The summer Veterinary Technician Internship was the highlight of each student’s training. I had finished my first year of studies and was eager to embark on a summer of learning my trade. A summer filled with critters galore and I was to be in the center of it all. Pure heaven!
Developing my skills as a Veterinary Technician was a priority as graduation from the MATC Veterinary Technician program was less than a year away. Having this experience would make me very marketable. At summers end I would have gained a world of knowledge and skill in using it.
Here is where the fun begins
Earlier in the year I had contacted the Columbus Countryside Veterinary Clinic and asked if they would agree to take me on as a Veterinary Technician intern in the coming summer. Dr. Gerber agreed to me interning with him and his staff. We set a start date and the clock began to tick down.
I remember vividly that morning I left for the first day of my internship. It was a mix of a nervous tummy and super excitement- all a recipe for throwing up. But, I got into my Ford Pony Escort (I always wanted a horse, but this was the closest I got!) and headed down the road, praying I wouldn’t vomit all over myself. What an introduction that would have been. Me with vomit clinging to the front of my shirt and pants. “Hi, I’m Michele. I am here for my summer Veterinary Technician Internship. Don’t mind the vomit on the front of my clothes. That’s just excitement.”
You don’t have to be crazy to work here…
As I entered the clinic the receptionist Diane smiled and welcomed me. The smell of vitamins, dog food and rubbing alcohol greeted me as well. It wasn’t a bad smell but it was unique and I grew used to it.
I was given the usual tour. Here is the bathroom, the lunchroom, the exam rooms, and doctor’s offices. Put your stuff here, hang your coat there and let’s get you over to Kris our Veterinary Technician. This was not my first time meeting Kris. I had stopped in at the clinic during early spring to confirm my summer internship and to scope out if that had any Veterinary Technicians on staff- sometimes when they have no technician the intern is a shoo-in! RATS! They have one already. Oh well.
The new best friend
Since I was the summer Veterinary Technician intern, I was going to be everyone’s best friend. A whole list of duties awaited me from exam room upkeep to front desk reception and kennel chores. Introductions to the staff were next. Dr. Hensler’s (I say “s” cause they were a husband-wife team) and once again Dr. Gerber. Next, I got a pair of farm overalls ( snicker, I used to think it was overhauls…ha!) and boot covers.
Dr. Gerber told me to “suit up” and we got into his Ford truck and were off. As the morning went on I got braver in conversation. I asked more questions (I love “why?”) and began to learn the in’s and out’s of Veterinary medicine. I had taken my skills requirement sheet along and we discussed all the skills I needed to learn and participate in by the end of the internship (I think I needed 600 hours in, which would take about 3 months). At the end of the program, everyone in the clinic would be given a critique sheet which they would fill out rating my skills and participation during the internship.
Over hill over dale
In a large animal practice, in the middle of America’s dairyland, you get to see a lot of beautiful countryside as well as some historic barns. One of my favorite farms was a barn that had two flights of stairs. The first flight of stairs went down to the milk house and then the second flight of stairs led down to the main floor with milking stanchions. The first time I walked down into the milking floor I was surprised by the high ceilings. It was very bright as the windows were large and gave lots of light. Very open and airy. I want to say the barn was over 100 years old, but I saw a lot of old barns with great history so I can’t really be sure.
Part of a good client relationship is a mix of teasing and honest friendly conversation. I was Dr. Gerber’s helper and I witnessed how important good relationships made for good clients and happy animals. We saw lots of cows that summer along with horses, beef cattle, llamas, sheep and loads of dogs and cats and the occasional exotic animal.
Learning my trade
If one was shy about animals using the bathroom, this is not the profession for you. I got peed on pooped on, slapped in the face with urine-soaked cow tails, scratched and bit. Along with pushed, squeezed and an occasional stomp, but it was all worth it.
While watching my first surgery I nearly passed out. The smell of the warm room mingling with blood and rubbing alcohol was a bit too much. Dr. Gerber and Kristen recognized the familiar white-faced glassy-eyed look, so Kristen quickly got me a chair and had me sit in the corner and watch. Once I got used to the smell I asked to stand closer and watch. In time the smell no longer bothered me and I began to participate as a technician in the surgeries.
Radiographs were always work getting your patient to cooperate with the position, but interesting to see what was inside. Running laboratory service for urine, feces or milk cultures along with blood counts/tests was fascinating as well. I enjoyed microbiology the most. It was fun to grow out cultures and then figure out what type of bacteria they are.
C-sections were fun but equally as intense. Every dog breeder wants healthy pups, so as soon as they come out, you quickly dry them and carefully “swing” them to drive the fluid from their lungs. Like babies first cry, we all loved to hear puppies’ first cry, especially the owner.
A disappearing essential life tool
Learning to work is an important step in becoming an adult. I learned that the quality of work you do is a reflection of you. Honoring those older and wiser is to your advantage- they have a lot of wisdom to impart. Generally speaking, they are people on the way back from where you are headed. Listening and obedience are essential.
Navigating personalities was also a newfound skill. What one doctor liked, the other did not. Reception liked you to file this way, doctors liked your notes to be written that way. It was all a part of learning how to be a technician and growing up.
Animals are God’s gift to us and we are to care for them kindly and lovingly. I like to think of our pets as ministers. They are there supporting us with there presence, a blood pressure-lowering pet or a nice healthy walk outside. Truly a gift to be treasured.
The summer Veterinary Technician internship was educational as well as developmental. It did lead to a job cleaning kennels and assisting where needed at the clinic. Kristin offered to sublet me a room for my last year in Veterinary Technician school. Kristen became one of my best friends and technician mentor- not to mention she pitied me and fed me protein when I could only afford pancake mix.
That was then, this is now
I went on to finish the Veterinary Technician School and take my State Board Exam. I passed and became a Certified Veterinary Technician and worked a year for Dr. Gerber. But today I find myself writing and stocking shelves at the Edgerton Food Center.
Life has an interesting road to travel with lots of twists and turns. My education was never wasted. I am able to care for and treat my own animals, and I have fun doing it. What we start out doing early in our adult life isn’t necessarily what we finish doing. It’s good to be flexible and learn new skills. It makes life interesting and keeps you engaged in life and learning!