My name is Nicole LaForest. I’m a Licensed and Registered Veterinary Technician and I manage the largest ambulatory practice in the US based out of Lynnwood, Washington and I am the current President of the Washington State Association of Veterinary Technicians (WSAVT). I’m 25 years old and was born and raised in New York until I was 17 which is when I moved out to the West Coast. My hobbies include sleeping, playing with my Persians, eating and working out when I remember to do the latter.
I do not have the traditional story of “I’ve always wanted to work with animals.” That is the farthest from the truth. I have known since I was young that I wanted to be a public servant; but, in what form was unclear to me until 2011 when I began attending college to work towards my veterinary technology degree. I started my career as a veterinary assistant volunteering in a government-funded animal practice and then transitioned into private practice where I remained for roughly a year before getting tired of routine medicine, at which point I worked with Banfield Pet Hospital, you know, to spice things up a bit! My role with the corporation was strictly ambulatory and I began travelling to over 12 corporate locations in the Seattle area to work as a surgical assistant. This role inevitably led me to lead the vagabond lifestyle since I was being paid to travel albeit, locally. Because I lived life sporadically and couldn’t commit to a brick and mortar college, I enrolled myself in Penn Foster’s veterinary technician program where I breezed through my classes and passed the VTNE and state exam my first time. As I slowly began to climb the ladder in the veterinary field, I took a coveted role at a small animal emergency hospital in Seattle as their evening ICU managing LVT, where I worked for several years before burning out mentally and emotionally. In 2014, I was lucky enough to come across my surgeon who would come into the ER to do our spinal fractures, TPLO’s, TTA’s and off-the-wall procedures. He took me under his wing and I began managing his practice full time in 2015.
My Surgeon is known primarily for his contribution to orthopedics and regenerative medicine, with special consideration to TTA, as he was the third Veterinarian in the US to offer this procedure. Needless to say, I was very intimidated to work by his side. What had I contributed to veterinary medicine? Up until this time I had only every filled a position that would be posted before my obituary.
Working alongside him I became exposed to educating peers, as a large portion of our practice was based around passing along our skills to others. I began co-lecturing with him at national conferences and international events. I eventually broke off and started speaking by myself and working with companies such as Kong Veterinary Products (KVP) and Animal Orthocare to bring orthotics to the forefront of medical management of cruciate injuries and other orthopedic ailments.
Throughout the week I wear many hats, as many veterinary technicians do. You may find me lecturing, promoting appropriate patient advocacy primarily through my Instagram account, @veterinarytechnicians, endorsing products, engaging in research and taking on NAVTA to form a Veterinary Technician Specialty (VTS) in Regenerative Medicine. But, primarily, you will find me down in the trenches with my fellow colleagues in surgery.
For those interested in the veterinary profession, please know that you are destined for great things. Our profession is ever-changing and is moving towards positive adaptation of our roles as veterinary technician’s. Consider that as a veterinary technician, your imagination, and ultimately, your career path; is limitless. What are the duties of a veterinary technician? You should know before setting down this amazing career path. We are often found in surgery attending to our patients, suturing and assisting where needed. We are running anesthesia, ensuring our patients are pain- and anxiety free. We soothe scared and mourning Owners. We are exposed to radiation, chemotherapy, noxious gas and zoonotic diseases. You will often find us out in the field working with wildlife, exotics, aquatics, animal control and more. Veterinary technicians execute treatment plans such as medical therapy, fitness, rehab and training. We fill medications, educate clients on nutrition and work in labs; processing tumors, organs and other tissue samples. A veterinary technician may be found answering the phone at poison control, insurance companies, managing, working the reception area and performing clerical work. We perform CPR and triage patients as needed. We lecture around the world in hopes of passing on a fraction of our knowledge to others. We do So. Much. More. We are known as the “Jack of all trades.” We are not. It is impossible to commit all aspects of veterinary medicine across dozens of species to memory. No, we should be known as the “Masters and Mistresses of fluidity”. Going wherever our passion takes us, finding or niche and excelling in everything we do. Becoming a credentialed patient advocate has been the best decision I could have made for myself. Traveling around the US and to other countries spreading knowledge and cheerleading others has been unmatched. Find your area in veterinary medicine that excites you and lights that special flame under your ass. Don’t settle for anything less than extraordinary.