(Battle Ground, Ind., Feb. 20, 2000) — Ask Maria Bingaman why she became a veterinary technician, and she gives a quick answer, “Because I wanted to work with animals.”
After nearly twelve years in the veterinary technology profession, every day Bingaman lives her dream of working with animals. Her career has taken her from caring for animals at both a humane society and a university, to where she currently works, at a 24-hour emergency and critical care facility for pets, the Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center in Northbrook, Ill.
At the Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center, Bingaman works with seven other certified technicians, where they are responsible for maintaining the intensive care patients that come into their care. “I’m responsible for making sure the animals are receiving their treatments, performing specialized procedures and administering or supervising general nursing care,” she said.
The busy hospital Bingaman works at sometimes treats as many as 35 animals a day in the ICU. “We see the sick of the sick at our hospital,” said Bingaman. “These are animals that regular veterinarians may not feel comfortable treating.”
Bingaman is well prepared to take on such an arduous task. Bingaman earned an Associates degree from Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., where she graduated from an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited veterinary technician program, in addition to twelve years of experience helping veterinarians treat animals. Every two years, she completes up to twenty hours of continuing education credits to maintain her certification as a certified veterinary technician in the state of Illinois.
Bingaman’s education has prepared her well for the wide range of procedures she performs daily. Examples include dentistry, labwork, anesthesia and radiology, as well as more sophisticated procedures such as feeding tube placement, obtaining arterial blood gas samples and placing nasal oxygen catheters. Nursing care and client communication/education are vital parts of the job as well. “Most people aren’t aware of the many procedures that technicians actually do, because the veterinarian is the only person they see,” said Bingaman. “We do the procedures the veterinarians don’t have time to do, because their time is better spent seeing patients, or studying x-rays or lab results. That’s why veterinary technicians are so vital to a practice. We’re at a pet’s bedside, making sure that they are comfortable and cared for.”
“I couldn’t possibly do my job without Maria,” said Dr. Susan Leonard, a board-certified veterinarian and director of emergency and critical care at the Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center. “She is an important go between between myself and the pet owner. I count on her to be an information gatherer and a listener with pet owners, and to provide sophisticated nursing care to my patients. I couldn’t physically do the amount of work that needs to be done on any given day without her.”
Because of the serious health conditions that Bingaman’s patient’s face, she says that she has had many tough days on the job. “There have been so many hard days,” she said. “Losing a patient is frustrating and sad. You do everything you can to save them, and it’s disappointing when they don’t make it.”
In contrast, Bingaman says her best days are when, “you work and treat a patient and it gets better and goes home to the family that loves it.”
Although Bingaman says there are some downfalls to her chosen profession, including lack of recognition for the veterinary technicians’ role with the public and some veterinarians, as well as overall low pay for the profession in general, she is optimistic about the future of her field.
“As the general public learns what tremendous strides are made for humans, they expect more sophisticated care for their pets,” she said. “In the relatively short amount of time that the veterinary technician profession has been in existence (25 years) it has advanced far more than other medical professions in comparison.”
“I love my job, I love what I do,” said Bingaman. “I provide a lot of care to the patients I care for. I do it every day because it is satisfying to me. Whenever I get discouraged, I just ask myself, if I wasn’t there, would that animal have received the same level of care?”
The North American Veterinary Technician Association was organized to represent and promote the profession of veterinary technology. NAVTA, founded in 1981, provides direction, education, support and coordination for its members and works with other allied professional organizations for the competent care and humane treatment of animals. The association’s headquarters are in Battle Ground, Ind.