This month we are honored to feature cardiology technician Casey Lehner-Reden, RVT!
VTP: When did you become a vet tech and where do you work?
CL-R: I have been in the veterinary field since I was 17 years of age. That puts me about 15 years into it now. It is crazy to think of how long it has been! I currently work for UC Davis at a satellite clinic in Sorrento Valley called UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego. We are a center of excellence based on cooperation with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, UC San Diego Health Sciences, and animal institutes of the San Diego region. We see patients that need care in specialties of cardiology, nephrology, urology, clinical dialysis, and nutrition.
VTP: What do you do at work and how did you get to this point in your career? Are you involved in one of those specialties?
CL-R: I began with on the job training, and then got my foot in the door in specialty medicine at California Veterinary Specialists, on the surgery team. I managed all of the surgical instruments, supplies and equipment until I was promoted to a full time surgery technician. That is where my skills really took off, as the experienced technicians took me under their wing and really pushed me to be the best that I could be.
During this time, I attended San Diego Mesa College’s RVT Alternate Route Program. This allowed me to work full time and attend classes once weekly, for three years. I was able to use those credits along with clinical working hours towards my RVT license.
I went to work at the Veterinary Specialty Hospital as an emergency technician. I quickly moved into a lead emergency/ICU position and helped open a second location in a brand new hospital. I then sat for my RVT license in 2010, passing the first time. I always kept an eye out for more challenges as I pushed myself frequently to better my knowledge and skill level. I was hired with UC Davis Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego in March 2011. I have been exposed to an innovative and advanced standard of veterinary care. I started out helping in all services of nephrology, dialysis, and cardiology. I moved into a full time cardiology technician position a short time after being hired and have now worked here for 4 1/2 years. I am now the senior technician. After developing a great love for cardiology, I have decided to begin my Veterinary Technician Specialist certification (VTS cardiology). This will be a lot of work through the next year, but it will be worth it as there is not currently a veterinary technician specialized in cardiology in California.
I perform a wide range of duties including emergency/critical care in cardiac patients, cardiac anesthesia in interventional procedures, central line placement, fluoroscopy, clinical studies, necropsy, inventory management, receiving and managing patient appointments, support and guidance for clients, mentoring students and volunteers, etc. I am very fortunate to be where I am and have the skill set that I do.
VTP: How do you cope with job-related stress?
CL-R: Job related stress is inevitable in this field. You have to be prepared and ready to overcome it to continue on. I take deep breaths frequently and tell myself no matter what happens today, the end of the day will arrive and I will get to go home and see my own pets. I allow myself to let minor stresses roll off of my back, and focus on the bigger picture. Over time you become numb to certain things, but I still can’t control my tears when a client is crying.
VTP: What pets to you have?
CL-R: I have three pets at home currently, but have lost a few over the years. I have two cats Zero and Iris, and one dog Stone Balogne, aka Stoney Balogney. I call them my “Holstein Family,” as they all look like little cows.
VTP: What is it about being a vet tech that makes you happy and feel valued?
CL-R: I think my favorite task, historically, is venipuncture. I always am happiest when I am using needles! I have been placing central lines for over 10 years now, and consider myself to be very skilled at venipuncture. It is probably my favorite thing to do.
What makes me feel most happy and valued, may be the response from the clients when they see how passionate I am about giving their pets the best care possible. I have a way with clients as I am very personable, caring, honest and compassionate. They really respond to me well, and so do their animals. I also have a nickname, the Cat Whisperer, as I can handle just about any fractious cat that comes through the door. Most fellow technicians come to me for help in restraint and handling. I love the challenge and feel absolutely rewarded when the fractious cats respond well to me. I have a way of calming them and gaining their trust. Sometimes “less is more!”
VTP: Any words of wisdom for those preparing to be a vet tech or are considering this as a future job?
CL-R: I would say, keep your head up and trust yourself. Always stay confident and know you can do whatever you put your mind to. Never be afraid to ask questions! I think that is very important, a lot of people are afraid to ask questions and that delays gaining experience. If you are self motivated and take initiative, you will get a lot further in your career than someone who just sits at the side lines and watches.
There are a LOT of long term technicians that get stuck in their ways, and do not like new employees stepping on their toes. It is SO important to ignore their comments, looks and gossip, and just power through and make your job what you want it to be. Never let someone else bring you down, always know that you are in charge of your career and gaining experience. Jump in whenever you can, no matter how uncomfortable you are.
Don’t let down time make you bored, utilize the time to learn! I just think you have the power to make yourself an all star technician, you just have to push yourself!
Do you have a unique story or would you like to share your vet tech experiences?
We will continue to do a monthly "My Vet Tech Story" piece to help inspire students or others who are considering this as a career or are interested in learning more about what vet techs do.