Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Veterinary Technicians Offer Unique Perspective

Pet Column for the week of October 5, 2009

Related information:

Services - Veterinary Profession

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Ashley Mitek
Information Specialist

Source - Alyssa Galligan, CVT
Source - Connie Arnold, CVT
From running blood work, to restraining that nippy miniature poodle, veterinary technicians do it all. "On any given day you could be the receptionist, grief counselor, dental hygienist, and the list just goes on," says Alyssa Galligan, the head veterinary technician for the emergency and critical care units at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of Illinois in Urbana.

The United States Department of Labor estimates that in 2006 there were 71,000 licensed veterinary technicians in the country. While the majority of them act as the "jack of all trades" at small animal clinics across the country, the role of a veterinary technician at the university level is a bit more specific.

"In the university setting we are all very specialized," explains Galligan. "We are not always the receptionist and we can focus solely on providing nursing care for our patients, as well as teach students," she goes on to mention.

From a young age Galligan knew she wanted to spend her life working with animals. She enrolled in the Parkland College veterinary technician program and then took a job at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. She enjoyed the fast pace and adrenalin rush of working in the emergency room, so she decided to specialize in that side of veterinary medicine.

She now oversees 13 veterinary technicians and makes sure the emergency and critical care units at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital run smoothly on a day-to-day basis. "The big payoff in working as a technician here is being able to help a patient go home with its family again," she notes.

While humans may flock to a celebrity walking down the block, Galligan is a celebrity in the pet world. She frequently has previous furry four-legged patients run up to her on the street when they see her out and about. "It really is rewarding to see that they remember that I took care of them," she explains.

The university setting for veterinary technicians is not just unique in the sense that the technicians specialize in departments ranging from oncology to dermatology, but they also frequently see a wider range in patients from a species standpoint. Connie Arnold has been a veterinary technician at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for 25 years. Her patients are usually slightly bigger than that five-pound Chihuahua, or even that 120-pound Great Dane. In reality, her patients can vary from barely a pound to over 2,000.

"I grew up on a farm and I just really enjoy working with cattle," she explains of her decision to work with large animals, "I like the challenge." From foot trims to dehorning, to maintaining a sick dairy cow's IV fluids in the ICU, Arnold has all the bases covered.

The spring brings an exciting, but busy, few months for Arnold who helps teach the veterinary students on cesarean-sections and how to deliver farm animal neonates. "It's rare that I have a day that I don't want to come to work," says Arnold.

If you would like more information on veterinary technicians or becoming certified, visit the National Association for Veterinary Technicians Web site at