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I’ve been working as a veterinary assistant at one small animal place for about a year and a half (before that I worked at a different practice for a year). Since COVID had had an effect on our field, I’ve done my best to adapt and make sure that I’m really doing a good job cleaning as well as restocking the hospital and still trying to be around as extra hands in case the techs/doctors need more hands for a patient. I’m the only assistant at my current place. I’ve been told that everyone really appreciates what I do at the hospital and they appreciate me stepping up to help others with their jobs when I can. However, recently my boss spoke to me very vaguely about techs and client services having issues with the things I do around the hospital, and that I needed to fix them or I’m out. However, when I asked her what I needed to work on she said to “ask them”..... my question is if the veterinary field is usually this way? This situation has me reconsidering this whole career path, as I love the medicine and working with such awesome patients, but I don’t like this aspect of vagueness and other issues that seemingly come out of the blue.
 

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This will vary at any hospital, like in any field - there will be some people who own or manage clinics that really aren't well-suited to the task. I wouldn't let this make you give up on the field as a whole. This could be a one-off issue, and could even be blown out of proportion by all involved & easily fixed. Is there someone like a lead technician or a practice manager that you could speak to about this? Or, is there at least one of each of the receptionists/technicians that you think would give you honest feedback? This is a good opportunity to receive & implement feedback, but you certainly need to be given a chance to get it! If everyone says they have no issues with you, talk to your boss again, and if no one can give you a straight answer, I would start to look for another position. I have been in many, MANY a toxic workplace where people are unwilling to have difficult conversations, and it never ends well - only in self-doubt and resentment and eventual blowups. Not worth it!
 
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alissa14

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I began as a vet assistant with zero experience about two and a half years ago. It definitely is a learning curve!! Is the boss a vet/practice owner or your office manager? Are you able to find out who complained about your work so you can directly confront them and figure out how to improve?

something I always do is ask my techs and receptionists “is there anything I can do for you?” Whenever I have a spare moment.

to be honest though, it really sounds like the boss is toxic. I promise this experience is not a good example of every clinic in the field. At my clinic, the manager really backs the employees which is something I appreciate
 
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It’s hard to say without knowing more information about everything, but the dynamic in every veterinary clinic can be so different. One of my friends has worked in several vet clinics and in her experience they can range from being a pretty toxic workplace to a super supportive and loving environment. Maybe this clinic isn’t the best fit for you? If you truly feel like you’re giving your all and doing what you’re supposed to, maybe it’s time to look for a new clinic that will appreciate your strengths and be more supportive when you’re trying to learn. Don’t let this discourage you from becoming a veterinarian. Remember, being a vet isn’t all small animal! There are many many things you can go into. Maybe this is a sign that you should explore other fields of veterinary medicine to find your perfect fit! (But still don’t write off SA due to one clinic). I’m sorry you’re having this experience :(
 
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This will vary at any hospital, like in any field - there will be some people who own or manage clinics that really aren't well-suited to the task. I wouldn't let this make you give up on the field as a whole. This could be a one-off issue, and could even be blown out of proportion by all involved & easily fixed. Is there someone like a lead technician or a practice manager that you could speak to about this? Or, is there at least one of each of the receptionists/technicians that you think would give you honest feedback? This is a good opportunity to receive & implement feedback, but you certainly need to be given a chance to get it! If everyone says they have no issues with you, talk to your boss again, and if no one can give you a straight answer, I would start to look for another position. I have been in many, MANY a toxic workplace where people are unwilling to have difficult conversations, and it never ends well - only in self-doubt and resentment and eventual blowups. Not worth it!
My boss is the practice manager and when I asked her for exactly what I did that people complained about she wouldn’t give me a straight answer..... I’m just nervous because at my first position at a different hospital, I was let go for making a mistake the first time I used a needle, so when I found this job I was super excited but it seems like the same type of possible toxicity that I faced in my last job (my biggest issue with this situation is nobody will tell me what I did, I asked all the techs and they said they didn’t know either)
 
