit into the day for their employees. Step outside. Get some fresh air. Take a dog for a walk. Read a book. Unsure how you will fit that lunch break in? Talk to your teammates. You are all in the same boat most likely. Come up with a break schedule and present it to the powers that be at your clinic. They will appreciate your effort in finding a solution, not just complaining about the work day.  


We have all been in that situation where we have neglected to care for ourselves in the hope to relieve someone else’s suffering. We are our own worst enemy in that respect. Assuming everyone’s intentions are good, know you are not alone in your struggle.  We speak for those with no voice. Sometimes we are included in that group.  How can we minimize pain in our daily life? Our jobs are tough, exhausting us, both physically and emotionally.  Some days more than others. Take time for yourself, invest in things that provide you joy, remembering that you are a valuable asset to our veterinary community. 



Emotional Pain Hurts Too 

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Chair


Many pet owners are unaware of the signs, symptoms and progression of pain. September is Pain Awareness Month. In our field, we work to educate owners on the many symptoms of physical pain in their pets. Our hearts can become heavy in this profession and often it comes from watching our patients come in due to pain from an acute traumatic injury or chronic pain. We all have stories about a case that scarred us or a case where the owners didn’t realize the pain their pet was in.  Maybe we have different situations that have caused us pain. A doctor who humiliated us in the middle of treatment or a client who screamed profanity at us because they were angry or they didn’t have the funds to treat their pet. We experience several traumas every day.


Where does anger come from? One of the phrases that has always stuck in my mind is that “hurt people hurt”. Anger comes from pain. And as we acquire the pain from countless experiences, we can perpetuate that cycle. We may lash out at our families when we go home. Maybe we aren’t the kindest to the new team member. Maybe we lash out on social media about how our clients must be stupid for not knowing what we know. 


I ask veterinary staff everywhere to be mindful of the pain we experience, acknowledge it and process it. Some symptoms of emotional pain include:

·      Shock, denial, or disbelief

·      Confusion, difficulty concentrating

·      Anger, irritability, mood swings

·      Anxiety and fear

·      Guilt, shame, self-blame

·      Withdrawing from others

·      Feeling sad or hopeless

·      Feeling disconnected or numb


If you are feeling these emotions, please reach out for help. Sometimes the empathy we have and the dedication to the profession can be painful. But how we can manage how we deal with that pain? Ask for help. Find a support system. But please, take care of yourself. We cannot heal our patients when we are broken. Know that you are not alone. 



Giving Back

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

NAVTA President


Sleeping on a gym floor, eating the same sandwich for lunch every day, working 15-hour days. That sums up a standard day on a field clinic. Sounds glamorous right? Ok, it isn’t but working with the Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) team hooked me from my first trip as a volunteer. It also led me to volunteer with other spay/neuter groups closer to home. Why? Well, several reasons but the one I’m going to focus on here is the idea of giving back.


Being able to use my skill set to give back brings me a sense of satisfaction like no other. Helping with field clinics allows me to give back to the animals in the communities. Using my experience with anesthesia planning and monitoring enables me to provide high quality care in less than ideal settings. Years of learning how to utilize low-stress handling techniques makes it easier on patients who have never been indoors or are not used to be handled. An animal allowing me to walk it into the building makes that hard floor a little softer. 


Giving back to the humans in the communities is equally important for me. My favorite week of the summer is when I am the trip leader for our field clinic in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. On all my other field clinics, I am on the anesthesia team and do not get to have much interaction with the clients. So, when I’m trip lead, I make a point to spend time at the intake desk and chatting with clients and other folks who stop by the community center we work in. The appreciation of the community makes that sandwich taste a little better. 


Finally, volunteering with RAVS allows me give back to the veterinary profession. This group not only focuses on bringing needed care to under-served communities, it focuses on teaching veterinary and veterinary technology/nursing students. I am able to share my knowledge of anesthetic monitoring, IV catheter placement, disease processes, and pharmacology with the next generation of veterinary professionals. Knowing I am doing my part to train our replacements makes that long day just a little bit shorter. 



How Warm is Your Handshake?

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM) 

NAVTA President Elect


“People join volunteer organizations for 3 things. Because they want to help others, learn new things, and to meet people,” was something I learned during a NAVTA leadership conference. I think on this concept and how it applies to me as I serve my role in various volunteer positions. 


Helping: I remember that my work with non-profits started when I sat down with Vicky Ograin at the ACVIM Forum. My horizon had just been widening beyond the four wall of the veterinary practice and I had no idea what I could do for the profession. “I just want to see what I can do to help” was exactly what I said to her, which led to my appointment to my first committee chair position. 6 years later, this still remains my motivation for being involved. 


Learning: While not the main reason I started getting involved, man have I learned a lot. Professional advocacy related knowledge and skills like non-profit governance, organizational communication, veterinary practice act and regulatory issues, and legislative advocacy. Non-veterinary specific skills like accounting, graphic design, video editing, webinar hosting, event coordination, web authoring, and juggling six instant messaging apps based on cultural preference are brand new types of experiences throughout the years. The learning is a result of pursuing the needs of the organizations and the people it serves. My world keeps expanding every day. 


Meeting people: Being a shy introvert (the most challenging kind to be, by the way), meeting people was on the lowest end of my list. In fact, the more I could help without having to interact with people, the better! Or that’s how I used to feel. Several years ago, I met Dr. Gary Stamp, the Executive Director of VECCS. After the first board meeting as we parted, he shook my hand with the strong grip he always gave and said “You’re one of us now.” I gradually understood what he meant. He created a culture where VECCS was a family, and everyone a member. As he included, encouraged, motivated, and empowered each person, he made us all proud that we belonged. Even after his passing, I will carry the warmth of his handshake with me forever. 


As I look around me today, there are so many amazing and passionate individuals joined together for the greater good and big picture progress who I could not imagine doing all of this without. In all of this, I will be constantly asking myself, “How warm is my handshake?” (or sometimes fist bumps, or an awkward wave from a distance) as I continue working alongside you towards a better world. 



Why I volunteer!

Blog Author: Anita Levy Hudson, RVT

NAVTA District 10 Representative


Volunteering is important to me because it reminds me to have gratitude. My small contributions can add to those of many other people, and have a huge effect. I’ve always believed that the way to change things is to take an action. So, I found that the groups that make changes in our industry are my state and local organizations.


By joining my state organization, CARVTA, and my national association NAVTA, I can make sure that I have an avenue where my voice is heard. Becoming a member of both organizations allows me to stay up to date with current events that have an impact on my profession. However, for me this was not enough, I wanted to personally have an impact on my industry and volunteering has given me that opportunity. 


By volunteering I can ultimately help make my industry better by combining efforts with others towards a common goal. Some of the more well known goals today are technician utilization, and standardization of practices, but there will always be areas in which we can improve. We have a long history of being advocates for our patients, but we have an equally rich history in advocating for ourselves in this industry. I love that history, and this industry. I find it very interesting, and am so proud of our accomplishments in the last 50 years. I also understand that in so many ways, I have benefitted from those that have done the same before me. This inspires in me a duty to do what I can to pay that back, and provide for those technicians to come.


One of the most versatile things about volunteering with your local and state organizations is that you can do it in any of thousands of ways. There are many opportunities that range in the amount of time required. If you have special skills like organization, creative pursuits, accounting, etc , they may be quite useful, as most of the events we see are run by members and volunteers. It takes all kinds of talent to organize and run a volunteer organization. This is great because it means that no matter your strengths or weaknesses, every person can contribute and help make a difference. 


Volunteering isn’t always glamorous. Not everyone knows the names of the people who do the most work. The most dutiful volunteers who devote years of their lives may not be known to us. For some people that is exactly how they want it, because it isn’t about us as individuals. It is about something bigger than ourselves. It is about being in service to others, and finding the satisfaction that comes with knowing that one person can accomplish many things, but many of us together can do everything. 


Be the Change…

Blog Author: Ryan Frazier, LVT

NAVTA District 11 Representative


One of my favorite quotes is “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” by Gandhi. This is exactly why I became involved with my state association and later on continued into the national association. My biggest goal for getting involved was I wanted to see the positive changes to the quality of life for veterinary technicians and support staff. Since I started this career 15 years ago, I have seen so many of these changes happen. I feel that myself and many of the faces in leadership, whether it is on a local, state or national level, have helped to make these changes happen. 


That being said we have so much more we need to accomplish in this profession and we need your help. We need to set a standardization across the United States, we need to be utilized as veterinary technicians to our fullest potential (and support staff), and we need to have a work-life balance. 


To help make this happen we need you to become involved with your local, state or national organization. Follow legislation in your state and write letters or make calls and share your thoughts to make yourself heard!  


Being in this profession as long as I have and seeing a new generation of veterinary technicians I have some advice for you as someone that is on the upswing of burnout… Unplug when you are not at work, turn off notification from all the veterinary-related social media groups and get a hobby that is not related to veterinary medicine (I started cross-stitching, ha!). If you need to have a part-time job look for something that is not veterinary related.  


We can only improve the quality of life for our patients when we have quality of life for ourselves. 



How to become, and identify leaders

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM) 

NAVTA President Elect


“There are no veterinary nurse leaders in Japan” said a presenter at a Japanese veterinary panel a few years ago, followed by “In the current state, a veterinary nurse presenting scientific or clinical information is impossible”. In that moment, I simultaneously experienced shock, disappointment, and anger. When the moderator gave me a turn to speak, what came out of my mouth was “That cannot be true. There are veterinary nurse leaders out there, and if you cannot think of one today, it only means that we haven’t found them yet. If there truly are no leaders out there, then we have the responsibility to nurture them.”


Leadership is not a quality that one is naturally born with. It is a quality that is fostered and developed as one grows. And more importantly, everyone can be, and is, a leader in different ways (yes, I’m looking at you). The interaction at the summit made me think further on how I can personally contribute to develop leadership in the veterinary nursing community, not just in Japan, but everywhere. There are many ways in which people stepping into leadership roles can be encouraged. 


For those who are looking to identify new leaders - A key factor to identifying leaders and allowing them to reach their potential is trust. Believe in the passionate individuals in our profession and work to create opportunities for them to make meaningful, impactful decisions. Provide the resources and support, and help them make the connections they need to push themselves beyond their current limits. 


For those who are looking to become leaders – Dare to put your ideas out there and pursue it. I won’t lie to you. It’s going to be scary. Have comfort in knowing that real growth takes place by leaving your comfort zone and it will all be worth it. Making meaningful change is a long haul which starts with laying the foundations. Find those that share the same goals and passion, and enjoy the shared struggles. 


I have gotten involved with many veterinary associations that have the goals of improving the field and profession. I have been fortunate to have met many mentors who gave me chances, colleagues who I have had the honor of sharing accomplishments with, and giving back to the veterinary community. Being a leader can come in many shapes and forms. I encourage you to take the first steps to making your ideas become a reality, however large or small. There will be those that believe in you, and you will do great things.   



What I have learned about leadership

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

NAVTA President


As I got ready to write this blog, I read the others who have contributed this month and found they said everything I usually say about leadership. After some thought, I realized there were a few pieces to being a leader that have been alluded to in the previous blogs but not outright said.


Lead by example. Provide a template for how you want others to behave, perform, work, etc. You want your team to give team members the benefit of the doubt when something goes wrong? Well, then when someone comes in late every day for a week, you need to ask why and listen to their answer and their needs before giving them a hard time or, if you’re the manager, slapping a warning in front of them. You want your team members to consider client service as important as their patient care? Then you need to stop griping about clients in the treatment area and help the team work through frustrating client situations with positivity, maybe even providing alternate ways to view the situation. 


Be empathetic. Leaders who can look at things from someone else’s perspective are able to change their approach depending on the situation. The ability to understand another person’s point of view makes it easier to let go of “my way” and work to find a way that works for all. 


Be yourself. When I first became a manager, I thought I had to act “professional.”  Whether in meetings or writing emails, I tried to put on this persona of a manager…whatever that is. I quickly learned that being myself, which I best describe as a career woman with a strong inner (mostly) child, made me much more available to my team, especially those who had not worked with me on the floor very much or at all. Today, I crack jokes in serious meetings, can be seen dancing on shifts, and wearing my zip-off pant legs on my arms while supervising students on field clinics. I also can be seen being serious when needed, attentively listening in meetings, and working with students to come to their own decisions during anesthesia monitoring. The balance makes me not just a leader in these settings, but an approachable leader. 




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

NAVTA Immediate Past President





“It is not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.” St. Mother Teresa

Every member of the veterinary healthcare team can be a leader – You have heard me say this in these blogs and in person. I truly believe this. Everyone on the team has a lot to give. But more importantly everyone on the team gives their all, puts their heart and soul into taking care of animals. You are living the quote from St. Mother Teresa.


We all have bad days, difficult co-workers, difficult clients, long days, no lunch, no breaks, etc. You can all relate. So…why do we go back? Because we put a lot of love into what we do – and we love what we do. Does that make you a leader? I would say – YES!


