Q&A with an RAH Tech

 Operating as a 24-hour emergency hospital and referral centre requires a strong team of doctors and technicians to ensure things run as effectively and efficiently as possible. The role of our veterinarians is generally well understood –they’re the ones assessing your pet, giving them their vaccines, diagnosing ailments and performing surgery. What may be a little less obvious is how our technicians play a role in the care of your pet, and many clients are surprised to learn just how involved they are and in what capacities. You have no doubt met some of our technicians if you’ve been to our hospital, be it in the exam room or maybe in the lobby helping you make the right diet choice for your pet. They are friendly, knowledgeable and always willing to provide advice –in fact if you’ve ever called our hospital it is very likely that you’ve booked appointments or taken advice from a tech.


There are eleven Registered Veterinary Technicians employed at RAH. On an average day there are five techs working during the day and one tech overnight. Their duties are split between assisting the doctors with appointments and surgeries, taking care of in hospital patients and running lab tests. Without them the hospital would come to a screeching halt!


To highlight this very important and -in our opinion- very cool profession our techs were asked to share what their typical day looks like. Here is the first Q&A with an RAH Tech!


Q&A with Kristen Smith, RVT

 Q.How long have you been working at RAH?

A.For about two years now, started back in June 2014.


Q.What time does your shift usually start and what do you do when you first come on shift?

A. Depends on what position I am for the day. As an outpatient tech, for instance, I come in for 7:45am and the first thing I do is rounds – communication between shifts about in hospital cases is vital.

If I am the surgery tech I come in for 7:30am and usually the first thing I do is start getting things together for the surgeries booked that day. I’ll get IV fluids ready, set up the surgical suite, perform drug calculations and draw up medications.


Q.What tasks are you responsible for carrying out throughout the day?

A. As an outpatient tech I help the doctor assess cases that were hospitalized overnight and help contact owners with updates or information. Together the doctor and outpatient tech go over the day’s appointments and make a game plan for the day. The rest of the day is spent starting appointments for the doctors, preparing vaccines and performing various diagnostic tests which include drawing and running bloodwork and urine, taking x-rays, placing catheters, and giving injections. I will also get medications ready, go over medications with owners and help them with anything else they might need. The outpatient tech also helps reception staff when needed, be it processing transactions or answering phone calls.


As a surgery tech, once patients start to arrive I admit them into the hospital following a check in with the doctor and begin getting them ready for surgery. The first step is to sedate the patient, which relaxes them, making placing their IV catheter easier. I’ll then induce, intubate and put the patient under general anesthesia and monitor vitals as we start prepping the surgery site. The prep we do varies depending on the procedure but always includes shaving and a thorough surgical scrub, eye lubrication and placing magic bags to keep the patient warm.  Once prepped we move the patient into the surgical suite and hook them up to monitoring equipment. Throughout surgery I’ll monitor pulse quality, heart-rate, blood pressure, temperature, heart rhythm via an ECG and respiration rate. There is always a technician monitoring the anesthetic, recording vitals every 5 minutes, from start of surgery to well beyond the end. We recover the patients in our treatment room where we can keep a close eye on them post-op. We help prepare bills, discharge instructions and anything else the patient may need to go home. Then repeat for the next surgery patient!


Q. Which task(s) do you enjoy most? Why?

A. Patient care and anesthetist. I love being able to know I’ve made a patients hospital stay more comfortable. It’s not the most relaxing atmosphere for pets especially on busy days (which are always) so their comfort is really important.

Although anesthesia can be intimidating, even scary at times, it’s always exciting. No two anesthetics are ever the same so it keeps you on your toes. Some anesthetics go very smoothly and some can be more challenging.


Q. Do you play a specialized role at RAH? If not, is there a particular area of interest you would like to specialize in?

A. I am heavily involved with the orthopedic surgeries we do here at RAH. I work closely with Dr. Arsenault and Dr. Runyon to ensure their surgeries are scheduled appropriately and run efficiently as one orthopedic surgery can take several hours. Not only the surgery but the prep time takes longer, up to 1.5 hours. This is due to x-rays that need to be taken with the patient under anesthesia, epidurals for pain management, and because shaving and scrubbing an entire limb is more time consuming then prepping an abdomen for say a spay surgery. Patients are also in hospital longer post an orthopedic than an elective surgery, usually 2-3 days, so patient care is a top priority. The discharge instructions post an orthopedic are more extensive and require us to go over things with clients in detail. Overall keeping the orthopedic aspect of the hospital flowing is a job in and of itself!


Q. Does working at an emergency hospital make your role as VT any different?

A. Yes, working in an emergency clinic is exciting. You never know what could be coming through the door next so you have to be prepared for anything and everything. Every day comes with new challenges and there is always something new to learn. Functioning as a regular hospital and an emergency clinic means there is always excitement, we rarely have an “ordinary day” here.


Q. What part of your role as VT do you think clients would be most surprised to learn you are responsible for?

A. It’s hard to only pick one thing people would be surprised that we do. We are everything from anesthesiologists to pharmacists to lab technicians to dental hygienists to phlebotomists, all while providing patient care. And that’s just before lunch!