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It’s hard to say without knowing more information about everything, but the dynamic in every veterinary clinic can be so different. One of my friends has worked in several vet clinics and in her experience they can range from being a pretty toxic workplace to a super supportive and loving environment. Maybe this clinic isn’t the best fit for you? If you truly feel like you’re giving your all and doing what you’re supposed to, maybe it’s time to look for a new clinic that will appreciate your strengths and be more supportive when you’re trying to learn. Don’t let this discourage you from becoming a veterinarian. Remember, being a vet isn’t all small animal! There are many many things you can go into. Maybe this is a sign that you should explore other fields of veterinary medicine to find your perfect fit! (But still don’t write off SA due to one clinic). I’m sorry you’re having this experience :(
Unfortunately this is the second practice I’ve had a weird experience at, my first practice I was learning how to draw up urine into a syringe for the first time, and forgot to cap it before removing the needle and was immediately let go, so this situation combined with the last one has me super on edge worried that this field is not one that is conducive for learning/making mistakes early on.
 
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Unfortunately this is the second practice I’ve had a weird experience at, my first practice I was learning how to draw up urine into a syringe for the first time, and forgot to cap it before removing the needle and was immediately let go, so this situation combined with the last one has me super on edge worried that this field is not one that is conducive for learning/making mistakes early on.
It is a very judgmental setting at a lot of clinics. There are plenty that aren't constant, but unfortunately when you have a stressful environment with so much going on that people are burned out most the time, the cranky is a roller coaster to ride.
 
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There are always people that are going to be poor communicators in the field, but I feel that is true for every field.
My first two experiences working in clinics were not great ones. The first one, there was a big miscommunication about the hours I would be working (originally was told 7pm-3am when they actually wanted 7pm-7am). I got them to agree to let me leave at 5am because I had classes at 11, but I was sleep deprived and miserable and the job wasn't even fun. The second one, it was just like I didn't mesh that well into the culture. It was a small clinic (talking 3 other employees + the vet) and they were all quite a bit older than me. The next youngest employee was in his 30s and had been working at the clinic since he was 16. Wild. Anyways, twice my boss got mad at me for drinking my coffee up at the reception area and would make me write a list of things that had to be done (essentially, he saw me as being lazy at those moments). We never had any official "break periods" except the people working 8 hour days so honestly that was probably less of a problem with me because legally we are entitled to that, but nonetheless I will say that I have been molded to not be able to sit still at work. Always have to be doing something.

The 3rd clinic that I worked at, granted I am a seasonal worker, has been a great fit for me. But, not everyone there is happy.

Do you like the job? If not, maybe this isn't the right field. If you like the job, think about what you can do differently to fit in better. The answer won't be the clients, or the co-workers, or the bosses... though any of those can make a miserable experience. Those can't be changed, unless you go to another clinic. However, your own personal communication skills can change a miserable experience into an awesome one. I'm not attempting to suggest at all that it is your own fault that this happened. Rather, if you are working with someone that is a bad communicator, being an excellent communicator can almost make that problem vanish.

This is just an example: at the clinic where I am at seasonally, I approached one of the doctors with a question once from a client on the phone. The doctor snapped at me. But, she wasn't angry at me - she was frusterated with the server problems we were having that was making it difficult to do the SOAPs. So, I didn't take it personally; I told her that it sucked she was dealing with those problems and I was sorry that it was so frustrating. And, then she apologized to me and answered my question and everything was totally fine.

So just try to put yourself in your doctor's shoes. If people are complaining around him all of the time, his mood is probably not great. You're right that it probably IS coming right out of the blue, because it has nothing to do with the problems themselves but just the timing that they are presenting.

Despite that you don't even know what issues your co-workers have with you, does it hurt to apologize to your boss? Saying "I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong but I apologize for any trouble I'm causing you" <--- validating his feelings "I will talk to them about the problem so it can be resolved promptly" <---- showing that you are going to be pro-active and taking it off his plate <--- "I really enjoy working here and want to do a good job." <--- end on a positive note.
 
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There are always people that are going to be poor communicators in the field, but I feel that is true for every field.
My first two experiences working in clinics were not great ones. The first one, there was a big miscommunication about the hours I would be working (originally was told 7pm-3am when they actually wanted 7pm-7am). I got them to agree to let me leave at 5am because I had classes at 11, but I was sleep deprived and miserable and the job wasn't even fun. The second one, it was just like I didn't mesh that well into the culture. It was a small clinic (talking 3 other employees + the vet) and they were all quite a bit older than me. The next youngest employee was in his 30s and had been working at the clinic since he was 16. Wild. Anyways, twice my boss got mad at me for drinking my coffee up at the reception area and would make me write a list of things that had to be done (essentially, he saw me as being lazy at those moments). We never had any official "break periods" except the people working 8 hour days so honestly that was probably less of a problem with me because legally we are entitled to that, but nonetheless I will say that I have been molded to not be able to sit still at work. Always have to be doing something.