Leadership is not defined by managing a large group or being the one in charge. Everyone can be a leader and I believe everyone is a leader – in their own way, in their own environment, in their own department, within themselves. Our actions do not have to be big. Restraining a dog so your coworker can have a 2-minute break, answering that ‘one last question - again’ for a nervous owner whose cat was diagnosed with diabetes, working late to clean that gastroenteritis dog who again vomited and had diarrhea in their cage. This is all leadership in action. Your actions match your words. Leading by example.


St. Mother Teresa also said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” In my opinion these small things done out of love, make us great. And that is a leader that I would aspire to emulate!



Just Listen…

Blog Author: Ryan Frazier, LVT

NAVTA District 11 Representative


My entire life my mind has been flooded with ideas of the next big thing or what I should be doing next. This has been true not only in my personal life but also my professional life. As I had these ideas in my professional life, I wanted to share with everyone what I think we should be doing as an organization or business. I wasn’t afraid to share and I wasn’t afraid to yell if they didn't hear me. It wasn’t until I became the president of my state association that I took a different approach. I had done a lot of reading on how to be a good leader and something that stuck with me was that the best leaders listen first and then share their thoughts after. 


So, after a while of my thoughts and ideas hitting deaf ears, I decided to give this a try. Let me tell you that being the person that always had thoughts on the subject being discussed or an idea of where to go next, this was not an easy task. 


I kept seeing a presentation that Ken did, it had a picture of wildflowers and a mountain, and illustrated how an organization can be stuck in the wildflowers and not be able to get past them to see the mountains in the background. I found that if you don’t listen to what the people in your group, business or organization have to say then it is going to be harder to get them involved with what your idea is. When the members of the group, organization or business can share their ideas and where they want to go, they invest more. You will see a change in these people and you will see that they become more engaged and have more passion for the organization. When these group members become more engaged and more passionate, they get more done and start developing bigger ideas for the organization. Thus, getting the organization out of the wildflowers and start climbing those mountains. 


The definition of a leader is a person who leads or commands a group, organization or country. However, I would like to change the definition to “a leader is a person who listens to their group, organization or country and helps them move forward to a common goal.”



What is leadership?  

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Chair


A misconception is that there are people who play the role of leaders and those who follow. This concept mutes the voices of community and places “leaders” in a position of control. I truly believe that being a true leader is letting go of control and allowing everyone to have a voice. 


Leadership is about helping others feel heard. I spent a lot of my career in veterinary medicine feeling very unheard. I had a position and my job was to follow the direction of those in charge. Then as I began connecting with the veterinary community, I realized I was not alone. There were several colleagues who felt that they weren’t being heard. That they were losing the passion for their job by being a cog in the wheel. 


Leadership is about giving a platform. It is about hearing a team’s ideas, struggles and asking how we can make things better? Leadership isn’t about having all the answers. It’s about taking the time to find the answers and possible solutions together. If you aren’t in a position of authority, how do you begin to lead? Ask questions. Ask for input. Ask for ideas. Listen and give up control.


When we ask others how we can improve a situation, we are allowing them to feel heard. Anyone can do this. When we all brainstorm to come up with ways to make our profession better, we can achieve more. Being a leader isn’t about talking over people, it’s about listening and acting to improve things for others. Sometimes it means sitting back and realizing that what we’re doing isn’t working. But what could? I believe that anyone can lead in this field. If you make a point to encourage, ask questions and have the heart of serving others you can lead. It’s not about the glory of a title or being right. It’s about making others better. Never stop asking questions. Through others answers we can find solutions - Together. 



Work Clean!

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

NAVTA President


A dog has just been rushed into your treatment area after being found laterally recumbent in the backyard by the owner. There are signs the dog was attacked but nobody witnessed anything. The dog has severe trauma, including an actively bleeding wound, and quickly arrests. You can probably picture what happens next. The team jumps into action. Everyone takes a task and gets to work. Twenty minutes later the animal is alive but definitely not stable. The clients want to come back to see their pet. What happens next? If your practice is like most, there is a new jump into action to get the area clean before they get back there. That’s what we do, right? Syringes on counters, IV catheter stylets hidden under a pile of gauze, blood everywhere, gloves (if they were worn) on the floor. We sometimes forget we aren’t on an episode of Gray’s Anatomy…or ER for those in my generation. 


The reality is that there are actual safety issues to working this way. Those syringes may have uncapped needles that could cause a puncture wound. What if someone is allergic to a medication and gets stuck? Now the problem is amplified. That stylet under the pile of gauze may not be noticed in the frantic clean-up before the client gets back to the area. Again, another cause for puncture wounds is lurking. What about the fact that this animal was attacked but we don’t know by what?  This is a huge rabies risk until that animal has been cleaned of all potential saliva. This isn’t going to happen for quite a bit. If we forget gloves or leave used supplies that can cause punctures lying about, we increase our risk of needing medical attention for ourselves or our team members. Blood everywhere is sometimes unavoidable but, if there is a large pool of blood on the floor (or any other liquid) we now have a slip hazard. 


This is an extreme case, but I imagine most of us have seen something similar on some level. We all have likely heard the adage that we can’t help anyone else if we don’t help ourselves. As a medical team, we need to be ensuring that our workspaces are kept as clean and tidy as possible and not use “it’s an emergency” or “I’m too busy” as an excuse. These reasons only increase the need to keep things neat so there are no unintended injuries. This month’s challenge – work clean!


Patient Safety and OUR Safety 

Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT

NAVTA Secretary


Over 20 years ago, when I joined the field of Veterinary Medicine, the concept of Fear Free was then unknown. We used to scruff cats without a second thought, pinning them down to the tabletop when they resisted restraint for vaccinations and treatment - listening to them scream and yowl while we did what was needed. Dogs would be muzzled and people would lay on top of them on the floor, just for a nail trim. Still couldn’t get it done? Just add more people to lay on the dog.  We used brute strength to get the job done more often than not.  


Why? Who thought that was a good idea? Everyone? No one? Did we all just do those things because that is what we believed was the right way? Or was it the way things had always been done so we chose to move forward doing the same?


Now, many years later, Fear Free has come to light.  What does Fear Free stand for?  The mission of Fear Free is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them. What an amazing concept.  Why was this not thought of sooner? 


Fear Free practices in our day to day lives promote safety to both our staff and our patients in more ways than one. How does this happen? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Can we handle the change in our mentality? The progression of the way we handle our patients has advanced by leaps and bounds.  As a technician in the field, my overall safety has improved along with that of so many others.  Those of us that have educated ourselves and taken the Fear Free Pledge have learned about recognizing the signs of fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS) in the patients in our care. 


Recognizing those signs allows us to respond appropriately and do what is best for ourselves and our patients. Safety is always our number one priority, for our staff and for patients. No one wants to be put in danger or get hurt.  By practicing fear free methods, we have learned how to make our patient’s visits to our veterinary clinics less stressful on everyone and with a more positive outcome for all. We have learned about medications that can help to reduce anxiety and stress, how and when to give them to receive optimal outcome.  We know about techniques to use to handle our patients, providing them with the least stressful visit possible. Sitting in the car, until it is time for their visit, taking a walk while waiting for their turn, moving the cat carrier to a more on level area in the clinic, covering it with a towel sprayed with pheromone spray.  Taking your pet to the clinic when they are hungry, thus allowing us to encourage and reward them with treats. The use of positive reinforcement to receive a positive outcome.  Most importantly, we have learned how to educate our clients, working with them to help condition their pets to allow them to actually enjoy their visits to the hospital and make it as “Fear Free” as possible. 


Fear free is a constant way of life once you have achieved it. Always striving for the best outcome possible. Trying to figure out how to provide the best patient care possible, allowing us to all benefit from the techniques we have learned.  



The Importance of Personal Safety

Blog Author: Harold Davis, RVT, VTS (ECC) (Anesthesia & Analgesia)

NAVTA Member at Large


The month of June is recognized as National Safety Month.  The emphasis is on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in our homes and communities.  The purpose of this blog is to focus on safety and the veterinary health care team member.  


When you stop and look around in your clinic or hospital you come to realize there are many potential hazards in the workplace. While our primary focus may be on patient care we must take personal safety just as seriously.  We cannot sacrifice our health and wellbeing for our patients. Meeting patient care responsibilities should not occur at the expense of taking appropriate safety precautions. I have seen this occur time and time again, for example; recapping needles, taking radiographs without gloves, not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling chemotherapeutic agents or other hazardous chemicals, not properly lifting or carrying patients., eating and drinking in animal care areas; the list goes on.  


The majority of Veterinary Technicians / Nurses are women, and many are of childbearing age; it is important to recognize potential reproductive health hazards other than exposure to anesthetic gases and ionizing radiation.  There is an informative review article that appeared in the April 15, 2017 (Vol. 250, No. 8, Pages 862-872) edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association entitled Review of hazards to female reproductive health in veterinary practice (   It summarizes female reproductive health hazards in veterinary practice and summarize best practices to mitigate reproductive risks.  I would encourage everyone to read this article.


Workplace safety is a team sport and it is the responsibility of both the employer and employee.  The employer is responsible for identifying work related safety risks and providing training.  The employee is responsible for completing training requirements and following safety policies.  In my previous job as the Manager of the Emergency and Critical Care Service I was required to complete a Risk Assessment for each employee, and they were expected to review it and signoff that they were aware of the job-related risk. I was also responsible for ensuring that the requisite training was completed by the employee.  The majority if not all the training modules was available online.  This made it convenient for the employee to complete training at their own pace within the required time period.  Annually, usually around job review time, we (managers or supervisors) reviewed the safety training checklist with the employee and they signed it acknowledging that they had reviewed and understoodthe safety requirements and believedtheirknowledge and skills wereadequate toperform theirjob responsibilities safely.  If the employee was not sure about a safety policy, they were instructed to review the online safety training module for remediation. 


What are you doing in your practice?  Do you have a culture of safety in your practice?  The following are a couple resources on safety: 






PPE – Just Wear It!

Blog Author: Ryan Frazier, LVT

NAVTA District 11 Representative


When I started as a Veterinary Technician, I was all about the PPE and as time went on, I became more lax. For a while there I did not really care about my lead for taking radiographs because I was never going to have any kids so why did it matter. I even worked at an emergency clinic that did not have any radiation exposure badges and thought it was no big deal. 


When my clinic got a C-arm and started doing many fluoroscopy procedures I started reading more about radiation exposure and found that healthcare workers that are exposed to radiation over 10 years have a 2.8 times higher odds of skin lesions, 7.1 times higher odds of having orthopedic problems and 6.3 times high odds of having cataracts. Just wearing your lead, getting out of the room for radiographs, having lead curtains can decrease your chances of these issues (except the orthopedic problems because let’s face it we are Veterinary Technicians). 


So, the excuse of not wanting to have kids is no longer an excuse for me. Basically, what I am saying is it is easy to wear your freaking lead! If your clinic says badges are not necessary and your state doesn't require them, put up a fight because this is about your personal safety. 




Make YOUR mental health a priority

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President





We live in a world and work in a profession that moves very fast and focuses on others – pets, pet owners, etc. Take time for ourselves? Wait, What? – that is such a foreign concept. Our profession is facing a depression and suicide crisis. What will it take for each of us in the veterinary profession to slow down, focus on our teammates, and focus on ourselves?


In 2019, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has launched the “Why Care?” campaign during Mental Health Awareness Month. Approximately, 25% of people will be affected by mental Illness in their lifetime. Approximately 46.6 million adults in the United States face the reality of managing a mental illness every day.1Why Care? - because Care is a powerful way to transform lives for people affected by mental illness. 


It is OK, to not be OK – just do not give up! If you are suffering please remember you are not broken, but rather you are breaking through! There are people that Care. I saw a slogan that I thought was powerful – “Hey Warrior, Keep Going”. I think this should be our new slogan in our profession. We know our work days are long and tiring and we know the toll that these days can take on our emotional and psychological wellbeing. Add to this our personal lives, and yes life can seem overwhelming at times. But from now on “Hey Warrior, Keep Going”! If someone needs a break, a lift up, or a shoulder to lean on – be that person. Care!  #HeyWarriorKeepGoing.  If you need a break, a lift, a fistbump, or to be heard - #HeyWarriorKeepGoing. We are all in this profession and this world together – let’s band together and Care for one another. I for one will always be here for you – whether you know me or not, just reach out. #HeyWarriorKeepGoing


The Why Care? campaign states “People feel loved when someone cares. People feel heard when someone cares. People recover when someone cares. Society changes when people care. Entire systems change when people care.” What a wonderful world this can be. Please Care! And for anyone feeling alone or depressed, remember #HeyWarriorKeepGoing – I Care!



1.    National Alliance on Mental Illness. Why Care Campaign, Awareness messaging.  Accessed May 20, 2019.



How can we help our co-workers? Our friends and family? Ourselves?

Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT

NAVTA Secretary 


Mental health awareness and wellbeing are important “hot topics” that have been pushed to the forefront of our profession due to increased incidents of suicide in the field. A shockingly high number of veterinary professionals are struggling in silence.  


As someone who has had a family member take their own life, mental health concerns are near and dear to my heart. My little brother died from suicide almost 12 years ago. We as a family had no idea he was struggling. Not a clue. Of all of us, he was the most carefree member of our family. Had the least worries and seemed to be happy, bright and laughing all of the time. Seemed to be. We were so wrong.  If we had known, could we have helped him? Would it have made a difference if he had talked to someone? Could we have saved him? We will never know but will always wonder.  I live with these questions each day, wondering what could have been. 


