Did you know that the average veterinary technician stays in the field for 7 years according to an AVMA study? So how did I, Tasha McNerney, one-time journalism major, make it to 17 years in this field without going out ala Scarface in the movie Half-Baked?

I’ll tell you it wasn’t easy, but I had a few cheerleaders behind me that helped make me so successful. Let me introduce you to a veterinary technician that mentored me and motivated me to go above and beyond.

When I started at Rau Animal Hospital in 2003, I was the typical fresh-faced, impressionable, new grad that wanted to take on every opportunity, especially if the said opportunity was a urethral obstruction cat, or a laceration repair, or an abscess, or reading a urine slide… I mean I was excited about everything! After working in the outpatient area for about a year, a position came open within the hospital’s anesthesia staff, I was certain I would be perfect for this and eager to learn ALL THE THINGS!!!

There was just one problem, the supervisor of the department, Vickie Byard CVT, VTS (dentistry) was feared. There were legends of her temper written in the halls, and it was said she would do things like ***gasp*** ask you questions in front of your peers and then laugh at you if you didn’t know the answers… ( side note: I have to tell you guys, this never happened with Vickie, however, I did have this kind of demoralizing hazing thrown my way at a specialty and referral center I interned at and let me say if you’re a tech that gets your kicks by laughing at how little the new techs know… I hope you get caught in a rainstorm and then your socks get wet and you have to work a 10-hour shift with wet socks you meanie!!!)

Anyway, I applied, got the position and was soon placing IV catheters and inducing anesthesia and recovering kittens from surgery. As time went on, I started to become more interested in anesthesia and began my path to my VTS in anesthesia. Vickie Byard saw that I wanted to get more in-depth anesthesia cases, so she started scheduling me on challenging anesthesia and dentistry cases. She helped advocate for me to attend more CE events to gain even more anesthesia and pain management knowledge, and probably one of the most amazing things was: she asked me questions about anesthesia and pain management concepts that she herself didn’t understand…on the treatment floor, in front of others. She was instrumental in fostering collaborative communication with the doctors and techs so that the medicine could truly be a team approach. Vickie would give her dentistry knowledge, I would give my anesthesia thoughts, and then together with the veterinarian, we would come up with a plan to best treat the patient. When I applied for my specialty in anesthesia and my application was denied, Vickie gave me words of encouragement and told me to not give up, and just try again next year. She supported me through not only career ups and downs but life ups and downs too, helping me to move a sofa up 3 flights of stairs when it would not fit in the elevator.

My point is, we all need a cheerleader. Great technicians and doctors are NOT encouraged to grow and get better by bullying and intimidation. In fact, they leave the field earlier, or worse stay in and spend their time bashing co-workers and clients. Great technicians and doctors are fostered in an environment that allows them to grow, and fail, and learn, and grow more. The reason I have lasted 17 years in this profession is because I truly really the field of veterinary anesthesia, but I love the people. Thank you, Vickie Byard, for making me a better technician, mother, and friend. Look at the people you have interacted with over your veterinary career. Who has made the biggest difference in your career? Let them know, then pass it on.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.


Tasha is a Certified Veterinary Technician from Glenside, PA. She is also a certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner and works closely with the IVAPM to educate the public about animal pain awareness. Tasha loves to lecture on various anesthesia and pain management topics around the globe. In her spare time, Tasha enjoys reading, spending time with her son, and trying to figure out “what kind of game is Petyr Baelish playing anyway.”