The 3rd clinic that I worked at, granted I am a seasonal worker, has been a great fit for me. But, not everyone there is happy.

Do you like the job? If not, maybe this isn't the right field. If you like the job, think about what you can do differently to fit in better. The answer won't be the clients, or the co-workers, or the bosses... though any of those can make a miserable experience. Those can't be changed, unless you go to another clinic. However, your own personal communication skills can change a miserable experience into an awesome one. I'm not attempting to suggest at all that it is your own fault that this happened. Rather, if you are working with someone that is a bad communicator, being an excellent communicator can almost make that problem vanish.

This is just an example: at the clinic where I am at seasonally, I approached one of the doctors with a question once from a client on the phone. The doctor snapped at me. But, she wasn't angry at me - she was frusterated with the server problems we were having that was making it difficult to do the SOAPs. So, I didn't take it personally; I told her that it sucked she was dealing with those problems and I was sorry that it was so frustrating. And, then she apologized to me and answered my question and everything was totally fine.

So just try to put yourself in your doctor's shoes. If people are complaining around him all of the time, his mood is probably not great. You're right that it probably IS coming right out of the blue, because it has nothing to do with the problems themselves but just the timing that they are presenting.

Despite that you don't even know what issues your co-workers have with you, does it hurt to apologize to your boss? Saying "I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong but I apologize for any trouble I'm causing you" <--- validating his feelings "I will talk to them about the problem so it can be resolved promptly" <---- showing that you are going to be pro-active and taking it off his plate <--- "I really enjoy working here and want to do a good job." <--- end on a positive note.
I never thought to look at it from an empathetic standpoint like this, mostly because I don’t form those super deep relationships at work on purpose (I’m a guy who goes to work, gets stuff done, asks questions sometimes and that’s the day) but you are probably right, with this being a very emotional field for some people, I’m sure stuff just boils over sometimes... I’m someone who’s excited to learn anything about this field ( in a previous post I made I was asking for reading material so I could get a head start on learning clinical terms/bio, and so I got myself a copy of Dyce and Sack’s to learn a bit, I love the field and the medical aspects of it, but I’m not a fan of the office politics and whatever else this situation could’ve arisen from (which I am fully aware exist in every field)..... I just made this post to see if this type of office politics dominates every practice, because this type of situation is more stressful than anything I’ve had to help out in clinically with patients (so far in my vet assistant career atleast). Thank you for this advice, it eases my mind somewhat to think that this may not be all directed towards me.
 
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I'm so sorry you're having this experience! Every vet clinic has a different dynamic, some are great, others not so much. The first clinic I worked at treated me like garbage and acted like I didn't exist half of the time. I hadn't even been there a year before I started applying to other clinics again because I was so tired of the way they were treating me. A couple years after I quit one of my friends was working there (she had been working for them for a little while before we met so there wasn't any kind of connection) had the same problem.

In contrast, I've been at my second clinic for almost 6 years now and they have treated me like family since day one. I started as a kennel attendant and worked my way up to vet assistant, but even while I was working in kennel they would pull me back into the treatment room if they had something interesting they wanted to show me. Our techs and doctors have even gone out of their way at times to help me learn, it's truly such a great environment.

So basically if you really have a passion for the job and are just in a bad situation, don't give up. There are better clinics out there. If you decide to apply somewhere else, see if you can do a working interview or get to talk to some of the current employees to see what their experiences there have been like.
 