How can we help our co-workers? Our friends and family? Ourselves? Talk to someone. Know that when you struggle with mental health issues, often there are others who are in the same situation and need help as well. It is not viewed as a sign of weakness to admit you are struggling. 


Keep an eye out for those that are silent. Does your co-worker seem extra quiet today? Do they look tearful? Emotional? Ask them are they okay. Put a little note in their locker saying you are here for them if they need someone to talk to. Have an extra snack? Offer it to them. A little smile and kind words go a long way. It means so much more than you realize.  


I recently did a staff education on mental health and wellbeing. I encouraged my staff to take time for themselves. Take time off, relax, do things for themselves that they would normally not do. Take a nap. Read a book. Go on a hike. Yoga. Get a pedicure. Yet I realized I may be the least appropriate person to talk to someone about taking care of themselves as I do not practice self-care for myself. Trying to help my team made me realize that I need to work on self-care as well. How can I help my team when I am struggling myself?


I am trying to balance this. It is a learning process for myself.  But I will not give up. I will figure this out and succeed. For now, I look forward to my baths at the end of the day. I read and have a glass or wine or a cup of coffee. Two years ago, I did something solely for myself, I took the plunge and got a sphynx kitten. I had always wanted one and finally did it! I do not regret that gift to myself at all, as he brings joy and peace to my life. 


My final words of advice: Take time for yourself.  Talk to someone. Reach out for help. Know people love and care for you. You are worth it. I am always here if anyone needs to talk to me.  





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

NAVTA  Past President and Wellbeing Task Force Co-Chair


A few weeks ago, while visiting with my brother, he mentioned that a veterinary student from our home town had shared a Facebook post about the high suicide rate in the profession. He asked if I had heard the same thing and why this was a concern in our profession.  “Why yes, big brother, I have heard that, and the numbers are high for veterinary technicians and other team members, too.” I proceeded to tell him the issues our profession faces on a daily basis and I explained that there while there are few people in the profession that have been affected by suicide directly, via a co-worker, family member or friend, most have been affected indirectly, but that doesn’t mean the phycological effect is any different. 


My first experience with suicide happened over 20 years ago when a veterinarian didn't show up for work.  Everyone was upset and angry that he called to let us know he wouldn't be in that day.  Our hearts sank when we heard that he had decided to end his life. 


We have known for years, that our colleagues suffer from burnout, compassion fatigue and/or depression at alarming numbers. Lately, you can't open a veterinary publication or newsletter without seeing an article or post about wellbeing in the veterinary medical community. Because of my personal experience 20 years ago and the number of other issues facing our profession, I suggested the formation of a Wellbeing Task Force and volunteered to chair the group.


The conversations started a few years ago at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and included NAVTA board members, an individual who has survived suicide, and professionals who have dedicated their careers to the wellbeing of the veterinary professional.  During these conversations, it was said over and over, that we did not need to reinvent the wheel, and we needed to do this right and must remember “to do no harm”. 


The members of the task force agreed that this would not be a platform for venting but rather a place that individuals could go to access reliable resources to help them with their struggles.  We launched the Wellbeing page on during NVTW last year and we continue to strive to provide our community members with relevant and easily accessible resources. The WBTF continues to work hard on researching resources that will be of most value to veterinary teams.  May is National Mental Health Awareness month, so stay tuned for new blogs, resources and FAQs!



What advances your career, EQ or IQ?

Blog Author: Rebecca Rose, CVT

NAVTA Past President and Wellbeing Task Force Co-Chair


Yesterday I attended the Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technician Association (CACVT) Spring Conference. I was glad to see a track dedicated to personal development in self-awareness. I have to be honest; I was ECSTATIC!


First, there was a simple discussion around career advancement with a focus on conflict, resolution and professionalism. Then a manager discussed leadership to include trust and imperfection. The luncheon presentation touched on the science of well-being and thriving despite challenge. We ended the day with how trauma manifests itself in veterinary professionals.


I attended 10 hours in Emotional Intelligence! I LOVED IT! But that is where I geek out, interpersonal skills. The stuff I know to make us resilient and keeps us in the field of veterinary technology, healthier and for the long-haul.


Intelligence and personality may be established at a young age. However, your Emotional Quotient (EQ) is in your hands. EQ (also referred to as self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence) can be molded, morphed, measured and designed in order to improve and mature over time.


What is Emotional Intelligence?

First and foremost, Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions. Then, once you get a handle on that (identifying with acceptance, not labeling as good or bad, without judgment), it is the ability to identify the emotions in others choosing how to react in social engagements.

As an example, a technician may have high Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and perform extremely well on tests but have a difficult time engaging in a productive, empathic manner with team members and clients.

However, a person with a higher EI may interpret another person’s signals (emotions) and respond appropriately to the circumstance, choosing to react in a way that supports both people.


Behaviors to Embrace

When you imagine the individual with a higher EI, what do you see? How do you describe them?

Often these Individuals understand their strengths and weaknesses, admit to mistakes, take accountability for their actions and find humor in the strangest of places. These folks can label what they are feeling (joy, frustration, anger, sadness, loneliness, comfort) with conviction.

As you increase in your self-awareness, you may have to mentally be aware of, and fight to overcome, certain behaviors that have become normal for you.

These may include:

1.     Not allowing yourself to identify your true feelings

2.     Being short-sighted

3.     Being a “Chatty Cathy” and not allowing others to offer their insights

4.     Inability to admit mistakes

5.     Not allowing feedback by others


You have complete control over identifying and managing your emotions. Because of this, you can take steps to increase your knowledge and improve your Emotional Intelligence!  Once this is achieved, you can begin to look at others and how their actions affect you and your reactions to them.


Start out by taking inventory of your current awareness (as objectively as you can) and then take action to improve it. Begin slowly and go easy on yourself. Maybe evaluate your state of being once a day, then three times a day, and then finally increase to throughout the day. When you see places for improvement, do it without ridiculing yourself. With patience and practice, you will see a marked improvement in your EI.


Consider taking a quick test, if you are compelled to do so. How Emotionally Intelligent Are You? Boosting your people skills:

You may learn more from Emotional Intelligence: How it may matter more than IQ,

Careers in veterinary technology can be advanced when there is higher Emotional Intelligence and self-awareness.



Make Time to Save!

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

NAVTA President


With this month’s NAVTA blog theme being financial literacy, I instantly had a moment of dread. Am I really qualified to tell anyone about financial literacy?  What am I supposed to say? I looked to the earlier blogs from the month (which all have some great info!) and felt even less confident. All I could see was my younger self with bounced check notices and moments of panic wondering how I was going to pay all my bills on time. Then I remembered something – I have managed to own my own home for 16 years and I have enough money in my savings account to keep that home for at least a few months if I lose my job. How did I do that? That was a real question I asked myself upon realizing I somehow figured out how to be financially responsible. 

As Rebecca Rose said in her blog, "don’t leave money on the table". I borrowed against my 401k to put the down payment on my home. I took a loan from myself. I am not saying that is for everyone, but it worked for me and it was an option because I did not leave that 401K profit-sharing on the table. Ken Yagi shared some great links to help us educate ourselves about the current wages for veterinary technicians across the country. Be sure you educate yourself before you go into discussions about wages and ask for the high end. The first time I did that it was scary but I realized (due to the ensuing negotiations) that I ended up getting more than they had planned on paying me if I had kept my mouth shut.  Finally, Megan Baylor wrote about utilizing professionals to help you learn to be financially literate. The best thing I ever did was go to a financial advisor. I just went to my yearly meeting and, guess what, she said I’m in good shape for retirement!

Okay, I’ve obviously cheated a bit on this one and chosen to pull some good tips from the other bloggers this month, but here’s my original thought. The truth is we all have some times when we drop the ball on being financially responsible. Even if you have been a financial flop, whether due to lack of funds or lack of planning, the good news is you can turn it around at any time. If you don’t see a way to start saving each paycheck, ask someone who will see a way (those money people always figure it out). If you haven’t been taking advantage of that 401k match, start taking advantage! It is never too late to put yourself in a better financial picture. It is not an overnight success but one day you realize you have gone from wondering if you can afford an oil change on your car to owning a home and being financially secure. 


Know Your Value

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM) 

NAVTA President Elect


I was recently at the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia annual conference where Mr. Angel Rivera gave a keynote talk describing his coming into the profession and what veterinary nursing meant to him. In it, he noted that people who come into our profession are the type of people that don’t tend to be bothered by the amount of our pay as long as we can get by; the work that we do and the animals and their families we help are the reward that fulfills us. It is because of our sacrificial nature that we can do the job we do. 

This statement resonated with me as I reflected on my 19-year career and found myself thinking that I did the exact same thing he did as he grew into his career, not looking at my paychecks, and as long as I had enough coming into the bank as I had going out, it was “okay”. Sure, there were times when a low balance notification hit my email inbox and overdraw fees made things worse, but somehow, we made it work like how an anemic patient somehow meets its oxygen demands by compensatory changes through fluctuating needs. 

It is our sacrificial nature that makes us great in our profession and benefit more patients. It is also our sacrificial nature that puts our patients before ourselves which puts ourselves at risk.

With a survey study published 10 years ago showing results that practices that preferentially hired credentialed veterinary technicians saw annual revenues at $93,000 higher per credentialed veterinary technician, we can only guess at what the value of a credentialed veterinary technician is worth today. The one thing that’s certain, is that we are worth more than the average salary we receive. 

Anyone interested in learning what veterinary technicians make in your region, taking a look at the bureau of labor statistics ( should be of interest. While the national average of $16.55/hr gives some insight, taking a look at regional statistics on will give more specific information. 

Knowing where you fall on this scale will give you a starting point for a conversation with your practice regarding adequate wage. We, as a profession, do not need to continue to be sacrificial caregivers that sacrifice our financial wellbeing. Professional (key point here) conversations regarding compensation while showing your value and contributions to the practice is step one towards advocating for yourself. 

Be giving with our knowledge, skills, and heart, while having the same compassion for ourselves. The culture change will not happen overnight, but has to start with each of us. I encourage you to evaluate  your situation and start having these conversations. 


Money left on the table! 

Blog Author: Rebecca Rose, CVT

NAVTA Past President and Wellbeing Task Force Co-Chair


Seriously, how much money have you left on the table over the years? How much money is your employer offering you that you are not taking advantage of?


I am baffled by the employees that are offered FREE MONEY in the form of 401-K matching or other team benefits. If you consider compounding interest in the equation, veterinary team members have left thousands of dollars on the table!! 


In my experience, some technicians and team members would prefer to have the $13.00 each week added to their paycheck without considering the benefits of growing their money in 401-K, mutual funds, or other benefits. 


In an employer matching program, an employee typically receives a contribution from an employer if an employee contributes towards their own account. Employer matches vary from company to company. The general contribution from an employer is usually 3% to 6% of an employee's pay (can be determined each paycheck).


Compounding Interest

The beauty of compounding interest, your money GROWS without you managing it! Using the example above, $13.00 each week equals $52.00 per month. Tuck it away, don’t see it and deposit it into your 401-K or other “safe place” where compounding interest and employee matching can do its MAGIC! Let’s pretend your employer matches 4% placing $56.08 (roughly) into a benefit each month. By using an online calculator, it can accumulate $8,841.00 in interest!!! That’s how compounding interest works on $56 each month.  



In the September 2007 issue of Firstline, Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP gave great advice in his article Plant the Seeds for a Healthy Financial Future. Fritz explains that an investor who starts saving at the age of 32 will have a far more difficult time accumulating money for retirement than an investor who starts at age 22!

·       An investor who starts saving at 32 and contributes $100.00/mo to a Roth IRA will have $340,000 at the age of 65, assuming she earns 10.4% (long-term average of large company stocks).

·       An investor who starts at 22 and contributes $100.00/mo to a Roth IRA will have $980.000!! A quantum difference!


Successful Investing

1.    Start small - $50 to $100 to $200 each month (shoot for 15% of your salary)

2.    Start NOW - whether young or more mature (coming from a Vintage Technician, here!)

3.    Pay yourself first - at the beginning of the month, first thing

4.    Work with direct deposits-don’t touch the money, put it in a “safe place”

5.    Adopt a long-term perspective - long haul attitude


Now, how much money have you left on the table over the years? Plan smart! Use your employer’s benefits to your advantage. Ask, today, how you can maximize your contributions and their matching (when applicable). 



I owe who… how much?

Blog Author: Megan Baylor, CVT

NAVTA Wellbeing Task Force Member

One of the many issues that veterinary technicians/nurses face when entering the workforce is learning how to handle money. This becomes increasingly difficult when managing student loan payments as well as basic living expenses. There are many options to repay student debt.

First, find a financial counselor. This professional should be someone you trust. Not only will they help you learn about managing your money but they could also give you a sense of accountability. This will increase your success at being able to buy a house, managing other debt, and retirement!  

Find a financial coach.  This is a person who would help you review your spending habits, living costs and debts, as well as help you develop a budget. A coach could be a friend or family member, but make sure you chose someone reliable and trustworthy.

