Things I Wish I Knew When I Was New

Submitted by Marta Van Camp, RVT, Member-at-Large SAVT Board of Directors

As a first time member on the SAVT Board of Directors, I have been tasked with submitting a blog post.  I was excited at this prospect to share what I can, and had plenty of topics that I thought of to write about.  However, given the current state of affairs I would like to focus this post to our student population (though I think there is knowledge to be gained for some of our more seasoned members as well).

A bit about me – I’ve been working in the the Veterinary field for over ten years now. I’ve worked predominantly in small animal practices ranging from small general practice clinics to large specialty hospitals, with the odd dabble in lab work, and exotics.  This experience has been acquired throughout Canada and the U.S., and I only recently moved to Saskatoon in late 2017.

I currently work at the WCVM as an RVT in the B.J. Hughes Centre for Clinical Learning.

In this role I’ve had the pleasure of getting to work with the recently, and soon to be graduating Saskatchewan Polytechnic students, and I can’t tell you how rewarding, and encouraging that has been.  The passion and drive you all have is infectious, and has been an important reminder to me of how proud I am to be an RVT.  I wanted to take this opportunity to return the favor, and present to you some things I wish I knew when I was a new to the field.

Documents – Keep all of your paperwork in one specific place.  You never know where life will take you, and having all of the necessary documents required for registering in different provinces and states is vital.  It is also important when renewals come around.  Having to scrounge for every CE document you’ve acquired the night before renewals are due is never fun (I know – I’ve done it).  Luckily for us, the SAVT website allows us to scan and upload our CE as we accrue them (most places I’ve worked has you snail mail the documents in), but do always keep a paper copy as well for your records.

Registration – Every association differs slightly in their requirements, and sometimes the language is confusing.  Though having your VTNE test results, and school transcripts are generally required across the board, they might not be the only information you’ll need.  When in doubt, reach out to the association, as they are usually happy to help you navigate their procedures.

Well rounded job experience – There are so many job opportunities for RVT’s these days, and you’ve all seen the plethora of paths that one can choose to take in a budding career.  That being said, I find there is great value in putting in time at a general practice clinic when you’re fresh out of school.  This will allow you to hone your core skills while your education is still fresh.  Connecting the dots between the theoretical and practical will give you a solid base that you will be able to pull from no matter where your career takes you.

Find your team – I have moved a lot over the past ten years, and have worked in a variety of different positions and establishments.  I think the most important thing I’ve learned is finding a workplace environment that works for you.  We are generally a very passionate bunch, but passion doesn’t always equal positive.  Burnout is a real concern in this field, and often team members that are experiencing symptoms of that can devolve a whole workplace into a toxic work environment.  They come in many forms, could involve all levels of the Veterinary team, and are, unfortunately, more prevalent than you may realize.  I could probably write a whole blog just on this subject, but here is a link to a great one by Jade Velasquez, LVT

https://drandyroark.com/stuck-toxic-workplace/

The “Cole’s notes” I would take from this is that what you tolerate is a choice, so you should choose wisely.  One of the best things about being an RVT is that we are always in demand.  This should empower you, as you can always find work elsewhere.  Don’t let one bad work environment color your career, the right fit for you is out there, you just need to find it.

Boundaries – I touched earlier on the prevalence of burnout, and we’ve all read the articles on the alarming rates of suicide in the Veterinary profession – not exactly inspiring, I know.  The reality is the more we talk about it the more change can happen.  It took me a while to realize that part of my own struggle with compassion fatigue is that I always want to help.  I think the majority of us can agree that’s generally what we all want to do; we want to help our patients, our clients, and each other, but that drive often comes at the expense of not helping ourselves.  It’s hard when you’re first entering the field to feel like you’re entitled to have a voice or an opinion, but you do, so use it – in a respectful and professional way, of course.  It may take some time, but learning your capabilities, and also how to say no when things get to be too much, is an important skill to learn for your own mental health.  That being said, don’t let your inexperience keep you from pushing yourselves, and striving to be the best that you can be, just know that there is a balance to be found, which will allow for a healthy and long career.

Associations (SAVT) – Your association is here to help!  Though this is my first experience as a member of a Board of Directors, I have quickly learned that this is an often untapped resource for new and soon to be members.  Think about it, it is a group of RVTs from all different backgrounds, with all different levels of experience in all different areas. They volunteer their time to help better the lives of RVTs everywhere, and that includes you.  The SAVT has student representatives that speak on behalf of you at all board meetings, as well as a committee devoted specifically to student networking.  From my experience we are an open source who would be happy to help our newest members in any way we can.  We represent you, our constituents, so reach out – or better yet, get involved, and be the change that you want to see.

Finally to the graduating class of 2020 – I’m sure you’re sick of hearing that these are “unprecedented times we live in” as reasoning for the challenges you have faced, and will be facing this year.  Believe me when I say, I do not envy the position that you are in. 

However, as the saying goes, “this too shall pass”, and if you continue having the drive and resolve you’ve shown us this far, you will come out the other end of this stronger and better RVTs. And let’s face it – isn’t that what we need?

Pictured is Marta and Nellie at the Sutherland off leash area last Christmas. Good girl Nellie!

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