Celebrating the heart of the veterinary practice

How would you describe veterinary technicians? 

“They’re the glue that holds us together,” says Becka Byrd, DVM, owner of AAHA-accredited Northern Oaks Bird and Animal Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. “They’re what makes it work. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”  

Veterinary technicians, this is your week.

National Veterinary Technician Week (NVTW), a time to celebrate, recognize, and promote the valuable contributions credentialed veterinary technicians make to the profession and society.  

This year’s theme is “Who We Are When The Stethoscopes Come off,” which emphasizes the importance of self-care and a healthy work-life balance, andNEWStat spoke with a few AAHA-accredited practices to see how they're celebrating.

Ginevra Hess, practice manager at AAHA-accredited Emergency Pet Care of Texas in Magnolia, Texas, told NEWStat her team has been incredibly busy: “We're a 24-hour emergency and critical care facility, so we're picking up the slack where day practices are having to postpone things that they would normally see, like ear infections and so forth.” 

A former vet tech herself, Hess knows how hard her vet techs work: “They’re the eyes and the hands of the doctors, especially in a practice like ours. They’re working really long hours, and they're doing it all with a smile and providing just excellent client care.”  

Given this year’s theme, Hess says she wanted to do something to encourage bonding and self-care: “So I’m getting them out of the practice so they can spend time with each other someplace where they're having fun. “ 

She’s taking them bowling to help the team decompress and bond.  

“I'm also making little care packages with a scalp massager, cold eye mask, trendy compression socks,” she says. “And free food, of course.” 

Getting them to bond and encouraging self-care is her primary goal, and she thinks she has the right recipe: “Bowling, food, and laughter help everybody feel a little bit more refreshed,” she laughs.   

Like many practice managers, Amy Brauns, RVT, of AAHA-accredited Everhart Veterinary Medical Group just outside Baltimore, Maryland, has the whole week planned out: Munchie Monday featured all kinds of free snacks, Fiesta Friday will include a free taco bar, and Waffle Bar Wednesday is probably self-explanatory. 

“I just try to make it crazy and fun and all about the techs,” Brauns told NEWStat. They really deserve it, she adds, especially after the last year-and-a-half: “Because, good Lord, they took a beating!”  

Vet Tech Week officially kicked off Monday, but Braun and her techs pregamed over the weekend: “We had our Tech Week kickoff with a big bonfire and barbeque on the water, where everybody could just kick back and relax.”  

Setting up a week-long celebration and keeping it under wraps while maintaining the busy day-to-day tasks of running a hospital isn’t easy. “It's a lot of work,” Brauns concedes. “But just to make them laugh and forget about the mean client they had a few minutes ago or the sick puppy makes it worth it.”  

Braun throws herself into the yearly preparation. “My husband always knows it’s Tech Week because I'm running around like an idiot and wearing crazy costumes to work.”  

A self-confessed “costume junkie,” Brauns will be serving popcorn and soft pretzels and playing movies on Theatre Thursday, when staff are invited to come dressed as their favorite movie characters. What’s Brauns going as? “I have a giant popcorn costume I'll be wearing that day.”  

Today is Tie-Dye Twist Tuesday at Everhart, where staff can wear their favorite tie-died clothing. A self-serve ice cream truck called Miss Twist will show up in the parking lot to hand out ice cream and milkshakes. “It’s really just a big party all week celebrating everything they’ve done, everything they’ve accomplished,” Brauns says. 

Becka Byrd went all out for her techs at Northern Oaks Bird and Animal Hospital this week—decorated gourmet cookies, a professional masseuse giving massages on-site all week, and goat yoga complete with a cocktail bar are all on the schedule—but she was a little cagey with NEWStat about what else she had planned. That’s because the big surprise is coming up tomorrow and she didn’t want us publishing any spoilers. 

She did give us a hint: “We have little popcorn boxes we ordered off Amazon and we're going to put movie candy in each one along with a little personalized note: “I just write dorky little poems for each person.”  

Niza DiCarlo, practice manager at AAHA-accredited Animal Care Wellness Center in San Bernardino, California, likes the personal touch: Gifts for staff this week include personalized water bottles and, a personalized coffee mug,  

DiCarlo has something different planned for each day, including free food from Jersey Mike’s Subs and Panera Bread; as well as self-care kits with lip balm, face masks, sparkling juices, and scented candles. But the personal touch is paramount.  

That’s why DiCarlo takes the time to write a handwritten card for each staff member. “It's not just a little note,” she says. “The whole card is taken up with specific reasons why we appreciate and value them.” DiCarlo says, “There's nothing like a handwritten card from your boss letting you know how much they appreciate you.”  

DiCarlo says she always gets a little emotional when doing the cards: “When you take the time to reflect on why you appreciate someone, you can't help but get a little emotional. Especially with the pandemic. It’s been like a war zone at times.” 

“So that's what we do during Tech Week,” DiCarlo says. “We feed them. We give them a little gift. And we write them a card. That’s our way of showing them that they're appreciated.”  

Techs are the heart of any practice, DiCarlo says. For most, it’s a calling.  “Every single one of my techs tell me they do this because they couldn’t do anything else.”   

“And the burnout level is really high, because it can be thankless. It can be so thankless at times. So hopefully they know, especially this week, that we couldn’t do this without them. They’re our heroes.”  

Photo credit: © Kali9/E+ via Getty Images Plus