Lastly, talk with your lender about deferment of your loans. You can talk with them about your current earning and cost of living. This information may help the lender adjust your monthly payments. Be aware, this could extend the life of your loan. So instead of 10 years to repay your loan, it could take 15 years and you would be paying more in interest on any of your loans.  The lender may also pause your required payments. The downside to this option is interesting will still be building and you will end up owing even more to the lender in the long run.

All of these options involve sharing your financial concerns with others. Talking with lenders or coaches is hard to do. It can be hard to share your financial struggles, but don't be embarrassed! The worst thing you can do is ignore these issues as it will only increase the problem. The government can withhold earnings, you could have issues getting loans for a car or house, and can even cause relationship issues with friend and family.

If you find you are having issues with understanding and controlling your debt, reach out start by calling the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 1.800.388.2227


Every Pet, Every Time

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


Happy Nutrition Month! One of the most important months focusing on good health and longevity – in people and in pets. 


Veterinary teams know that proper nutrition is a critical component for maintaining the health of pets. Every patient, healthy or ill, that enters the veterinary hospital should have an evaluation of their nutritional status and healthcare team members should make a nutritional recommendation based on this evaluation.  Does your hospital have a nutrition protocol in place? After all, nutrition is the 5thvital assessment! Going on a farm call – you still need to perform a nutritional evaluation and make a nutritional recommendation. Every pet, Every time.  #everypeteverytime


The nutritional assessment considers several factors including the animal, the diet, feeding management, and environmental factors. We must also remember that nutritional assessment is an iterative process in which each factor affecting the animal’s nutritional status is assessed and reassessed as often as required.


Every animal that presents to the hospital or seen on a farm call should be assessed to establish nutritional needs and feeding goals, which depend on the animal’s physiology, life stage, lifestyle, and/or disease condition. The role of the veterinary technician is to ascertain patient history, score the patient’s body condition, work with the veterinarian to determine the proper nutritional recommendation for the patient, and communicate this information to the pet owner.


The AAHA compliance survey confirms more than 80% of pet owners indicated that they want to discuss feeding and home care with other members of the health care team, in addition to veterinarians.  Not surprisingly clinics that involved the health care team saw a 29% increase in owner compliance to nutritional recommendations. Wow – what are we waiting for? Providing education and a nutritional recommendation for pets – hey, isn’t that good medicine?!


There are tools and guidelines to help veterinary teams. Check these out to help establish a nutrition protocol in your practice:

·      AAHA nutrition guidelines are available at; 

·      WSAVA nutrition guidelines and nutrition tools are available at

·      A pet nutrition calorie calculator and nutrition information and tools are available at


Nutrition makes a huge difference in patients – and that is why I entered veterinary medicine. Some might say nutrition is not as ‘sexy’ or exciting as other areas of medicine. I would disagree – proper nutrition is one of the most important factors in the health and disease management of pets. Nutrition is the cornerstone of health and wellness. I think that is very exciting. #everypeteverytime



Understanding Pet Food Buying Decisions 

Blog Author: Vicky Ograin, MBA, RVT, VTS (Nutrition)

NAVTA CE Committee Chair


Pet owners love their pets and want to feed them the best food possible. Unfortunately many read blogs written by people that are not from the veterinary profession, they have no nutritional training, but pet owners blindly follow them and make buying decisions based on their advice. Armed with what they think is sound advice the pet owner goes to the pet store and makes a buying decision by looking at the pet food label. Most of these blogs and commercials talk about selecting the right ingredients. Now we all know a pet needs nutrients not ingredients (unless they have a true food allergy), but pet owners do not know this and think looking at a word on a label will tell them everything they need to know about a food. Looking at an ingredient label tells you nothing about the nutrient makeup of the product.A technician can play an integral role in assisting a pet owner in reading the pet food label and deciding which food is best for an individual pet. 


Pet owners believe certain ingredients are bad. This has led to the grain free craze. Almost every pet food company has a grain free option and there are some companies that only have grain free options. A grain free food replaces a grain carbohydrate with a vegetable carbohydrate; these foods are not carbohydrate free. The pet food company has to replace a grain with non-grain options and balance the food. There has been a lot of research done in pet food with grain, but very little in grain alternatives, like quinoa and tapioca. This has led to concern about how the dog or cats body utilize these ingredients and could this lead to unbalances and medical issues?


In the meantime, what resources can we recommend for pet owners to help them make a buying decision instead of reading a non-veterinary professional blog? The Pet Nutrition Alliance is a great resource The AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Catsis a great resource and has a number of questions to ask pet food companies. If the company does not meet these recommendations, then a pet owner may want to reconsider buying their pet food from the pet food company. 

·      “Do you have a veterinary nutritionist or some equivalent on staff in your company? Are they available for consultation or questions? 

·      Who formulates your diets, and what are their credentials? 

·      Which of your diet(s) are tested using AAFCO feeding trials, and which by nutrient analysis? 

·      What specific quality control measures do you use to assure the consistency and quality of your product line? 

·      Where are your diets produced and manufactured? Can this plant be visited? 

·      Will you provide a complete product nutrient analysis of your best-selling dog and cat food, including digestibility values? 

·      What is the caloric value per can or cup of your diets? 

·      What kinds of research on your products has been conducted, and are the results published in peer reviewed journals?”



Which food should I feed my pet?

Blog Author: Ed Carlson, CVT, VTS – Nutrition

NAVTA Past Committee Chair


This is such a hard question to answer! Impossible without taking a full nutritional history, including any health issues and determining the body condition score (BCS) and muscle condition score (MCS) of the patient. But, some general key points to discuss with owners when evaluating a pet food are:


The AAFCO nutritional adequately statement. Were feeding trails done or is it only formulated to meet the standards? Feeding trails are designed to determine if dogs or cats can metabolize the food and are the gold standard.


Is the food manufactured BY the company? If the label reads “manufactured for” or “distributed by” the company does not actually make the food. Look for foods listing “manufactured by” on the label.


Is the food for the life stage of the dog or cat your client will be feeding? Especially for older dogs and cats, for example diets formulated for all life stages are formulated for puppies, kittens, and pregnant/lactating animals; not appropriate for a senior pet or one that is overweight.


Have the client answer the following questions regarding the diet they select: Is the food 100% guaranteed? Is there a phone number to call for information? Is there a veterinary nutritionist, veterinarian, or credentialed veterinary technician on staff to answer your questions? Does the company have board certified nutritionists on staff, do they publish research? If the answer to any of these questions is no, I would suggest telling clients to continue to look for a diet that meets these conditions.


Want more information on selecting a pet food? View (and share with your clients) the WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee: Recommendations on Selecting Pet Foods




How to communicate to pet owners that their fur-baby is chubby, and not offend them! 

Blog Author: Vicky Ograin, MBA, RVT, VTS (Nutrition)

NAVTA CE Committee Chair


Have you ever had an overweight pet come into the practice? Of course you have, in the USA over 50% of dogs and cats are overweight. But even more challenging if the owner at the end of the leash is also overweight? How do you have a weight loss discussion without offending them? 


First you need to think about how the pet got to their current weight. The owner(s) are the ones who fed the pet and so they may feel guilty about the pet’s weight. I have worked with many pet owners and have heard many reasons like; the pet begs, it is howthe owner shows love and many more reasons. For example, I had an owner going through a bad divorce and was stress eating and the dogs joined her. With compassion you can help pet owner’s get the weight off their pets. 


I always start by asking what the owner is currently feeding and why, understanding why will help guide you in your discussion to make sure transitioning to a weight loss program is successful. When having the discussion with the pet owner, one tip is to stay on the same side of the room with the owner, instead of facing them. That way you are both are looking at the pet and the pet becomes the focus. I also show the body condition score chart and have the owner identify what score the pet is. A number, 4-5 or 6-9, is not as devastating as the word “overweight or obese” for the owner. If the pet has a medical condition the disease should be discussed. 


Calculating how much to feed and communicating the amount and tips for transition is important; also discuss treats (which should be no more than 10% of the total calories per day) and exercise. Make sure you advise the owner that the amount you are recommending is a starting point and may need to be adjusted. As a veterinary technician we can take the stress out of trying to figure out how much to feed.

If available, use a brochure that discusses the new food. It is helpful to have something to read when they get home, so they can understand the importance of the weight loss program. Have everyone in the house read the brochure, so everyone follows the plan. 

Follow up is important to address any concerns and ensure compliance. Make sure the pet owner know you are there to help them through the journey of getting their pet to a healthy weight. Celebrate successes, but do not reprimand if the pet does not lose weight. Technicians can assist the pet owner with a weight loss program and help with successful weight loss. I never scold or make the owner feel they are a bad owner. Today is day one of getting back on track to getting the weight off and getting the pet to a healthier weight. We are here to help the pet reach their goal weight.


How I have avoided Compassion Fatigue

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

NAVTA President


Let me start by saying I am no expert on how to avoid compassion fatigue. I am, however, someone who has worked almost her whole career in areas of the field that are known to bring on compassion fatigue – emergency and critical care, field medicine in underserved, poor communities, and, most recently, a different type of risk for compassion fatigue, teaching college students. Man, those students are so amazing and so tiring (sorry to all my students-you are fabulous and I love you). 


Recently, I was reflecting on how I have escaped compassion fatigue while so many others around me have been impacted. The kernel that came to me was, frankly, a surprise. It was my compassion. Isn’t that what causes the fatigue? Yes, but compassion has layers and this is the key to how compassion has been a strength for me. 


There is the being kind layer. Super important but super tiring, especially when the kindness isn’t returned. There is the sympathy layer. Feeling sorry for an individual’s situation leads us to want to help them, right?  Again, that takes a lot of work and effort. But here is what I feel is the key to why I have not had the fatigue that comes along with being compassionate. My empathy. When I am being faced with a client who is treating me poorly or causing frustration, I try to put myself in their shoes. Where is this coming from? Do they really think we are just out to get money or are they feeling guilty because they can’t afford the treatment?  Are they really continuing treatment on a suffering animal because they are selfish or is it because they think they caused their animal’s illness and their guilt won’t allow them to quit on their beloved pet? 


Putting myself in their shoes allows me to not take the crappy situations personally and allows me to understand where someone is coming from. I am less likely to make judgment calls about clients and co-workers which causes less anger and stress. Don’t get me wrong, these situations still make me sad and I definitely do not agree with every client decision but it does allow me to move past it. It also allows me to approach the situation with the client from a different perspective which can often lead to an outcome that I can agree with. Again, I’m no expert. This is just what I have found works for me. I hope it can help someone else along the way, but if you are struggling with compassion fatigue, please reach out. It can be a co-worker, a mental health professional, or even me (I’m serious. This is not an empty offer). Talking to someone makes it real and is the first step to turning things around. 


Be kind, be empathetic, and be there for each other. 



Allow Yourself to Take Care of You

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


We chose this profession to help animals and the people who love them. We are caregivers. What we did not expect was the emotional toll that results from the day to day work in our profession. We are empathetic – but with this empathy comes suffering, as we feel the feelings of our clients, our coworkers, day after day. We experience their fears. Charles Figley states, “Eventually, we lose a certain spark of optimism, humor, and hope. We tire. We aren’t sick, but we aren’t ourselves.” 


Compassion fatigue or vicarious traumatization often develops over time, especially in our profession - sometimes taking weeks or possibly years to surface. Our ability to feel and care for others erodes as we continually use our compassion skill. Compassion stress is breaking through those boundaries that we have established. I have seen what is referred to as emotional blunting – going through the motions and reacting differently than you typically do or differently than expected.


We deny that this could ever happen to us…until it does. It is difficult for empathetic and giving people to admit that their needs are important too.  We feel guilty when we realize there is a limit to compassion. So, what happens? We downplay our own stress, discomfort, and fatigue.


This has to change! Let’s show strength by taking care of ourselves – so we can continue to be there for our patients, our clients, our coworkers, our family, and our friends. Let’s turn our compassion inward. Take a mental health day, talk to a friend about your feelings, find other interests aside from veterinary medicine. Let’s change the perception of self-care and allow ourselves to practice self-care. Self-care is strength, and strength is beautiful. 

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incompleteJack Kornfield



Name it to Tame it!  

Blog Author: Rebecca Rose, CVT

NAVTA Wellbeing Task Force Co-Chair


It is unfortunate the number of veterinary team members experiencing Burnout or Compassion Fatigue or both. I feel the most difficult part is for an individual to determine what they are experiencing, to properly name it, then tame it. 


In 2001 I attended a program organized by the Humane Society of the United States. At the time the idea of compassion fatigue was related to the stress experienced by team members performing euthanasias. Since then, there is a much broader understanding of the trauma and stress veterinary teams withstand. 


For me, a light-bulb (A-ha moment) went on a few years ago to help me differentiate between the two. I knew burnout was related to the workplace and compassion fatigue was related to what we do. Seems simple enough, but it wasn’t until I was working with service dogs supporting folks suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) did I get it! It was the application and consideration of trauma that made the difference.


Now, this is what I understand and help to convey to veterinary teams. 


Burnout is related to the work environment, the place where you work, or the circumstances around your career. As an example, you may dread going to work because the team is inefficient, there is little accountability, or appropriate systems are not in place to support a satisfactory work environment. The workplace and management. 

