The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: 6 Lessons from Vet Tech Grads

Posted by on January 23, 2014

Returning to college as a graduate can seem particularly sweet when you are asked to share what you’ve learned in your career with current students. That’s what Minnesota School of Business (MSB) veterinary technology grads found recently when they participated in an expert panel at the MSB-St. Cloud campus.

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Graduate Panelists (from left to right) Amber Chisholm, Amy Mjolsness and Megan Schramel

Five graduates represented each of their clinics in a question-and-answer session that left current vet tech students well-informed (and sometimes grossed out) on what to expect in their future careers.


Amber Chisholm, Banfield Pet Hospital

Amy Mjolsness, Granite City Pet Hosptial

Megan Schramel, Affiliated Emergency Veterinary Services

Amy Lee, Pine Cone Pet Hospital

Ashley Anderson, Lake Country Veterinary Services


Q: What is the most exciting or scary experience you’ve had on the job?

A: Chisolm responded that having to treat a dog that stopped breathing was scary enough, but then when its elderly owner collapsed, necessitating emergency treatment and an ambulance call, things got really exciting. Mjolsness explained that c-sections are scary because there are often many puppies to deliver and that requires a lot of hands. If the mother stops breathing, it gets really scary. Schramel commented that at the emergency clinic, two intense surgeries at one time can happen and that creates frightening moments.

Lesson learned: Be prepared for anything.

Q: What is the grossest experience you’ve had on the job?

A: Hands-down, the panelists agreed, maggots. Yes, live, crawling maggots found in all parts of a pet’s body. Several also agreed that smells were the grossest part of the job including anal glands and exploding abscesses. Perhaps the winner in this category, however, goes to Schramel at the emergency clinic who told of a dog  that actually had its face peeled off in a car accident. (Whew! The doctor was able to reattach!)

Lesson Learned: Toughen up.

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Current vet tech students listen to the panel.

Q: What is the one thing you learned in school that you use the most in your job?

A: Lee said that by far the most valuable skill is client communication. Anderson agreed. “It is the number one thing I use when I’m calling or when clients ask for advice—just being professional.”

Lesson Learned: Although technical skills are important, people skills are essential.

Q: How do you deal with stress on the job?

A: Mjolsness said that she doesn’t often find herself in stressful situations, but when she does, she is sure to talk to a manager and take a breather. Chisholm added that she kids around or tells a joke to relieve stress, but the most important thing to remember is to rely on team members and lean on each other. Schramel agreed that in an emergency situation, co-workers relieve the tension.

Lesson Learned: It takes teamwork to make this job work.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

A: Mjolsness said she enjoys assisting with surgeries and dentals. Chisholm and Schramel agreed they like the technical jobs such as blood draws and catheterizations.

Lesson Learned: It is feels good to be skilled in your work.

Q: How do I prepare for the National Board Exam?

A: Chisholm pointed out that MSB-St. Cloud students are fortunate to have the opportunity to take Vet Tech Program Chair Holly Gazett’s certification review sessions. They are once a week for six weeks prior to the board exam and are free. Panelists agreed that students should take as much time as they can to study—both the book and the CD—and utilize the flashcards, memory cards, etc. Coming together as a class to review was also recommended.

Lesson Learned: Study hard and take the national exam. Clinics want grads to be certified.


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