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my question is if the veterinary field is usually this way? This situation has me reconsidering this whole career path, as I love the medicine and working with such awesome patients, but I don’t like this aspect of vagueness and other issues that seemingly come out of the blue.
No, not every facility is like this. It depends on the culture and on your perspective. My first clinic was horrible and taught me what I don't want to be as a doctor and what I don't want in a clinic. Literally going to a clinic that is opposite in every way post-graduation. However, not all the employees at my new clinic are 100% happy with the clinic either. For your particular situation with what we know, your manager is not the best from a managerial perspective to me. That's fine; not everyone can do well in that role on a team. It simply puts the onus on you to get things done with minimal helpful direction. If that's not something you'll do well with, then I think it's time to find a new hospital.
so this situation combined with the last one has me super on edge worried that this field is not one that is conducive for learning/making mistakes early on.
I wanted to touch on this statement for a couple of reasons:
1. Two clinics don't define the profession. I understand that you only have experience in two clinics, and neither of them are good. But in science, a study size of two wouldn't be a study, right? It'd be a case series or something like that. There are plenty of poorly run clinics; many if not most of us have stories of the clinic they'd never go back to. But many if not most of us have stories of clinics we loved.
2. Someone brought up an excellent point that veterinary medicine isn't composed of just small animal GP/ER clinics. There are a wide variety of niches within vet med that you can find yourself growing into. Sure, small animal GP/ER is where you'll dip your toes to get experience in. But once you gain more experience/education, you may be able to find other aspects of vet med you like better.
3. Vet med is full of people who make mistakes. Mistakes are made every day and not a single person, from the brand new 16 year old kennel tech to the 85 year old career veterinarian, can say they have not made a mistake. Some mistakes cost the lives of our patients. All we can do is learn from them. You haven't been given opportunity to learn from mistakes due to the policies/culture of the clinics you've been in. If that's something that's going to hinder your learning in the industry, you need to find a new clinic.
4. Conversely, this is also a good time to find coping mechanisms that are healthy ways of dealing with critiques (deserved critiques or not). Having anxiety over two mistakes (first one is minor to me, the second one unknown to us all) is something you'll want to get a head of now as you're getting into the field. The criticism and critiques will never stop because you will make mistakes throughout your career. Finding a healthy way to take criticism/critiques in the context of the situation will reduce your stress long term for sure.
 
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EB73674

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My boss is the practice manager and when I asked her for exactly what I did that people complained about she wouldn’t give me a straight answer..... I’m just nervous because at my first position at a different hospital, I was let go for making a mistake the first time I used a needle, so when I found this job I was super excited but it seems like the same type of possible toxicity that I faced in my last job (my biggest issue with this situation is nobody will tell me what I did, I asked all the techs and they said they didn’t know either)
I really empathize with you on this - I've had a number of positions in the past, both within & outside the animal industry, where I was not given any feedback or ways to improve my performance, but was still either punished or pushed out of my position. It's devastating, and it can feel UTTERLY TERRIFYING to think that you have no ability to learn or improve. It's okay to need help, and it's okay to need some space to learn!

However, I'd also encourage you to look into your own reactions to these situations - is there anything that you could be doing that could be impacting your supervisors' abilities to give you feedback? I essentially figured out that I was getting waaaaay too emotional about feedback, and taking it far too personally, and it made my supervisors DREAD having to give it to me. I've done a lot of work on this, and it's actually helped to have three really honest and constructive managers. Even if you can't find people who aren't conflict-avoidant, this is an excellent time to work with a therapist on your internal and emotional reactions. I've done a combination, and I've gotten SO much better at accepting criticism and feedback. I realized I could only really show myself as being OPEN to that feedback, and communicate it directly with new supervisors. This has worked really well with my current supervisor (who is INCREDIBLY conflict-avoidant) - I consistently ask for feedback & show myself to be open to it, and she's given me some great feedback that she might not have otherwise felt comfortable giving. Not saying you're doing any of this - you might not be! - but I thought I wasn't doing any of it, and it turns out I WAS...Ergo, this might be something to examine. Just a thought, and NOT saying this is your fault in any way - you still deserve the chance to be managed well and given appropriate feedback!
 
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I began as a vet assistant with zero experience about two and a half years ago. It definitely is a learning curve!! Is the boss a vet/practice owner or your office manager? Are you able to find out who complained about your work so you can directly confront them and figure out how to improve?

something I always do is ask my techs and receptionists “is there anything I can do for you?” Whenever I have a spare moment.

to be honest though, it really sounds like the boss is toxic. I promise this experience is not a good example of every clinic in the field. At my clinic, the manager really backs the employees which is something I appreciate

That's quite the jump.