While in the state of burnout at one clinic you choose to find a new place of employment with an efficient team, accountability and systems, then your career can get back on track and there could be job satisfaction and joy in your work days. This reflects your understanding and feelings around leadership and management. The culture.


Compassion Fatigue is related to the trauma experienced in the care we provide. As examples, a veterinary team member may not be able to endure another day with a sick kitten, or the anxiety of a pet parent coping with a pet with cancer, or the thought of having to discuss an economic euthanasia with a client. 


Regardless of the work environment, the trauma is constant to the person who is unable to cope with even the “normal” every day circumstances and feels like it’s a constant barrage. That is because compassion fatigue is related to the work we do, incorporating thoughts and perceptions that we may have about the specific challenges.   

Identifying the fatigue and learning how to cope and maintain perspective for the daily trauma is the way to get through the day. 


These examples seem to help some team members. Most often teams can easily identify the things that are making them anxious at work and label it as caused by burnout (management) or fatigue (trauma). 


Burnout                                                                       Fatigue

Understaffed                                                                 Performing economic euthanasias

Clients inability to pay                                                   Clients inability to pay

Lack of accountability                                                   Have to save them all

Toxic team member                                                      Inability to treat to the highest standard 

No protocols in place                                                    Reoccurring traumatic dream 

Working too much overtime


Now may be a good time for you to create your own list. Answer the question, “Related to work, what makes me anxious?” Then place your answers into the Burnout or Compassion Fatigue category. Once you name it you can figure out how to tame it! 


You may be interested in learning more because this is just the tip of the iceberg! Read AAHA’s Guide to Veterinary Practice Team Wellbeing.



When compassion fatigue and burnout coexist

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Chair


Compassion fatigue and burnout have always been a part of veterinary medicine. I am encouraged that the days of being told to “suck it up” are being replaced by discussions of our emotional health. So many of us have experienced these drains on our mental health but didn’t know what it was. By education and exploring ways to combat these issues we can ensure we have a long, successful career in vet med. 


Compassion fatigue is characterized by being introduced to emotional trauma repeatedly. We over use our emotional reserves until there just isn’t anything left.  It comes from internal stressors. We begin to stop caring as much for others and ourselves. Burnout is just as detrimental but comes from external stressors. Working long hours, no breaks/lunches and high case loads are a few of stressors that come from burnout. These two issues can be experienced separately, or together.


Throughout my career I have experienced both issues. Both have similar symptoms such as withdrawal, depression, anxiety and the lack of connection to others. When I worked emergency medicine, I could feel myself losing my love for my profession. I worked night shifts, saw cases that would rip my heart out, was called every name in the book by angry clients, was a new mother, and focused all my energy into work. I lived in a perpetual state of physical and mental exhaustion. The worst part was that I felt completely alone in my struggles. 


How did I begin to heal? For me, that meant leaving ER because I couldn’t emotionally handle the trauma I saw. There are cases that haunt me to this day. My schedule was out of whack and I lost track of the days. I worked, slept when I could, and repeated. That’s it. I went into general practice and began to set personal boundaries. Taking breaks and eating are so important. I would stay late when I could, but it didn’t have to be on every shift. Self-care is key. We must listen to our bodies. 


If you are hungry, make time to eat. Hydrate. Find time to take care of you. Don’t keep overextending yourself and then wonder why you are exhausted. Focus on a good sleep schedule. Do things outside of work that you enjoy doing. As annoying as it is to read blogs that we should eat healthier, exercise and minimize stress there is science behind it. If our cup is empty, we cannot care for ourselves. When we lose our ability to care for ourselves, we cannot be there for our patients. If you are struggling, reach out and get help. Try and find ways to restore the balance. Talk to a close friend. But know that you are not alone. 


Thank a mentor...

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM) 

NAVTA President Elect


“And do you like it?” she asked when she heard that I had been working as a veterinary technician after dropping out of vet school, which made me realize just how much joy I found in being a veterinary technician. 

“I had never thought that was an option for someone like me”, I said to her when she suggested that I present a case report at IVECCS, which led to me finding my passion in sharing knowledge and the snowballing of my career as a speaker.

“Try wearing that scenario by imagining someone else being in that position”, she advised me when I was at a crossroads and was considering applying for a new position, or not. 

These are just a few of my brief conversations that I have had with someone I consider my “mentor”. There are likely various ways to define what a mentor is and how these relationships develop. Those that I consider my mentors have influenced me at various points in my life and likely don’t know how much each of these moments have meant to me. They are always set out to bring the best in people.

The greatest (or debatably difficult) part about all these interactions is that mentors will never really give you the “right” answer to your challenges. There will be suggestions made and questions asked that make you think harder about the situation from different perspectives, encouraging clarity and giving a gentle nudge to decide. Because you make your own decisions, you can take ownership of the path taken. 

I’ve tried thanking these individuals for how they have impacted my life and it is always met with humility. I still keep messages from years ago, such as “All I did was recognize the beautiful shiny object in the water, I did not create it nor am I to credit for its ongoing brilliance.” I remember being told “Will you stop thanking me? If you really feel like I did so much for you, then do the same for the next person.” 

And while I will likely never be even half the wonderful mentors each of these people are, I strive to create opportunities in which others can realize their potential and look internally so that they can further their own passions and purposes.

Nancy and Harold – I am who I am because of your guidance, though you would never accept the credit. I am lucky to be able to call you a friend. Thank you.



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

NAVTA President


The author of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, says that a mentor/mentee relationship can’t be manufactured. You can’t just ask someone to be your mentor and hope for a successful relationship. The relationship has to grow organically. She says that mentors often choose proteges that they see excelling in the work place. In my case, I didn’t realize my mentor was my mentor until we no longer worked side by side every day. I also don’t think he realized he was my mentor, until maybe recently when I explicitly said it in an email.  I’ve had the same experience twice. Veterinary technicians that have said “you’re like a mentor to me” and my reaction (in my head) is “really, I didn’t realize we had that type of relationship?” It seems we could all be viewed as mentors without realizing it. So, how does that work?


Well, let’s go back to my mentor, who I don’t think knew he was my mentor. While I was there, he taught me about budgets, managing people, handling difficult situations, how to run a meeting…nothing to do with being a veterinary technician, right?  Well, that’s because he wasn’t a veterinary technician. He was a business guy who took a job as our hospital’s Chief Operating Officer. He helped me learn how to advance my career into management. I have been gone from that job for 7 years this month, yet I have continued to look to him for guidance over the years. We have had lunch a few times over those years and discuss how my career is going but I don’t think I ever reached out to him specifically for advice until a few months ago. In the intervening time, I drew on my previous experiences working with him, learning from him, and observing how he workedto help me make decisions in my new roles. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that my management style and successes in my career are heavily due to his influence. 


 I feel like that is the crux of a good mentor. Someone who leads by example to demonstrate to their mentee how to be successful. While helping them prepare for new challenges, finding new opportunities for them, and offering advice and encouragement is important, it is living your best self every day so that people want to learn from you and are able to do so whether you are actively teaching or not. He might not ever see this but I would like to say a big thank you to Matthew Pearson for all he has done for me (even if he didn’t know he was doing it). 



National Mentor Month

Blog Author: Harold Davis, BA., RVT, VTS (ECC) (Anesthesia & Analgesia)

NAVTA Member at Large 


January is recognized as National Mentoring month.  During this month a campaign is held to promote youth mentoring in the United States. A mentor is a senior or more experienced individual who acts as an advisor, counselor, or guide to a junior or trainee. The mentor is responsible for providing support to, and feedback on, the individual in his or her charge.


Have you ever been a mentor or mentee? I have had the pleasure and honor of being a mentor and in some cases I didn’t even know I was viewed as a mentor.  Working in a teaching environment I was placed in the position of being a mentor.  In some situations, veterinary students and veterinary technicians sought me out and others simply observed from afar.  Traditionally, the mentor teaches, answers questions, provides guidance and support. In non-traditional ways the “mentee” may model your actions and behavior.  I have used all those techniques when I have been the mentee.  I have had the honor of working directly with several and a few I met at conferences where they were lecturers or workshop leaders.  In those instances, they provided encouragement, and motivation which fueled my drive to become a better veterinary technician. 


Many times, I have had individuals come up to me and unbeknownst to me, tell me how I have impacted their career and thank me.  I have also had situations where veterinary technicians who work with veterinarians I taught, tell me the veterinarian said they should come hear me lecture as they learned so much from me as veterinary students. Apparently, I fueled their drive to become better veterinary technicians or veterinarians.  One of my proudest moments as a mentor was when a group of veterinary technicians that I mentored through the emergency and critical care specialty certification process passed the examination and became Veterinary Technician Specialists.


I enjoy sharing my knowledge and being supportive of others.  It is my way of giving back to the profession.  It is my hope that those I have mentored pass it forward.


One of the highlights of National Mentor Month is “Thank Your Mentor Day”.  I know the good feeling I have when I find out that I have helped someone achieve their goal.  I’m not sure who is happier, me or them. I feel it is important to let my mentors know what they have helped me to achieve and to thank them for their support. Several years ago, I received a service award and one of my mentors was in the audience.  After I received the award, I went to him and told him thank you for all he had done and how he helped shape my career. His response was “you did it all yourself, I was happy to be a witness to your growth”.  I am glad I had the opportunity to tell him what he meant to me because shortly after we spoke, he passed away.  I was thankful I seized the moment to share with him how appreciative I was of his mentorship.  If you were ever a mentee, take a moment to say thank you to the mentor that impacted your life.  If you are a mentor know that you are being given an invaluable gift, to incite change and growth in another human being, an awesome opportunity.  


Happy National Mentor Month…have you thanked your mentor?



What is a Mentor?

Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT

NAVTA Secretary


A mentor is defined as “an experienced and trusted advisor to someone.” I believe that a true mentor is so much more than that. A mentor is not only an advisor, but a friend as well. 20 years ago, I met my mentor who has since become one of the most important people in my life.  My practice owner started out years ago as my boss…over the years she has become one of my most trusted confidants and closest friends. We have formed a relationship that has allowed us to be open and honest with each other. We are able to give each other feedback on our life situations, whether personal or professional, and know that the feedback is impartial and sincere. As a teacher, she has always been willing to step back and let me learn, make mistakes and grow from them. She truly enjoys her career and being able to teach someone something new gives her joy. She is my biggest advocate and supporter in life, both personally and professionally. Always willing to listen, she is a great resource for me to bounce things off of and know that she will be truthful in her feedback. The special thing about our mentor/mentee relationship is that we have been growing it for two decades. We are always tweaking it and molding it to both of our needs. At this point in our lives, our relationship together has grown so much that we are often on the same page about many things in our lives, from our day to day work interactions to our family lives. But, in the end, we still depend on each other to keep both of us on our toes and make sure we are doing things that are beneficial to us, always growing and never accepting the fact that we cannot learn and do more than we already do. 


Is that the case with all mentor relationships? No.  Many people have mentors that help to guide them in purely a professional manner, advising or training them in a certain area of expertise.  A mentor helps to develop a partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn.  Why does this relationship just have to be professional? Why cannot it be personal as well? Does it end up being more of a personal relationship in the long run than a work relationship? We spend so much time each day with the people we work with, sometimes more than the time we spend with our family. The people we work with become a different type of family to us, allowing us to continue the relationships long past the end of the work day. 


Everyone can be a mentor in their own way. I believe that a mentor should be someone who is honest, a good teacher and patient. A mentor needs to be someone who is able to devote time to the person they are mentoring and allow them to be a part of their life in more than just a professional setting. Needing a mentor does not stop just because the work day ends. People seeking mentorship need it 24/7, 365 days of the year. Being able to devote time to being a mentor is not something everyone can do all of the time. Depending on our lives and schedules, being a mentor is something only a select set of people can accomplish. You need to be able to devote the time to the person as they need it, not as you deem fit. Everyone is different and the needs of your mentee will vary depending on the situation.  


Are you a good mentor? Sit back and evaluate yourself. Be honest. Are you the best person to teach the one you are mentoring? Can you do more? Could you do better? We all can. Let’s try for that in 2019. To be the best we can be so others can benefit from our teaching and grow themselves to be better people. 




Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Chair


I have been so fortunate to have so many mentors who have encouraged, supported and invested in me throughout my career. When I first came into veterinary medicine, I worked in a small general practice. I was so excited to learn everything I could and become proficient in my technical skills. I moved from general practice to a busy emergency hospital. I instantly felt like a really small fish in a really big pond. It became apparent how much I didn’t know and I almost lost hope for a minute. Becoming a skilled technician seemed unobtainable. Then one of my doctors took me under her wing and invested her time in me. 

Dr. Lori Bradshaw was so patient with me as I fumbled to find my place in the field. She explained cases, disease processes and gave me advice to further improve my skills. She would walk me through intense surgery cases that I felt completely unqualified to monitor anesthesia on. As she invested her time and knowledge in me, I noticed that not only did we form a mentor/mentee relationship, we formed a true friendship. We laughed together, confided in each other and even cried together. With this friendship, she allowed me to make mistakes and fumble, but was always there to talk me through things. 

