Q&A with Elga
OAVT: How did you become an RVT? What is your current job and how long have you worked there?
Elga: After graduating from a college animal course, I completed the oral and written RVT exam through Seneca College. I currently work at The Links Road Animal and Bird Clinic, which sees 100% birds and exotics. I have been working at the clinic for the past 30 years.
OAVT: What do you love about your job? What responsibilities are you given? What is a typical day like?
Elga: After all these years, I still love the interaction of working with birds and exotics. I look forward to helping them and knowing that we are able to help our clientele with their unique companions. Assisting in surgeries, performing x-rays, obtaining blood samples as well as managing inventory are all ongoing tasks. Occasionally, minor animal grooming is required. Entering lab reports and records are also performed daily. Every day is different. The day always starts off with checking and treating all our hospital cases, making sure they are quiet, clean and comfortable. I also perform many routine wellness tests throughout the day and assist the veterinarian on surgery days. When not in surgery, I assist in outpatient procedures. These may include teeth trims on rabbits and rodents. I also routinely speak to clients, answering any concerns and questions they may have on handling and administering medications. This can sometimes be a challenge for many of our clientele. As well, I assist in educating clients with diet and husbandry.
OAVT: What drew you to working in a clinic with exotics?
Elga: Honestly, I didn’t really know what field I wanted to explore. Initially, I was attracted to working with raptors. After hearing about a chance to work at an exotic animal clinic during a college placement, I was very quickly drawn into the field. Since then, my interest in exotics continues to grow.
OAVT: Do you have a favourite memory or experience that stands out in your career?
Elga: Working with exotics can sometimes be intimidating, challenging and exciting. Many years back, we had to X-ray a large 5 foot caiman alligator. This was an exciting challenge, perhaps not for the caiman as we felt like alligator wranglers. Needless to say, we remain with all our fingers and toes!
OAVT: What advice would you give to students and RVTs who want to try their hand working in an exotics clinic?
Elga: If any new RVT or students are interested in this field, I always feel that hands-on experience is always the way to go. Working or volunteering at clinics or organizations that deal with exotics is the best way to get a feel for the field. Additionally, keep an eye out for courses and conferences that have exotic speakers.
OAVT: What important qualities and skills do RVTs bring to the exotics sector?
Elga: A skilled RVT that is confident and comfortable with exotics is an asset, and reduces the risk of injury to the animals, themselves, and to others. This significantly reduces the stress on the animal when being treated and handled properly. Each unique species requires a special knowledge in all aspects of this field.
OAVT: For RVTs working in other sectors who may have exotic animals they are unfamiliar with brought into their clinic, what should those RVTs know? What advice could you give them to best handle the situation?
Elga: With any unfamiliar situation, an RVT should contact and seek advice from a clinic that sees exotics. We always welcome phone calls to help guide veterinarians and technicians. We also welcome RVTs to shadow us for a day or two to obtain vital experience in basic handling techniques.