The boss is either 1)not the best communicator, 2) isn't that great at conflict and prefers to have people speak directly to each other and work it out themselves like big boys and girls, or 3) may be at a loss on what the issue is, because the tech or whoever in question wasn't clear themselves on what the problem was when they complained. That's a far, far cry from "toxic".

And for the OP, if a couple instances of less-than-ideal communication is making you rethink your entire career choice....remember that these types of situations happen in pretty much EVERY career - like you mentioned. Nobody is a perfect communicator. If I had a tech bitch to me in vague terms about an assistant when I am already up to my ears in work, I'm going to tell them to work it out themselves. I only have so much bandwidth. If it becomes a consistent problem I will step in if need be, but I can't go around micromanaging everything.

It would have been ideal if he or she could tell you exactly what the problem was, but he or she literally may not know the details because the complainer wasn't clear themselves. Or maybe he's/she's busy or tired and doesn't have the bandwidth to play moderator right at that moment. Or worst case scenario he or she is just a conflict averse person, which obviously isn't ideal and is something they should work on, but its not "toxic".
 
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That's quite the jump.

The boss is either 1)not the best communicator, 2) isn't that great at conflict and prefers to have people speak directly to each other and work it out themselves like big boys and girls, or 3) may be at a loss on what the issue is, because the tech or whoever in question wasn't clear themselves on what the problem was when they complained. That's a far, far cry from "toxic".

And for the OP, if a couple instances of less-than-ideal communication is making you rethink your entire career choice....remember that these types of situations happen in pretty much EVERY career - like you mentioned. Nobody is a perfect communicator. If I had a tech bitch to me in vague terms about an assistant when I am already up to my ears in work, I'm going to tell them to work it out themselves. I only have so much bandwidth. If it becomes a consistent problem I will step in if need be, but I can't go around micromanaging everything.

It would have been ideal if he or she could tell you exactly what the problem was, but he or she literally may not know the details because the complainer wasn't clear themselves. Or maybe he's/she's busy or tired and doesn't have the bandwidth to play moderator right at that moment. Or worst case scenario he or she is just a conflict averse person, which obviously isn't ideal and is something they should work on, but its not "toxic".
Very true! I tried talking to my coworkers about any issues they might find with the work I do, and they all told me that they didn’t talk to the director, so I still don’t have an understanding on that situation unfortunately, but I know atleast that the techs have my back and that if they did have critiques for the way I do things that they said they’d come to me directly about. When this situation came up I was paranoid that it was the beginning of a toxic work environment, and based on what I dealt with at the last practice I worked at (which actually was an extremely toxic environment), I definitely was quick to make a mountain out of a molehill. I still unfortunately don’t have the details of what the complaint was, but I’m paying more attention to the little details of what I do here so I feel like that definitely is helping me.
 
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That's quite the jump.

The boss is either 1)not the best communicator, 2) isn't that great at conflict and prefers to have people speak directly to each other and work it out themselves like big boys and girls, or 3) may be at a loss on what the issue is, because the tech or whoever in question wasn't clear themselves on what the problem was when they complained. That's a far, far cry from "toxic".

And for the OP, if a couple instances of less-than-ideal communication is making you rethink your entire career choice....remember that these types of situations happen in pretty much EVERY career - like you mentioned. Nobody is a perfect communicator. If I had a tech bitch to me in vague terms about an assistant when I am already up to my ears in work, I'm going to tell them to work it out themselves. I only have so much bandwidth. If it becomes a consistent problem I will step in if need be, but I can't go around micromanaging everything.

It would have been ideal if he or she could tell you exactly what the problem was, but he or she literally may not know the details because the complainer wasn't clear themselves. Or maybe he's/she's busy or tired and doesn't have the bandwidth to play moderator right at that moment. Or worst case scenario he or she is just a conflict averse person, which obviously isn't ideal and is something they should work on, but its not "toxic".
And I forgot to comment on the first point, it’s not so much the lack of communication that had me worried about changing career paths, but the lack of room for error so early on. I was extremely nervous that this field was ruthless with no room for error after being let go at my first job for making a mistake the first time I used a syringe, and was super nervous that the same situation was playing out in front of me yet again, but nothing more has resulted from that convo, thankfully, except for me paying greater attention to detail.
 