Dr. Bradshaw and I haven’t worked together in years. But her impression on me changed who I was as a person and as a technician. Instead of being frustrated with newly graduated technicians, I am excited about their thirst for knowledge. I do my best to encourage, be a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. I am excited to share my knowledge; brain storm and teach everyone I work with. By taking the time to teach me, my mentor had shaped who I would become as a future mentor.

When we develop and build a mentor/mentee relationship we allow ourselves to learn and grow. Not only does that create confident technicians and team members, it creates future leaders. I would never be the technician or the person I am without the guidance of a kind ER doctor who saw something in me that I didn’t see myself. Share your knowledge, skills and gifts with your team. Help them on their journey to excel and grow. Cheer them on. We all need someone to believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves. Be that person who reminds people of their value and help shape our future. Thank those before you by passing the torch. 


Final Thoughts…

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

NAVTA President


“As we look to the New Year hold on to what is good. Let go of what is bad. It really is that simple.” – Mandy Hale


It is hard to believe that 2018 is coming to a close! Think back to January – what did you want to accomplish? Did you have a resolution for 2018? In January, I asked all of us to consider making a difference that is positive and uplifting. Did you? Did I? 


NAVTA went through a tremendous amount of change in 2018. A lot of difficult decisions had to be made. But throughout 2018 I believe the NAVTA Board made a difference for our members and the profession. It is evident that pets and pet owners are best protected and cared for by formally trained and credentialed veterinary technicians/nurses. NAVTA spoke to the leaders of the veterinary profession at the Banfield Pet Health Industry Summit and focused on how our profession – veterinary nurses/technicians – can and should be utilized at the top of our credentials. True team utilization will help drive revenue, increase morale, and ultimately is what is best for our patients. 


NAVTA finalized new guidelines for the Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties. These guidelines offer cross functional representation from the specialty academies and from the veterinary profession. Additionally, The Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Diagnostic Imaging was recognized as the 16thveterinary technician specialty in 2018.


NAVTA provided two veterinary leadership summits in 2018 and are preparing for our 2019 summits. These provide professional development education, networking, and discussion surrounding the state of the profession.


NAVTA renewed our relationship with the Registered Veterinary Technologists and Technicians of Canada (RVTTC). In 2001, our organizations collaborated and developed a Letter of Agreement between NAVTA and RVTTC with the goal to work for the advancement and recognition of the veterinary technology profession. As both organizations have developed and experienced transition and growth since that time, the RVTTC and NAVTA joined in an opportunity to renew this letter re-affirming our collaboration in the on-going development of our profession.


These are just a few of the things NAVTA worked on this year, while simultaneously working to determine the future of NAVTA and the best way forward for our association. 


Did you make a difference? Yes. In regard to your profession, I have heard from you – NAVTA’s members. I heard the discussions. I see the passion. I have listened and your feedback has been invaluable to the board and to our profession. 


Do we all agree on every point? No. Does that make us stronger? Yes. In January, I asked you to make 2018 the year each of us focuses on listening and lifting each other up. Together we have moved our profession forward and have made quite a difference! 


As we move into 2019, I send you an Irish blessing, “May the dreams you hold dearest be those which come true, and the kindness you spread keep returning to you.”




A Heartfelt Thank You 

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


I was going through some quotes to find one that helped me sum up how I feel about my time on the NAVTA executive board, both as a member at large and the President, and nothing jumped out at me, waved its arms and screamed use me!  I found a lot of quotes that I could relate to, and I could have written this entire blog using those quotes, but no one needs to read that, so I guess the best option is to speak from the heart.


What a ride this has been!  It wasn't always easy, in fact at times it down right stunk having to make tough decisions some of which cost good friendships. What many people may not realize is that when being on a board, you are one of many and not alone in making judgements and that all decisions must be made within the best interest of the organization.  Not everyone is going to agree with decisions that are made, but once a judgement is made, board members must uphold the outcome.  On the flipside, NAVTA is continuing to move upward.  I’m not going to list all the things that have happened while on the board because none were sole endeavors, it takes a team to accomplish goals and to continue to move forward.  Over the last five years, the board has revitalized committees into highly functioning committees and task forces, but there is still improvement to be made.  My personal favorites are the completion of the new CVTS guidelines and creation of a new committee structure as well as the Wellbeing Task Force.


As NAVTA continues to grow and move in a positive direction, I encourage you all to get involved.  Maybe your involvement is being a member, writing an article for the journal, perhaps it's serving on a committee, or even running for the executive board.  I would love to see every veterinary technician/nurse in the U.S. being a member of NAVTA and really making this organization one of the strongest in the veterinary arena.  Don't forget to get involved in your state or local level too!  It's a great way to get your feet wet before jumping into the big pond! Involvement helps with networking and possible advancements in your own career.  Maybe you’ll meet the right person who needs help with a project or a new career option.  You never know where networking can take you.  


Ok, so here is one quote: “Stop asking yourself what you want, what you desire, what interests you.  Ask yourself instead: what has been given to me, what do I have to give back.  And then give it.”  Author unknown.  


Alright, so I lied, here’s another one!  “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the (insert profanity) story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it!”  Jordan Belfort


I have learned so much, and hopefully, I have made a difference in our chosen profession. Thank you for allowing me to serve you these past five years on the executive board of NAVTA.  It has honestly been my pleasure, and I look forward to continuing to give back.


A Year Can Change Many Things

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC) (SAIM)

NAVTA Member at Large


Scrolling through my timeline on Facebook over the past year, I thought “A year really can change many things.” Never would I have imagined that I would be leaving the hospital in California I’ve been at for 18 years to be working at Cornell to apply my clinical knowledge in simulation work. Never would I have thought that I’d be able to take on a role in establishing RECOVER CPR as a standard around the world. Never did I expect that I would be delving into legislative efforts and learning more about politics alongside my colleagues.


Regardless, these changes did happen over the short course of a year, and I’ve learned quite a bit over the process. One should never let fear be the reason to stay put. New territory is going to be uncomfortable to venture into, but if you know that it will serve a purpose in the world, then stepping into it is going to make you grow. Figuring out what needs to be done, gaining new skills, and working with others with different skill sets that as a team, will accomplish great things.


Whether it is going back to school to obtain that degree, announcing to your team that you are going to pursue VTS certification and asking for their help to gain experience, presenting a case report at a conference, presenting your idea to your manager to put you into a trainer role, suggesting an anesthetic plan to your doctor, or placing an intraosseous catheter in a patient for the first time after practicing on models; putting yourself forward to new challenges will push you to new limits.


When considering large changes, one may ask “How do I know this is the right thing?” To answer it, we would do the due diligence to gather as much information as possible to weigh the pros and cons, consider other similar options, talk to our mentors and friends, and then toss and turn in bed not being able to be 100% sure if it is “the right thing”. The truth is – You sometimes don’t know until you get there. Life is a long journey and trying things out to find the right thing for you is going to be necessary. I hope you are keeping yourselves challenged too.


Through such a thought process was how I ended up moving from California to Ithaca, New York, and I absolutely am loving the challenge. But really… what is this weird white stuff that keeps falling from the skies and covering the ground…?



Lessons Learned

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

NAVTA President Elect


When I ran for President-Elect last year, I had a very solid idea of what my “prep” year would look like. I was following in the footsteps of Mary Berg as the Immediate Past President and Kara Burns as President. Who wouldn’t love that?  I would learn so much from them and together we would make NAVTA the most influential organization on the planet!  

Ok, maybe I got a bit carried away.  But I had big dreams for where NAVTA can go and had looked forward to 2018 being a launching point for that. Sometimes things don’t always go as planned and 2018 turned out to be a year of reflection, reevaluation, and reorganization for NAVTA. However, I still was able to learn a lot from Mary and Kara and had the bonus of our interim Executive Director, Lisa Perius’ valuable experience. 

As I was working through this time of change and opportunity with NAVTA, I was also dealing with a time of change and opportunity with my actual job. The college I teach at abruptly announced it would close at the end of the Spring 2018 semester. I’ll save you the ensuing drama that occurred over the next several months, but I am now working in the same place under a new university. Things are the same for now day to day but there are a lot of differences and they will only increase over time. I have had to do a lot of thinking about next steps for myself both in agreeing to stay on with the program for this year and what my future holds. 

As we move towards 2019, the most important lesson I feel I have learned is that the right decisions are not always the easy or popular ones. This sounds cliché and, to tell you the truth, I thought I had already learned this lesson and understood it well, but it turns out it hadn’t really sunk in.  After being faced with big decisions that affected either NAVTA’s future or my own future, I feel that sentiment is now firmly ingrained now. 

My goal for 2019, is to take what we have learned in the last year and get back to the task of creating a NAVTA that can continue to thrive and grow. Sustaining that goal means continuing to make those right but not always easy decisions. I am excited to work alongside the other members of the 2019 Executive Board to do the hard work that is needed to come to those decisions. 



Blog Author: Beth Green, RVT

NAVTA Member at Large


Gratitude. What exactly does it mean? I mean we can all make a list of what we are grateful for, but does that change how we walk through life? 


I am grateful for many things, but do I live gratefully? Why do we dwell on the things we are not grateful for? The things we cannot change or, worse yet, did change but still can’t let go, like past hurts. As people, I think it is in our nature to settle in a negative place. We’re like cows ruminating our negative thoughts and experiences. 


We see so many aspects of life, both dark and light. But in every dark moment, a light can be found. What does that look like – I think to everyone it is something different. Gratitude can live in each and every moment. We see it in: who we have become as a result of our personal struggles, a client bringing you flowers or a thoughtful card when they hear about your own pet that is ill, a happy puppy in the lobby on a busy day, a dying stray that never knew love until you held it, holding an owner’s hand when she is scared for her cat. If you look, it’s there. 


The gratitude is there and will wash over you even when you least expect it.



Being Thankful

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Chair


I’ve been a part of veterinary medicine for 17 years. There have been ups and downs. There have been times that I have wanted to quit. There have been times that I have been burnt out and wasn’t sure if I had anything left to give. In those times, I always came back to one mindset. I came back to being thankful. Being thankful is what has always gotten me through. 


I am thankful for my skillset. My ability to do my job and push on saved countless animals and helped even more. Placing a catheter can seem routine. Pulling blood work can become trivial. Giving medication can become second nature. But all these tasks along with many others make a difference in our patients’ every day. Some of our patients go home and lead long lives with their families. Some take their last breaths warm and surrounded by those that love them. Even if that means I am that last face that they see. For that I am thankful.


I am thankful for my clients. The clients who come through the door and place their trust in me and my team. They do what they can for their pets. Sometimes we become part of their family. Maybe they teach us not to judge a book by it’s cover. Or maybe they teach us that all we can do is the best we can within their finances. They teach us not to judge. I thank them for all the lessons and for making me realize the importance of communication and trust.


I am thankful for every team mate I have worked with. Whether they mentored me, taught me new skills or tried to tear me down they have taught me about myself. They pointed me to the mindset of always learning, growing and persevering. I’ve made friends, formed bonds and had people who showed me my true potential. I thank them for every lesson.


Life is full of the unexpected. It is full of opportunities, struggles, blessings and even failures. But all these things allow us to become better people and better technicians. Find your silver lining. Be thankful for what you have achieved and overcome. Appreciate the bad times with the good. Go to bed every night finding what you are thankful for. Some days it is easier to find that than others. But always go back to being thankful and appreciating the small and not so small moments. 



Thank you…

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


We go through our careers and things happen to us. Those experiences made me what I am. – Thomas Keller.  This quote sums up so much of my career in veterinary technology and nursing.  I am so grateful for the experiences I have been given, both good and bad, that have helped me grow and given me the confidence to continue to pursue my passion for this field.  I have taken risks and been given opportunities, many of which scared the daylights out of me, that allowed me to share my love for veterinary medicine, especially veterinary dentistry, with clients and thousands of veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and veterinarians over the years.


The advancement of veterinary technology/nursing is so important to me and I wanted to find ways to serve the profession. I have had the incredible opportunity to give back to the profession by speaking, teaching and serving on multiple boards and committees relating to veterinary medicine.  


I have had excellent role models in my life that I strive to emulate by serving these capacities.  First, my parents, Stanley and Elizabeth Salfer, were involved in many community organizations and instilled the importance of giving back to your community through volunteering.  Dr. John Hefferren and Dr. Ellen Lowery gave me an opportunity early in my career to work in veterinary dental research and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. There are so many veterinarians and fellow veterinary technicians that have helped, encouraged and advised me along the way that I can’t possibly mention you all and if I tried I know I’d miss someone, and I’d feel terrible.  You all have meant so much to me over the years.  Lastly, I need to thank my husband and family for understanding my crazy career and travel schedule.  I couldn’t do this without a strong support system at home.  


Now before I get all blubbery, (too late) I need to close this by thanking you for believing in me and allowing me to serve as both a member at large and president of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America.  This is such a wonderful and fulfilling profession, filled with very passionate individuals, it has been my pleasure to serve all of you.  



National Vet Tech Week

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

NAVTA President


I hope each and every one of you had a phenomenal National Veterinary Technician Week. This annual celebration began in June 1993, when NAVTA’s Executive Board passed a resolution declaring the third week of October as National Veterinary Technician Week (NVTW). In 1996, President Bill Clinton sent a letter to the NAVTA executive board commending the efforts of the veterinary technician profession for our efforts in helping to heal our nation’s sick and injured animals, and thanking all veterinary technicians for our dedication. In 2018, many governors across our nation issued proclamations naming the third week in October, Veterinary Technician Week for the particular state. I think this is pretty amazing! 


