Are you a SuperTech?

National Veterinary Technician Week is October 12 through 18. We look at 20 characteristics of the SuperTech.

Are you a super vet tech?

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, CVJ

I have been very fortunate to work with some good technicians. Sometimes, I have the pleasure of working with technicians who are exceptionally great at what they do. They just get it.

They are the few. The proud. The SuperTechs.

In honor of National Technician Week, here are 20 characteristics of this rare breed of technician.

1) They are improvers.

SuperTechs always try to improve the “system.” They constantly and spontaneously look for ways to make things better and more efficient.

SuperTechs solve problems that you didn’t even know you had. For example, without prompting, SuperTechs will redesign your operating room and make it magically look much more spacious.

2) They are lifesavers.

SuperTechs keep you out of trouble. When you treat a 4-month-old dog with an infected bite wound that would benefit from enrofloxacin, SuperTechs gently remind you that it may cause cartilage damage.

3) They have superpowers.

SuperTechs use secret superpowers to feed the stubbornly anorexic, tame Cujo and restrain the most fractious of cats.

Supertech wearing super scrubs too!

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, CVJ

Are you a super vet tech?

4) They are perfectionists.

I once agreed to euthanize a surgery patient on the table if the suspected tumor had metastasized throughout the abdomen, which it clearly had. I asked a technician to get a box of tissues so that the clients, who were waiting in the lobby, could say goodbye. Nothing happened.

After five minutes, I repeated my (polite) request. She had forgotten. After a few minutes, she came back with a tissue box with literally one tissue left.

A SuperTech would have gotten it right the first time. 

5) They are creative.

SuperTechs are the MacGyvers of veterinary medicine. A bit of white tape, some hemostats and a few paper clips, and SuperTechs can fix just about anything in your hospital.

6) They are knowledgeable.

SuperTechs are book smart. Why does hypotension occur, and what can we do about it? Which medications are contraindicated in patients with heart disease? How to tame difficult clients?

SuperTechs have an insatiable thirst to learn about new drugs, new protocols and new diseases.

7) They are indispensable.

Here is a little scene overheard at a clinic:

Doctor: “Have you seen Bella’s chart?”

Technician: “No, I haven’t.”

A SuperTech would have said: “No, I haven’t. Let me find it for you.”

Without a SuperTech, your clinic may have a hard time functioning. This is especially true when a SuperTech has the audacity to go on a vacation or to a continuing education meeting.

8) They have technical skills.

SuperTechs can intubate any patient, of any species, in any position, under the most stressful conditions.

SuperTechs also know the secret to placing an intravenous catheter in an 18-year-old, 20 percent dehydrated freakozoid cat. And how to place a urinary catheter in a female teacup Chihuahua.

9) They are multitaskers.

A veterinary clinic can sometimes be an incredibly stressful environment.

Yet SuperTechs have an amazing ability to jump from to task to task with a smile and without breaking a sweat. SuperTechs remain calm, cool and collected under all circumstances.

10) They are intuitive. 

SuperTechs have a sixth sense that picks up on subtle changes in their patients.  These changes could include a different breathing pattern, a worsening attitude or mentation, a distended abdomen or a sudden decrease in appetite.

The next important step is to alert the doctor about the new findings.

11) They are humble.

SuperTechs don’t have a big ego despite having superpowers. SuperTechs don’t even know they’re SuperTechs.

SuperTechs are humble enough to understand that there are no stupid questions and that learning is a life-long process.

12) They are organized.

If a surgery is scheduled, SuperTechs will have anesthesia drugs drawn up, endotracheal tubes chosen, the heating pad turned on, the vaporizer refilled, the controlled substances logged and all the required paperwork filled in.

All the while, SuperTechs leave a clean workspace behind.

13) They communicate well.

SuperTechs are masters of communication with co-workers as well as clients. SuperTechs have ways to tame a belligerent client, calm a hyperventilating owner and console a grieving client.

14) They thrive on change.

Where some people get ulcers when facing change, SuperTechs embrace it. Sure, we had a beautiful plan at 9 a.m., but poop happens, and we had to switch to plan B … or C. So what’s the big deal?

15) They have positive attitudes.

SuperTechs always have “can do” attitudes and always see the glass as half full.  SuperTechs commonly ask: “How can I help?” SuperTechs never get bored.

When there is nothing to do, SuperTechs find things to do, rather than discussing the latest episode of “Dancing with the Stars” or how much fun last weekend was.

16) They are team players.

SuperTechs can work efficiently in a team or independently. I once saw a SuperTech place an IV catheter completely alone, with no help to restrain a non-medicated TPLO patient before surgery.

17) They are mind readers.

SuperTechs excel at anticipating the needs of doctors and colleagues.

Do you have a cancer patient? Three thoracic radiographs have already been taken.

Do you need a biopsy request form? Already pre-filled out.

Ready to do a local block? Your supplies have already been gathered, and your drugs have been drawn up.

18) They are dependable.

By always taking the initiative, SuperTechs magically get things done. I was once told that there will always be a place in the sun for someone who says: “I will take care of it.”

19) They are efficient.

SuperTechs manage their time wisely. They know how to prioritize—important duties come first and minor tasks come last, even if they sound like more fun.

SuperTechs never sit idle. While blood work is running, while instruments are sitting in the ultrasonic cleaner, while a patient is being sedated, SuperTechs think ahead of what can be done in the meantime.

20) They are passionate.

A SuperTech would never say, “I’m just a tech.”

As a true pet advocate, proud to be a technician and genuinely passionate for the profession, SuperTechs are always as enthusiastic to come to work and make a difference as they were on Day 1. And it’s certainly not for the love of money.

However, SuperTechs can fall in love with just about any furry face in half a second or less.

If you are a veterinarian, this list can help you make the correct hiring (or firing) decision.

If you are a technician, studying this list of attributes of SuperTechs can help you evaluate your own attitudes and aptitudes. It will show you how to behave and what to learn if you want to become one of the great ones.

It can also help you mentor a young colleague.

Nobody was ever born a SuperTech. It is not a genetic condition. One becomes a SuperTech by striving for perfection

Chris Longenecker, a certified veterinary technician—and, Dr. Zeltzman says, a SuperTech in Reading, Pa.—contributed to this article.

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