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And I forgot to comment on the first point, it’s not so much the lack of communication that had me worried about changing career paths, but the lack of room for error so early on. I was extremely nervous that this field was ruthless with no room for error after being let go at my first job for making a mistake the first time I used a syringe, and was super nervous that the same situation was playing out in front of me yet again, but nothing more has resulted from that convo, thankfully, except for me paying greater attention to detail.
I'm sorry you had to deal with the stress and frustration so early in your career! They really shouldn't be so harsh on you for the needle thing. It was wrong, for sure, but I've seen a lot of sloppy techs that have some things way worse than that.

That being said, this field is more error intolerant than most, because we deal with lives. One tiny mistake could mean the difference between life and death. I yelled at an assistant a few weeks ago when he tried to connect a wide open oxygen line directly to an intubated animal (without the ambu bag), I apologized to him afterwards and explained why we should never do that. But the point is, there's a lot of stress in the field and you may not realize the consequence of a seemingly insignificant mistake. Sooner or later you WILL kill an animal. Every one of us do, because that's the nature of medicine. It's never too early to be extra cautious.

And if it helps, I learnt that admitting to your co-workers and yourself about your lack of experience help mitigate everyone's expectations. Most people I work with are extremely willing to help if I communicate with them frankly. I currently work in an ER as a non certified tech, where most techs I work with are certified and have been in the field for more than a decade. I have been very clear to them from my first day about what I feel comfortable with, and what specific skills I need to work on. I never take on a challenging task pretending that it was not over my head, because that would be irresponsible to the patients. For example, I may have difficulty intubating agonal breathing brachycephalic dogs but completely proficient with other animals including juveniles, or I've never placed an IO catheter, but can try jugular vein IV catheter with limited experience, or I've never managed DKA animals or cluster seizure patients with multiple CRIs in my previous GP practice but am willing to learn under supervision. I clearly communicate those to my co-workers, and more than often they're willing to let me try and learn. And I do learn so much. In contrast, it's very dangerous when you don't know what you can't do. Sometimes that comes from eager to help, but you could make a big mess and someone else need to clean it up. I'm not saying that's what happened in your case, just some general advice from someone who has been in your shoe.
 
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I'm sorry you had to deal with the stress and frustration so early in your career! They really shouldn't be so harsh on you for the needle thing. It was wrong, for sure, but I've seen a lot of sloppy techs that have some things way worse than that.

That being said, this field is more error intolerant than most, because we deal with lives. One tiny mistake could mean the difference between life and death. I yelled at an assistant a few weeks ago when he tried to connect a wide open oxygen line directly to an intubated animal (without the ambu bag), I apologized to him afterwards and explained why we should never do that. But the point is, there's a lot of stress in the field and you may not realize the consequence of a seemingly insignificant mistake. Sooner or later you WILL kill an animal. Every one of us do, because that's the nature of medicine. It's never too early to be extra cautious.

And if it helps, I learnt that admitting to your co-workers and yourself about your lack of experience help mitigate everyone's expectations. Most people I work with are extremely willing to help if I communicate with them frankly. I currently work in an ER as a non certified tech, where most techs I work with are certified and have been in the field for more than a decade. I have been very clear to them from my first day about what I feel comfortable with, and what specific skills I need to work on. I never take on a challenging task pretending that it was not over my head, because that would be irresponsible to the patients. For example, I may have difficulty intubating agonal breathing brachycephalic dogs but completely proficient with other animals including juveniles, or I've never placed an IO catheter, but can try jugular vein IV catheter with limited experience, or I've never managed DKA animals or cluster seizure patients with multiple CRIs in my previous GP practice but am willing to learn under supervision. I clearly communicate those to my co-workers, and more than often they're willing to let me try and learn. And I do learn so much. In contrast, it's very dangerous when you don't know what you can't do. Sometimes that comes from eager to help, but you could make a big mess and someone else need to clean it up. I'm not saying that's what happened in your case, just some general advice from someone who has been in your shoe.
Absolutely! I’ll try being better at explaining the limits of what I know how to do..... I always volunteer myself to learn new things, but maybe I’m not the clearest on what I know how to do.... a lot of techs think I can’t run in house bloodwork and set up xrays by myself (among other things), so maybe I need to be more clear on the things I am able to do by myself.
 
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