As President of NAVTA, I too want to reach out and thank each and every veterinary technician/veterinary nurse. I truly hope your team and co-workers recognized you and the work that you do. We did not join this profession for the money or for accolades; but it is uplifting when others do recognize what we bring to the team and the work that we do, day in and day out. 


Thank you for everything you do – helping pets, providing comfort to the pet parent, educating your colleagues and pet owners, providing perspective on the future of the profession, and for choosing what I believe to be the best profession in the world. Steve Jobs said “People with passion can change the world for the better”. Thank you for making the veterinary nurse profession the best!




NVTW: Why this is the best profession EVER!  

Blog Author: Beckie Mossor, RVT

NAVTA Secretary and SCNAVTA Committee Chair


When I was a kid,I remember listening to a song called “Happiness Is” by Ray Conniff, if you'reinterested in a walk down memory lane or at least a fun earwighere you go, The song is about the different ways’ happiness manifests to different people for different reasons. So, when you ask me, why this is the best profession EVER, I think about this song because this profession is the best profession for different reasons fordifferent people.


When I ask students and other technicians why they are entering or did enter this field I get a variety of answers. Some are driven to carry on a family tradition in veterinary medicine, some had a pet that they cared for through illness or lost due to an illness. Some have a passion for medicine, animals, or animal welfare. Everyone has a different story of how they got here and why they stay. And that to me is one of the things that makes this the best profession ever.


We have a “coat of many colors” profession where our trade and our skills are utilized vastly and growing more every day. We have avenues to specialize, to stay generalized, or to innovate a path of our own. 


We use our hearts, our hands (and sometimes any body part you need to use to get the job done) and our minds. We work in teams; wework independently, we work as a profession. We are growing, we are learning, and we are reaching new heights.


Veterinary medicine is full of the most passionate individuals I know. We are working to change a culture, to educate the world, and to better the lives of every animal we come across or have the opportunity to help. We give ourselves 100% every day,andwe come back for more over and over. 


We are some the strongest, most compassionate, and hardest working people I have ever met, and I could not be more proud today, and every day, to call myself a veterinary professional and to share this profession with the amazing people who have given their allfor animals. Thank you all for what you do, for who you are, and for those you help. Happy NVTW!



NVTW 2018

Blog Author: Michelle Krasicki-Aune, CVT

NAVTA Treasurer 


I’m not going lie, when I was asked to write this piece, I got just a LITTLE BIT EXCITED!!!  Want to know why? Well, for starters, I FREAKING LOVE NATIONAL VET TECH WEEK!  You know those people that start planning for Halloween in January, or the people that plan for Christmas in July?  Well those are my people, but instead of Halloween or Christmas, insert NATIONAL VET TECH WEEK. 


When I was in school, I was lucky enough to have instructors that were VERY involved and passionate about professional organizations at both the state and national levels, hence, part of our curriculum was unofficially learning to love and celebrate NVTW.  My pride and joy was earning a T-shirt that celebrated NVTW-which, as you can see, I still have (and for those of you that don’t know, I have been doing this for a LOOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG time!). Fast forward to today: my kitchen table is nothing but varied types of boxes and bins, containing this year’s combination of candy, snacks, pens/markers/highlighters, and ‘special’ NVTW gifts - all that have been in planning for some time.  BUT this is NOT my favorite part of NVTW, my favorite part is answering this question (this year posed by our 8-year-old daughter): “But mom, why are YOU doing all of this? You’re a vet tech, shouldn’t someone be doing this for you??? It’s a week to celebrate you?!?!” 


My response: Yes, this is a week to recognize and celebrate all the Vet Techs out there!!!  It’s not about what others give me, it’s about what I can give them (insert reminder to use this phrase around Christmas with said child).  Every day I see the techs all around me giving a little bit of themselves to each and every patient and owner they work with, sometimes so much of themselves that all they are left with is tears. 


I see brilliant technicians working in research and laboratory facilities to help advance care and science for both owners and their pets, whose name is often never included in the study publication.  


I see dedicated techs standing in front of classrooms of students and conference rooms of seasoned professionals, opening their minds to share knowledge and wisdom, after late nights of grading and back to back red eye flights. 


I see tired, cold, and hungry techs helping with rescue efforts for those animals left abandoned and neglected, but never too tired or hungry to offer up part of their own meal to a malnourished animal.  


I see a group of giving, brilliant, dedicated, knowledgeable and humbled people doing a job that is complicated, challenging, frustrating, and rewarding. 


I see a million and one reasons to give each one of them small piece of my appreciation, admiration, and respect.  


My daughter’s response, “so you think they will like this candy?”  Yes, yes, they will, because regardless of what goody they choose (including this blog) they will also be receiving the best NVTW gift of all - a sincere THANK YOU from someone that has stood in their shoes.   


Happy National Veterinary Technician Week!



NVTW: Thank you Techs!

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Chair


There were many times as a technician that I didn’t feel appreciated. There were times when I would miss family events, recitals, student assemblies because I was working. There were times I got home just in time to microwave something for dinner right before I put my kid to bed. There were times that I came in early and stayed late without a single thank you from those that I worked with. I won’t lie, it really hurt. But there was a reward. 


The reward was seeing a parvo puppy walk out the door when we thought they weren’t going to make it a couple days before. It was seeing a patient who had spent weeks in the hospital wag their tail when their owners came to pick them up. It was when I went to a cage to flush an iv catheter and a sick cat would head butt my hand and start purring. These were my rewards and I cherished every single one of them. 


Our job can seem thankless at times. I hope that each of you truly receive the appreciation for the hard work you are doing every day. I hope that you hear the words “thank you” more often than you don’t. I hope that you are part of a team who supports you and values the dedication you have to your patients and clients. But if you don’t, I want you to know that our patients thank you for your time, dedication and effort. Our clients appreciate the work you put into giving the best care possible. I want you to realize that even though it may seem that no one may notice, YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE. 


With every patient you help, with every client you educate you are making an impact. With every team member you support and teach, you are changing their lives for the better. Because the actions we do every day can seem repetitive we often lose sight of all the magic we are making. All the miracles we are creating. We help heal, provide love and comfort and pour our hearts into our work at every opportunity. Thank you all for the things you do and know that you are always making a difference. Appreciation is a wonderful gift that we all deserve, and I hope you know how valued you are. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO. KEEP MAKING MAGIC.



National Veterinary Technician Week    

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


The weather has cooled a bit, the days are getting shorter, pumpkin flavored everything is available, and the football season is in full swing.  This can only mean that Fall is here!! I love all seasons, but Fall is one of my favorites not only because the weather is cooler, but October brings National Veterinary Technician Week!  I love the fact that we have a week to celebrate our chosen profession!  I believe that veterinary technicians should be honored each day!  Technicians are the glue that holds the practice together by preparing patients for surgery, assisting the veterinarian in the exam, performing diagnostic tests, educating the clients on medications, treatments and preventatives and nursing patients back to health.  


Why do I love this profession so much?  Veterinary medicine allows me to combine my love for animals and medicine with my love of teaching.  Even though, I no longer work in practice, I loved educating clients about all aspects of their pet’s health, whether it be nutrition, preventatives, vaccines and of course, dentistry.  While in practice I could help a few animals each day, but now as a consultant, dental educator and author I can help thousands of pets get better care.  In addition, I get to help others find their passion and gain understanding that this is not just a job but a meaningful and rewarding career.  

What is your practice doing to celebrate NVTW?  On October 1st, the Kansas Veterinary Technician Association will be meeting the Kansas Governor to declare the third week of October as Kansas Registered Veterinary Technician Week.  I hope your clinic recognizes the hard work you do every day.  I can’t wait to see all the posts on social media! 


I’ve been honored to serve our profession as a board member and president of NAVTA and I am so excited to see where our profession goes as it continues to grow and develop.  Remember, it’s not just a job but a career!  



Human Animal Bond

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

NAVTA President


“My therapy is quite simple: I wag my tail and lick your face until you feel good about yourself again” Cartoonist Randy Glasbergen


Although this quote is the prescribed therapy of a cartoon dog – it rings true and all of us relate. Pets do not judge – they simply want to be with us, love us, and be loved by us. Jade, Jamie, and Erin have given us glimpses of this in their personal and professional lives. 


In society today, we need this type of prescription! There is so much anxiety and stress in our everyday world but research has showed us that pets help to ease suffering, alleviate depression and loneliness, and increase neurochemicals associated with relaxation.


I have had pets in my life for as long as I can remember. I gained my love of animals from my parents. My dad loved every creature, and I saw how much the love of a dog or cat or chicken helped him through serious health issues. 


I have also witnessed the benefits the human animal bond provides in my work as a psychologist. Having a furry family member helps individuals with depression. Pets’ love and loyalty are unparalleled in helping individuals to realize they are not alone in the world. I have often heard that a pet is the reason for continuing therapy or taking a medication. 


One of my favorite sayings is “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world”. I love this quote and I have also seen this related to animals. “….To one dog (or cat or bird or guinea pig), you may be the world.” For me it also rings true to say “To the world you may be one dog, but to one person you may be the world”.


Many of you have heard of Fribble – the best dog ever, or Ollie – the best cat ever, or yes, even Brees – the cute but not very intelligent dog.  They may be a dog or a cat, but to me and Ellen they are our world!



The Human Animal Bond…a lesson in compassion

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

NAVTA President Elect


When most of us think of the human animal bond, I would wager to guess we get a warm and fuzzy image of the tattooed biker dude quietly telling his chihuahua how pretty she is. Or maybe the family lab who is included in everything from the couple’s wedding to the beach vacation where he runs all day on the beach with “his” kids, a smile in his eyes. Or maybe a sick individual whose pet is their most prominent caregiver. Yup, all of these illustrate what an amazing thing the human animal bond is. 


I have a slightly different image pop into my head when I picture this awesome bond. After spending the last 10 years traveling to underserved communities to provide free vet care, my idea of the human animal bond is the child who shows up 5 minutes after we pull into town to ask if we can make her puppy stop itching as she holds up a bald dog who clearly has sarcoptic mange. Or maybe the woman who is visibly worried about her pet having surgery but knows that having her spayed is going to improve her quality of life as a free-roaming dog. Or the man who breaks down and cries as we euthanize his dog because he can’t watch him suffer anymore but simply can’t afford even the gas to get the dog to a veterinary clinic that can provide the advanced care the pet needs. Many people see these scenarios and instantly pass judgement. “If you can’t afford to treat then you shouldn’t have pets.” I have heard colleagues say this in every practice I have ever worked and, until I started my field work, I never understood why I could never agree with that sentiment. 


Confession, I have been openly crying since I started writing the second paragraph. I’m not crying because of all the sad cases I see in these underserved, poverty-stricken communities. I am crying because the level of love that I see these people give these animals, sometimes sharing the one piece of pizza they found to eat that day with their dog (true story), is, quite simply, phenomenal. One of my RAVS co-workers often tells our volunteers when they arrive “It isn’t for us to judge the state of the animal when they arrive at our clinic. These people love their animals and they are here today. We are likely their only option.” I am so thankful to be able to provide an option to these communities and grateful for being a part of the power of the human animal bond in such a raw, yet beautiful, way. 


To learn more about Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) where Erin volunteers her time, visit



The Human/Animal Bond…A special bond

Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT

NAVTA Membership Committee Chair


The Human-Animal Bond is defined as “a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both.”  How does this affect your staff on a daily basis? How are they involved in this process? What part do they play in this relationship?


Each day our lives begin and end with the relationships we build with our clients and their animals. Some of our interactions are brief, others extend past just an hour or two, developing into days or even years.  These help to mold the way we live our lives. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a family and become part of their Human-Animal Bond. The bond that started on that day will continue for many years to come.


Titan, a 4-year-old intact male German Shepard presented to my clinic last Wednesday morning, lateral and unresponsive. His owners had noticed that he was lethargic and did not want to eat, he was standing hunched up and panting as if painful, his gums were almost white.  After a physical exam and diagnostics were performed, it was determined that there was a mass that was bleeding into his abdomen. He was anemic and declining rapidly. His family had to make the decision for us to take him into surgery immediately, to find the source of the bleeding and stop it, or euthanize him. 


While waiting for the rest of the family to come to the clinic to be with Titan and his owner, his story came out.  In tears, his owner told us how they came to have Titan as part of their family. 4 years ago, their daughter who was 5 at the time, had lost a dog that was dear to her heart. After the dog had passed, she was devastated.  She drew pictures every day of herself and her dog Briscoe, with a big broken heart. An organization reached out to the family once they heard of their plight. They wanted to help mend her broken heart.  Titan became her “Make a Wish” pup. He flew Delta First Class from Waco Texas, with his own flight attendant. They became best friends. In the clinic, once the daughter found out Titan was sick, the first thing she said was “Please Mommy, he can’t die!”


