Interview with Teresa Earnheart – Vet Tech who learned hands on

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Hello Teresa! Please introduce yourself to our audience.

Hello, my name is Teresa. I am a wife, mother, and grandma. I work in a small animal, one doctor practice in Lawrenceville, Ga. I am 52 years old and have been in this profession for 23 years. And I’m still going strong. I have 3 cats and one dog. I love cytology, dental prophy, and educating clients. My new interest is in animal behavior. 

Teresa Earnheart

Why did you decide to become a vet tech?

I worked in a daycare for 7 years. I was bitten by a 3-year-old child. I then decided to work with animals because biting is one of the ways animals communicate. Children have a voice, unfortunately, animals can’t explain to you what is wrong. So when they are scared sometimes they can bite or scratch. I love working with fearful patients and getting them to where they aren’t scared anymore. My favorite memory is about Wriggley, a diabetic dachshund. His owner called explaining he was recently diagnosed but was kicked out of his current veterinary hospital due to biting. I immediately wanted to meet Wriggley and try to earn his trust. Our first meeting didn’t go as planned. He bit my thumb pretty bad. Next encounter was for his glucose curve. While he was with us I sat in the kennel with him.  I let him come up to me, never did I try to touch him. Over time and with every interaction I eventually earned his trust. He allowed me to pick him up and let us draw his blood sample. He got better every visit. Not only did he trust me, eventually he allowed all team members to handle him. To this day gaining his trust is still my most proudest moment. 

Where did you study?

I’m one of the lucky ones that were grandfathered in. I didn’t attend a vet tech school. I was never book smart, I have always learned hands-on. I was required to work under a licensed veterinarian for five years and then take the national exam. I studied hard and passed. I was extremely excited to have this opportunity. Having the vet tech title is very important. We need to make the community more aware of what we do. So, it’s nice to see the veterinary community posting on social media their daily experiences, and getting the word out there about the job we do. I do recommend others to go to school. Unfortunately, many technicians do not get paid enough to cover debt from schooling or even support themselves. Hopefully, we can change this for future generations.

Teresa Earnheart

What Advice do You Have for Our Veterinary Student Audience and Your Colleagues?

It is not as easy as you would think. It’s physically and emotionally draining some days. As I said I’m 52 and still lifting and restraining large dogs. My body tells me every evening that I shouldn’t be lifting. And my heart hurts sometimes due to the emotional stress. But in the end, it’s all worth it for me. I’m here to try to make a difference in a patient and owner’s life. My advice is if you love what you do it’s worth the downside. 

How do you handle the work-life balance?

I destress by painting and reading. I try my best to leave on time. I also have an awesome family at home and at work. Yes, it is tough on your body and mind. You will definitely have those days you cry and scream. You will also have days of puppy breath and a kitty making biscuits. I don’t know how but the good seems to outway the bad in my experience. My advice would be to remember why you choose this field and try to make a difference with the animals you work with as well as the owners.

If you could compare the working environment when you were starting as a vet tech and now, what would you say that changed the most? Or improved?

When I first started, I didn’t hear much about what we do and how important our job is. Today there is a push to get the profession recognized. It’s wonderful to see. Medicine has evolved so much that we can make our pets more comfortable and improve their quality of life. Because medication and surgical experiences are ever-changing we are able to give owners more opportunities to extend the life span of their pets.

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