Tracey Lawrence RVT, VTS (ECC, Anesth/Analgesia)
OAVT: Where did you go to school and what made you decide to take a Veterinary Technology program?Tracey: I went to St Clair College in Windsor, Ontario. Growing up, we always had animals at home and having a career with them seemed inevitable from a young age. My introduction to veterinary medicine came via my education in all things horses and thus, I searched out a high school co-op placement at an equine surgical practice. Prior to that experience I never knew that there was such a thing as a veterinary technician, and that first vet tech mentored and inspired me to attend vet tech school.
OAVT: What is your current job(s)? When did you start it? What services do you offer?
Tracey: I currently work in the anesthesia department at a 24 hr emergency and referral hospital in Toronto. I also teach part-time at Seneca College working with the second-year students in their surgery and anesthesia labs
OAVT: What is a typical day like for you at work?
Tracey: I arrive at the clinic in the morning and look over the anesthesia cases for the day. At my hospital the anesthesia service provides anesthetic care to all departments in the hospital so our caseload can be very diverse. I could be assigned to a thoracotomy or a brain MRI. I never know what the day will look like and things often change by the hour. I will then start to work up my first case which involves doing a physical assessment, iv catheter placement, and performing pre-operative blood work and diagnostics. The next step would be to review the patient history and assign an ASA status. Then I will work on developing an appropriate anesthetic plan in conjunction with the anesthesiologist. I continue with that patient from induction to recovery, at which point the patient care is transferred to another technician. I then carry on with the same process with my next patient.
OAVT: What is your favourite part about your job?
Tracey: Helping to make my patients more comfortable while they are in the hospital. This may be through the administration and implementation of a variety of pain management strategies, or it may mean simply taking a quiet minute to sit with an anxious patient to help calm and reassure them.
OAVT: What is the hardest part about your job?
Tracey: Compassion fatigue.
OAVT: How has being an RVT helped you in your role? Do you feel like you are using a lot of your RVT skills and training?
Tracey: Because I work the majority of time in a hospital setting, yes, I use my RVT skills constantly. When I am in a teaching role, I am in the position to share my experience and pass along the skills I have learned throughout the years.
OAVT: What other jobs have you had in the RVT field?
Tracey: I have worked in equine practice and non-referral small animal practice. I spent many years working exclusively in emergency and critical care before transitioning to the field of anesthesia. I also learned a lot from my time spent working with a veterinary cardiologist, who inspired my special interest in ECGs. Over the years, I have been involved with different committees associated with my various veterinary associated memberships. In addition to clinic work and teaching, I currently work with the Hands-Free Xrays group to provide in clinic and virtual training sessions. I will also go into clinics to provide anesthesia and analgesia training to staff. During the school year, I teach part time at Seneca College in the veterinary technician program and regularly lecture to the vet tech students at Sheridan College. Writing is an interest of mine and I have authored a textbook chapter as well as a number of journal articles. I enjoy providing CE opportunities in the community, which include wetlabs, lecturing at conferences and creating online CE content.
OAVT: What made you want to pursue not one, but two VTS designations?
Tracey: My emergency and critical care VTS designation came first. While working in an emergency setting, I found there was quite a bit of crossover between the ECC and Anesthesia specialties. During my emergency shifts, I would be required to anesthetize a variety of patients, some of whom were very high-risk anesthetic candidates. In the ICU setting, much of my time was spent assessing my patients for pain and tailoring their analgesia to keep them calm and comfortable. The final decision to pursue my 2nd VTS in anesthesia, came from working with an anesthesiologist who sparked my interest in anesthesia by being a great teacher and mentor to me. I think both specialties are very complimentary to each other.
OAVT: How did you get into teaching?
Tracey: Teaching has come naturally to me in many aspects of my life. When my focus was on horses and competition, I used to give riding lessons. My interest in yoga has led me to take part in a number of different yoga teacher training courses, which have helped to give me a different perspective on things. I have always had a desire to share the knowledge I have gained through my work experience and the extra study required to obtain a VTS. I first started preparing information sessions for my colleagues in the clinics I worked at and then branched out to present formal CE sessions province wide and then throughout Canada and the U.S. I have been fortunate to have had some great teachers in my own life and hope that I can also help other technicians excel and grow on their career path.
OAVT: COVID-19 has amplified stress in everyone’s lives. How has this impacted your role? And if so – what specific tools are you focusing on when helping individuals or teams through the stress of COVID-19?
Tracey: COVID-19 has definitely impacted my work life. As veterinary technicians we often work in very close quarters with our colleagues, which makes it challenging to physically distance. At my hospital we have implemented a COVID -19 policy which helps to increase our safety in the workplace and decrease the chance for spreading COVID-19 between staff in the hospital. I try to lead by example by adhering to all preventative measures. Personally, my dog is my de-stress tool. His never-ending enthusiasm for life never fails to make me smile. I have stayed physically active throughout the pandemic and I make sure to spend time in nature on a daily basis. Meditation and breathing techniques also help to keep me grounded.
OAVT: RVTs are passionate people, and every RVT has an area they are most passionate about (nutrition, research, spay/neuter, dog bite prevention, education, etc.). What is YOUR passion?
Tracey: I am passionate about providing the best possible veterinary care experience for my patients and helping to encourage other technicians to do the same through teaching and mentoring.