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Veterinarian Technician February 2007 (Vol 28, No 2) Focus: Dentistry

On the Cover: "A Talk with Dana Call, RVT, VTS (ECC)

by Liz Donovan

    Whether mentoring students, triaging emergency patients, lobbying for legislative changes in state regulations, or nurturing her four children, Dana Call, RVT, VTS (ECC), is both inspiring and inspired. As a staff veterinary technician and an instructor at Oklahoma State University, Dana helps students master their skills and find their dream jobs. In her second job as a senior technician at the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Hospital in Oklahoma City, she puts her hard-earned specialization in emergency and critical care to use. Although her family responsibilities and her double duties in veterinary medicine make for a hectic schedule, Dana loves the challenge and unpredictability of her career. In addition to her role in gaining greater recognition and respect for technicians in her home state, Dana tells us about her hunger for the rush of emergency medicine, her high personal expectations, and how she always makes time for her family.

    View a brief summary of Dana's professional background and family life .

    When and why did you decide to become a veterinary technician?

    As a child, it was always clear to me that when I grew up, I would work with animals. At the time, I didn't know about the veterinary technology profession, so I thought I might become a veterinarian, a wildlife biologist, a pet store owner, or a zoo­keeper. I even had dreams of traveling to Africa and becoming the next Jane Goodall. In 8th grade, I wrote a career research paper on my goal to be a veterinarian.

    The pivotal moment in my career choice came when, as a high school senior, I attended an open house for the brand-new Boren Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. I was en­thralled! At the advice of one of the students, I began working at a local small animal clinic, Ranchwood Veterinary Hospital. Unfortunately, veterinary school did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. The course load, combined with a full work schedule, became too much. I left school and continued to focus on my work in the clinic, where I learned that a career as a technician was just as fulfilling as that of a veterinarian.

    What made you specialize in emergency and critical care?

    My career in emergency and critical care actually started as a second job. I had left veterinary medicine to work for an insurance agency because I needed a higher-paying job with benefits, but I missed working with ­animals. When a coworker from Ranch­wood informed me that a new after-hours hospital, Animal Emergency Hospital in Oklahoma City, needed part-time technicians, I decided to apply — and I was immediately hooked. Emergency medicine was challenging, but exciting and fulfilling. The novelty and complexity of the cases, the dynamic team I was part of, and even the chaos, were addictive. Equally important, I was able to work nights and spend time with my children during the day.

    In emergency medicine, the stakes are so much higher: success is glorious, and loss is often a tragic disappointment. The only certainty in this profession is that you can never be 100% sure about anything. Yet that is why I am so intrigued by this area of medicine. I learn something new every day, and I continue to be challenged. Every success and every failure teaches a new lesson that I can later apply in hope of a better outcome.

    How do you deal with the emotions of working in emergency medicine?

    I used to think that being emotionally affected by my work and crying were signs of weakness, but now I understand the importance of these emotions. They remind me that I truly care and that I want to make a difference. I feel blessed to have a career that lets me have such intense feelings. Also, the clients really appreciate compassion and sympathy when faced with a crisis involving their pets.

    It sounds like you are inspired by challenge.

    In general, I seem to be drawn to the people who challenge me most. My favorite teachers in school were the ones everyone dreaded because of their high expectations. This probably holds true for me because my parents held very high standards and that is what I know best. I am so thankful to them for giving me the drive to always want to do better and be stronger.

    Other than your parents, have you had any mentors who helped you along your path to success?

    I have been fortunate in my career to work with many veterinarians who have each contributed to my growth and success as a veterinary technician in their own ways: Dr. Darryl Guthrie, who took the chance of hiring me with no experience; Dr. Gary Kubat, without whom I could not have achieved my specialty certification; and Dr. Michael Benham, who wholeheartedly supported my pursuit of a teaching position at Oklahoma State University. In the classroom, my greatest mentor has been Dr. Sally Henderson. Dr. Henderson taught me that it's not enough to know how things are done in a veterinary hospital; knowing why is equally important. She gave me the confidence to keep asking "why." She nurtured my interest in teaching, and she continues to help me improve my teaching skills.

    Your two jobs seem quite different. What do you get from each?

    My university job gives me the space to be creative and requires a good bit of critical thinking and problem solving. But in both jobs, I love the interaction with people. In the emergency hospital, I cherish the opportunity to talk to clients and be the patient's advocate. In the school setting, I love to help my students find their direction in life. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a student get his or her dream job and knowing that he or she will be successful.

    Tell us about your involvement in helping other technicians succeed.

    While I was in school, Dr. Henderson introduced me to the legislative process and the Veterinary Practice Act and I became very interested in lobbying for changes in the regulation of veterinary technicians. One of Dr. Henderson's phrases is, "If you're not a part of the solution, then you're part of the problem." I am very dedicated to being a part of the solution with regard to improving the conditions for licensure for veterinary technicians in Oklahoma and other states.

    Have you seen an improvement in regulations since you began lobbying?

    When I first became interested in fighting for a change in the rules and regulations for veterinary technicians, I focused on the application process for registered ­technicians. It required an applicant to have seven documents notarized, including a health certificate from a physician. I felt this was both a discriminatory and an expensive process. I attended the state board of veterinary medical examiners meeting in 1999 and argued that medical history should not dictate who can sit for the state and national board examinations. The board voted to eliminate the health form and also lowered the number of required notarized signatures to four.

    Now I am an ad-hoc member of the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) legislative committee, and I continue to attend board meetings. I find that the best recipe for change is to involve all parties. I present ideas for change to the Oklahoma Veterinary Technician Association, who then, if in agreement, presents them to the OVMA and the veterinary board. Through this process, we have changed our title from certified veterinary technician to registered veterinary technician (RVT). We have also succeeded in having RVTs added to the Good Samaritan clause in the Veterinary Practice Act so that they have the same legal protection as veterinarians in an emergency or natural disaster situation. I am now lobbying for the addition of an RVT to the veterinary board so that we are properly represented. I go to legislative and board meetings and ask, "What about technicians?" It's one way I can have a say in my future.

    What advice do you have for technicians who wish to pursue specialization?

    Believe in yourself, and find a mentor who believes in you and will keep you motivated. Also, think seriously about the time commitment and the sacrifices that will be necessary. This is not a goal that you can achieve in just 1 year, but it is worth waiting for.

    NEXT: Practical Skills: "Write? Right!"
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