National Veterinary Technician Week at Shedd Aquarium

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October 15 begins National Veterinary Technician Week, so it is only fitting that I spend a few minutes sharing what it means to be a veterinary technician at Shedd Aquarium. Veterinary technicians are the backbone of any veterinary hospital and it is no different here. This highly skilled group of dedicated professionals contribute to and put into action all of the medical plans developed by the entire animal care team.

©SHEDD AQUARIUM/BRENNA HERNANDEZ

These are the individuals who are collecting blood samples from animals as different as a delicate 145-gram wattled Jacana of Brazil to a robust 2100+ pound arctic Beluga whale. They are also the ones filling prescriptions for Great horned owls or Arowanas. They help provide routine exams to turtles and tortoises and assist feed Bonnethead sharks. They, like all of us who work with the over 32,000 individual animals of 1,500 different species, never know what the day will bring. As medical care cannot be put on pause, their day starts early and often ends late to ensure the aquarium provides the best possible care, which entails around-the-clock staffing. So, in addition to having a rotating schedule that ensures we have a set of techs on site all day, every day, they also rotate being on-call during hours when the aquarium is closed to our visitors. Ours is a dedicated group with their hearts in the right place.

Beyond the actual hands-on animal care activities, our techs spend time speaking with children in classrooms during our Live from Behind the Scenes programming or helping out in the Teen Lab to inspire the next generation of veterinarians and technicians. Frequently they discuss what it takes to become a licensed veterinary technician, which is a great example of a STEM career. Students spend a significant amount of time shadowing and training at facilities like ours that provide the unique exposure to skill sets customized to the animals they hope to work with while earning a degree in veterinary technology. Volunteering is also a great way to get exposed to what it means to work as a veterinary technician. After graduation, before they can go to work, they must pass a licensure examination like any other medical professional. And to keep their licenses they must complete continuing education; staying current with the latest information and guidance available.

Here at Shedd, our technicians are also called upon to do some “field” work from time to time. Technicians are frequently part of the crew on our research vessel the R/V Coral Reef II that is homeported in Miami. They often embark on the boat to provide clinical services to some of the many research scientists who conduct studies off of the boat; tracking groupers or sharks for example. Or they may go to Wolf Lake to help researchers implant miniature tracking devices into endangered mudpuppies, or head to the West coast volunteering their skills with one of our rescue and rehabilitation partners doing things like assist feeding starving Elephant seal or Harbor seal pups.

Although the work is demanding, it is also incredibly rewarding. Here’s what Lauren, one of our LVTs has to say about her job:

I love my job because it combines all my passions. I am able to work with an amazing variety of animals and help them through medicine. I combine that with being able to teach and inspire so many people.”

Similarly, Rachel, one of our CVTs, shared her thoughts about the job:

We are a great team and it’s so amazing to be able to work with incredible people and incredible animals. I love the challenges that this job has and being able to think outside the box and be involved with procedures... I am truly affirmed that I am working my dream job...”

If you happen upon one of our techs during one of your visits, please join me in saluting them with a “thank you” for the great work they do every single day. They are truly the backbone of our practice.

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