Every year I participate in the “Get Real” day at Tahoma High School. I am lucky to have a career I continue to enjoy even after over 25 years of being a veterinarian and I enjoy sharing information about the field of veterinary medicine. I also loved my college years and it’s exciting to be around young adults who are starting to think about their future careers and advanced education.
To prepare for “Get Real” day I review this year’s statistics about the class admitted to WSU’s College of Vet Med and information on employment for new graduate veterinarians. The class of 2017 continues to follow the profession’s trend of being predominately female; out of 133 students admitted, 103 were women. Job prospects seem to be improving, as new graduates being offered jobs increased from 66 percent in 2012 to 80 percent in 2013.
Besides private practice, there are many directions a new graduate can go with a degree in veterinary medicine. They can continue their education and pursue specialization in an area of interest, such as surgery, dentistry, radiology or internal medicine. There are also opportunities in government, research, teaching, and corporations. But if you want to work in the veterinary field, you don’t have to be a doctor.
An animal hospital, like Wilderness Animal Hospital, requires a team of people to provide care for both the pets and the pet owners. Every team member, from veterinarian to kennel assistant, has their specific duties that are necessary to make sure we provide the best level of care for the patients and their owners.
The veterinary receptionist, or customer service representative, is the frontline of any practice. Receptionists are often the first and last contact a pet owner has at a practice. Receptionists have to have excellent communication skills and be able to keep calm in stressful situations. Often receptionists are like 911 operators for pets, helping pet owners facilitate care for their sick or injured pets. They also are the cashiers at the practice, which can be stressful to pet owners.
The patient care support team includes veterinary technicians, assistants and kennel staff. I liken the veterinary technician to the RN and dental hygienist of the veterinary practice. Veterinary technicians have advanced education and have passed a state exam to become licensed. Veterinary Assistants aren’t licensed and many are trained on the job, but there are also some training programs available. Assistants help veterinarians and technicians care for patients and the pet owners. Kennel assistants keep everything clean and tidy and help restrain pets when needed. Our kennel assistants are high school students, usually from the Tahoma High Schools animal science program. Most of them are interested in a career in veterinary medicine, and working as a kennel assistant is a good way to get their “feet wet.”
Our team is happy to participate again in this year’s Maple Valley Days parade. We want to thank Marie Paige for letting us join the Tahoma FFA group again this year. We also are sponsors of Maple Valley Farmers’ Market again this year and look forward to the start of the season. I will be manning a booth July 19 and August 16. Make sure you stop by and say hi, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about pet care.