The family made the difficult decision for us to take Titan into surgery. It was discovered that he had a splenic mass that was actively bleeding. Due to the mass, Titan had lost over 2 liters of blood and needed a blood transfusion. A donor dog was brought in by an employee and Titan received the blood transfusion he needed to save his life. The procedure was completed and he was moved into recovery for the afternoon. Talking to the owners after surgery brought tears all around. The family was immensely thankful for the staff’s efforts in saving Titan, thanking everyone, including the dog that donated blood to save Titan’s life by bringing him a card and a toy.  That evening, he walked out of the clinic to sleep in the bed of his best friend.


Each day, as veterinary professionals, we all get to be a part of our patient’s lives in one way or another.  Whether it’s helping to educate their owners, make them healthy or allow peace in their passing, our involvement is all part of their Human-Animal bond. The relationships our owners have with their pets are a beautiful thing and we are lucky to be a part of them. This special bond extends beyond just our clients and their pets, it involves all of us.



Human/Animal Bond: “That moment…”

Blog Author: Jade Velasquez, LVT

NAVTA PR Committee Chair


If you ask anyone in the veterinary field why they chose this profession, you will get a resounding answer: “I love working with animals.” Working with animals and being involved in healing them is why many of us chose to do what we do. It can be argued that the field chose us. We all knew we wouldn’t be rich. We all knew that we chose this field because it is the reason we breathe. We feel our sense of purpose is wound in helping these amazing creatures. But why?


I suppose we all have different reasons we knew this is what we were meant to do. For me, even as a small child I remember being drawn to animals. We always had pets growing up, but for me, the human animal bond can be summed up in one moment. 


I was a bit of a moody teenager. I was the goth kid in class. I lacked social skills and was horribly shy. The black lipstick didn’t help. Often, I would spend time locked in my room with a lit candle, listening to the Cure and wondering why nobody liked me. To put it mildly, I was bullied a lot. 


I remember spending one evening in my room (I think I was writing in my diary) crying because I was so miserable. I had a Manx cat I had since we took in a stray who lived in my dad’s Volkswagen van. She’d birthed a litter and I knew him since he was born. His name was Merlin. Somehow, some way Merlin knew I needed him. The sound of my emo rock music drowned out me hearing him pawing open the knob on my bedroom door. He jumped on my bed, nudged my tear stained face and began purring on my lap. In that moment, I knew. Animals have an unspeakable bond. They love us when we don’t love ourselves. They forgive us for our perceived failings. 


Today I still think of Merlin often. He made me understand the love and trust that can come from a single nudge. That moment of connection drove me to become a technician. To look in my patients’ eyes and know that they can trust me. These creatures never judge, and they just want to make us happy. Seeing a Labrador wag his tail at me when his radius/ulna has been fractured amazed me. We care for them and they will care for us. 


The bond we have with animals is one that is our gift on so many levels. To care for and love a creature with no words spoken is a true blessing. While I am no longer a moody teenager (I can still rock black lipstick like it never went out of style) the lessons I learned from Merlin have allowed me to become the person I was truly meant to be. A healer of the animals. That moment sparked who I was meant to be. We all have that moment. That is the moment the field chose us.




Take A Risk…#NAVTACareerAdvancementMonth

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

NAVTA President


“Take a risk and have the guts to seize the opportunity, because it may not present itself again.” Andrea Reiser


I love what I do!  Hopefully, that is clearly evident. This month’s blogs have been looking at opportunities within the veterinary nursing profession. And the opportunities are endless – truly they are only as limited as your outlook allows them to be.


You often have to step out of your comfort zone to seize those opportunities. I always wanted to pursue veterinary medicine – from a very young age. However, fate/life’s circumstances took me in another direction. I ended up in human medicine! Working as an emergency psychologist. Wait…what?? Exactly. I still wanted to be in veterinary medicine. So…I left my life as a psychologist to work as a veterinary assistant in pursuit of my veterinary technician credential.  This was a huge risk and a huge step out of what had become my comfort zone – leaving financial security, still having student loans for something that I was no longer employed in, etc. - you all know the risks. But I was so much happier! 


Life is all about seizing opportunities…or not. We have choices – and we have to be comfortable with the choices we make.


I had another major opportunity years later, but I had to leave my home and the state I loved so much – Maine. This risk/opportunity involved moving across the country to Kansas to pursue a position that I knew I would love. But how do I leave Maine??  Well, I did it – I pursued the opportunity and wound up happier than I thought was possible. Ultimately, I not only had the position I wanted, I also met the love of my life! Without taking the risk, this would not have happened. We can calculate every variable in our decisions, but there are some variables that will result that we were not expecting. “Feel the fear, and do it anyway” (a book by Susan Jeffers)! Do not let analysis paralysis prevent you from taking a risk and pursuing an opportunity. If you wait too long for the perfect moment, the perfect moment will pass right by you.


My education as a psychologist is just as useful today in every area of my life. I am a believer that no experience is wasted, education can always provide benefit. Every experience – positive or not so positive - in your life has contributed to the person you are today. If you want to take a course – do it! Do you want to pursue further education – Do it! The only thing holding you back is…you. Take a risk, your life will be much richer for it.


Each moment of every day we have the opportunity to learn and experience something new, someone new. Seize these opportunities. Learn and experience everything presented to you and everything you can. Then use this to change your world!



Never Say No to an Opportunity!

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

NAVTA Immediate Past President


Recently I was paging through Facebook and saw a post from a Veterinary Technician that had been fired from her position with little to no explanation of a reason.  She was devastated as you would expect but I was amazed at the support from other individuals that had been in the same situation but landed on their feet and found a better opportunity with a position that appreciated them.  I thought about this and realized that this has happened to me as well.


My story happened before I was involved in veterinary medicine.  My husband was in the Army and we moved all over the world prior to landing in the town I now refer to as home.  I had two young children and my husband was on the road a lot.  I had accepted a bookkeeping position in a small bookstore near the college campus that barely covered daycare costs, but I needed to be employed for my sanity!  I had a background in both management and a bookkeeping prior to taking this entry level position.  Needless to say, within a few days I wasn’t thrilled with the job and my coworkers and I were not a good “fit” but I thought everything was going fairly well so I was extremely surprised when about 2 weeks into the position, I was let go.  I was devastated as I had never been “fired” before.  I remember picking my boys up from daycare, sobbing and feeling like a complete failure. 


After wallowing in self-pity for a day or so, I realized it wasn’t me that was the problem in this situation. I had always had excellent employee reviews and had been awarded several honors in previous positions.  I continued to search for the perfect fit and I found it. I was offered a position as an administrative assistant with a small companion animal dental research company.  This company was owned by a PhD who realized my potential and always challenged me to grow, learn new skills and do things that scared me.  Including my first presentation at a veterinary conference and I was a nervous wreck, Dr. H came onto the stage, took the pointer from me and whispered, “everyone is getting motion sickness due to your shaking.” Boy, was I embarrassed!


Dr. H allowed me to continue to develop my presentation, management, leadership and veterinary skills while encouraging additional education in both Laboratory Animal Medicine and Veterinary Technology.  Thirteen years later, I was the Vice President of Operations when we mutually parted ways professionally.  Dr. H wanted to return to his roots in human dentistry and I just couldn’t go there!! (yuck, right!)  


At this point, I was asked to take a position in industry, but my children were in school and I didn’t want to travel fifty weeks a year, so I moved into a position as practice manager and dental technician at a local general practice.  During this time, I found my love of educating others on the importance of a good dental program in general practices.  I realized while in a practice, I could help 4-8 patients a day but by educating others, I could help thousands of pets get better dental care. After seven and half years, our children were out of the nest and I decided to turn my passion for education into my fulltime gig.   


Dr. H’s belief in everyone that worked with him.  He challenged and encouraged all of us to continue to grow in our chosen areas. After obtaining my LATG and RVT, I was asked to join a group of like-minded dental technicians to form the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians.  Was it easy, no, but the rewards of having a VTS(Dentistry) has opened so many doors for the advancement of my career.  I would not be a business owner, researcher, educator, speaker, Veterinary Technician Specialist without Dr. H’s belief in me and his allowing me to develop my career.   


The moral to this story is to never let a bad situation define who you are, it is simply the opinion of another person who may have issues we don’t understand.  It’s ok to feel bad about something not working out the way you planned but don’t let that rule your life.  Stand up, know who you are, believe in yourself and what you can do, and move forward!  No matter how much something scares you, don’t say no to an opportunity, you never know where it can lead!!


This book is a wonderful reference for career opportunities within the veterinary technology field. 

“Career Choices for Veterinary Technicians: Opportunities for Animal Lovers” by Rebecca Rose, CVT and Dr. Carin Smith.  It is available from AAHA. 




Career/Education Advancement

Blog Author: Ken Yagi, MS, RVT, VTS (ECC, SAIM)

NAVTA Member at Large


“So what do you plan on doing with your Masters?” This was a very common question asked as I was obtaining my MS in Veterinary Sciences through the University of Missouri. And the truth was, I struggled to answer that question because there really isn’t a clearly established career path a MS in Veterinary Science takes Veterinary Technicians. 


I knew that I wanted to show the world that veterinary technicians are capable of higher education and that there is a need for ways in which veterinary technicians were able to pursue a veterinary graduate degree, and I also wanted a path towards furthering my growth in addition to my VTS certifications. 


There is much to be learned, should you choose to do so

In fact, veterinary technicians of today enjoy numerous educational pathways, certifications, and certificate programs within an arm’s length or reach to pursue specific focuses in their practice. MS in Veterinary Science by the University of MissouriBachelor’s of Science in Veterinary Nursing at Purdue UniversityCertified Veterinary Pain Practitioner by the International Veterinary Academy of Pain ManagementCertified Veterinary Practice Manager by the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, and not to forget the 16 Veterinary Technician Specialist(VTS) certifications with each of their academies recognized by NAVTA, are rigorous formal education or certification processes one may pursue. In addition, there are many certificate programs such as Fear Free certificationfocused on removing patient fear and the RECOVER CPR certificationthat is considered the standard for veterinary CPR by ACVECC and VECCS. Each of these paths come with a cost. It takes the typical tuitions or fees, not to mention the time, energy, and dedication to earn the designations. 


So why do it?

Things that have costs are often evaluated from a “return on investment” perspective; what do you get out of it? Obtaining VTS or other certifications indicate expertise in the specialty area leading to higher level positions in practice and many career opportunities such as publishing, public speaking, contribution in collaborative initiatives, and consulting, just to name a few. Who was NOT jealous seeing a photo Mary Berg, VTS (Dentistry) working on a tiger or hearing about complex dietary formulations from Kara Burns, VTS (Nutrition)? Well… ok, maybe not the latter (I’m kidding! Or am I?), but they are both examples of VTS-level expertise being frequently called upon. 


Employers of well-run practices look up various certifications as a trait of individuals that have the drive to achieve more and see it as a favorable point on resumes, in addition to your credentialed veterinary technician status. From the opposite perspective, you would only want to join teams that value your effort.


The biggest return is YOU

From my point of view, pursuing certifications and degrees has returns that cannot be quantified. The late nights hitting the books and scientific articles on a disease process, having discussions with the vet about your findings to formulate treatment plans on the next shift, and witnessing the effect of your nursing care – which reiterated that the patients are depending on you.  


Putting yourself out there to ask for input on case reports, ask for recommendations, and talking to existing VTS’s realizing how little you actually knew compared to how much you thought you knew – which motivated you even more. 


Feeling like you’ll never be able to study enough to pass the exam, fretting over how to explain failing even before taking the exam, walking out of the exam room feeling devastated – which solidified your determination to keep learning. 


Being challenged to identify problems within the veterinary field to research the current status and evaluate the viability of a solution that you create as a part of the master’s thesis – which expanded your field of view to turn these problems into opportunities.


Ultimately, it is not the degree or certification that really matters, but the journey in which you take to get there which challenges, changes, and shapes you into the veterinary professional and person you are. You will meet many colleagues and gain friends out of the amazing people out there looking to better themselves for the same motivations as you. Our great profession will continue to grow and reach new heights through all of us, and I am proud to walk alongside you on the life-long journey. 


So… where are you headed off to next?



The Road Less Traveled – Lab Animal

Blog Author:  Beth Skiles, RVT, RLATG

NAVTA Membership Committee Co-Chair


I know this may sound cliché but I knew from a very early age I wanted to work with animals. As soon as I was old enough to volunteer, I started volunteering at the local zoo every summer.  When I turned 18 I was hired by the zoo and worked there during summers and breaks from college.  Once I got my degree in Animal Science the zoo hired me full time year round.  I stayed there full time for 3 years before getting married and moving to Texas.  While in Texas I was very fortunate to get hired on by another zoo where I also worked for 3 years before moving once again.


The city we moved to did not have a zoo, so I started working at a local humane society.  The work here was very different and mentally challenging compared to the zoos I had previously worked with.  After working there for a few years, there was an opening at a local veterinary clinic.  This was a general practice clinic. 


Once I started working at the vet clinic within a week I knew I wanted to go back to school to become a Veterinary Technician.  The problem was there were no programs close to where I lived and I really wanted to attend Purdue University.  It just so happens that Purdue University was just starting their Veterinary Technology Distance Learning Program.  I enrolled in this program and 5 years later I was one of the first two graduates of the

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