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Challenging work & low pay factors in veterinary technician shortage

An educator says there’s not only a shortage of veterinarians but also veterinary technicians.

Sarah Steger is an instructor for Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, Wisconsin and is also a certified veterinary technician.  She tells Brownfield the veterinary technicians are often compared to nurses in human medicine, but they need to know many species and many specialties. “We do x-rays, we do surgery tech, we do anesthesia, we are phlebotomists, we are patient educators. We are sometimes grief counselors. There’s a lot of things that we do in a day.”

Steger says becoming a veterinary technician requires mastering more than 500 essential science and math-based skills. “We’re learning multiple species things, so like, if you just look at when we come to vital signs, I’ve got to know the vital signs for everything from hamsters to horses.”

But Steger says part of the reason for the shortage has been low pay. “The veterinarians are really starting to get on board with the fact that they need these technicians in their practice in order to be effective and efficient, and so the pay has come up significantly. It’s still not where it needs to be.”

Steger says the average career for a veterinary technician has only been about five years, but that is changing as their pay increases.  The NTC program has 20 new students who will take their licensing examinations this summer and enter the workforce.  Steger expects more opportunities will develop for technicians to work for veterinarians with a mixture of large and small animals as large-animal vets are expanding their practices.

She says new veterinarians are also in high demand, and it’s difficult to lure them to rural areas unless they already have ties to the area.

AUDIO: Sarah Steger discusses the Northcentral Technical College veterinary technician program, the shortage of technicians, training, and pay issues with Brownfield’s Larry Lee.

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