July/Aug 2017, Personal/Professional Development

Passion — Never Be Afraid to Expand Your Horizons

Brenda K. FellerCVT, RVT, VTS (Anesthesia and Analgesia)

Brenda graduated from Michigan State University, one of the first veterinary technician programs in the United States. She has worked in private practice, a university anesthesia department, and specialty practices during her career. She is not only a board member at large of the Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Anesthesia and Analgesia, but also a member of the academy’s examination, preapplication, and conference committees. She is married to Doug, a retired veterinarian, with three grown children and a growing number of grandchildren! Doug and Brenda share their house with a rescue Westie mix.

Brenda is a frequent speaker at major conferences and teaches online anesthesia classes. In her spare time, she likes to rollerblade and read nonfiction.

Passion — Never Be Afraid to Expand Your Horizons
What Moves You? by Brenda Feller. Passion

Veterinary technicians are the heart of veterinary medicine. We are passionate and dedicated, and we each have a story to tell. Today’s Veterinary Nurse wants to hear yours!

What drives you? What inspires you? What moves you?

Send us your story at [email protected]

Submissions should be approximately 500 words or less and may be posted on our website or edited for publication in the journal.

Tell us your story!

When I was asked to write this column, I started to reflect on my passions in life—what they were when I was a child, and what they are today. I have been lucky enough to transform some of my early passions into my career. As a child, I loved being outside, playing with animals. You could often find me out playing with our pets, the neighbors’ pets, stray pets… I was the child who rescued stray cats and stood up for abused animals. I distinctly remember, as a girl of about 8, chasing some neighbor boys and pelting them with rocks because they were throwing rocks at a stray cat. (Over the years, I have learned better coping mechanisms when confronted with animal abuse, such as volunteering at a humane society.)

I also had a passion for learning. I still do.

Being able to turn my passion for animals into a profession is a blessing, and it was other people’s passion that allowed it to happen. People like Dr. Harold Knirk, who saw the need for formal training of veterinary technicians and spearheaded the program I attended at Michigan State University, and Dr. John Thurmon, who hired me into the anesthesia section of the University of Illinois and took me under his wing. All the veterinarians who had faith in me and pushed me to do more than I thought I could, and my husband, who always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. When others have faith in you, it truly gives you wings. I am grateful to all those in my profession who have given me that strength and allowed me to reach heights I never expected.

The road hasn’t always been easy, or even straight. Attending Michigan State was not an easy decision. It was a 6.5-hour drive from my home, in a state where I didn’t know a soul. I had to take a leap of faith and step out of my comfort zone. After graduating, I worked at a private practice. My goal was to work at a university in emergency and critical care, but a job in the anesthesia section came up first, and the human resource representative told me I should take it. Little did I know where it would lead! I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, only leaving because I married a resident and we moved.

I took several years off to raise our children (another passion of mine), but I kept up with my love of animals by volunteering at a local humane society and spay/neuter clinic and reading my husband’s veterinary journals. When I went back to work, I jumped in with both feet in the surgery department of a specialty referral clinic doing—you guessed it—anesthesia. A lot had changed, but my education served me well. (I was intimidated by the radiology automatic processor because the last time I had worked in a clinic, we hand dipped our radiographs.) I decided to conquer one new task a week.

Eventually, I went for my VTS in anesthesia. This required a lot of hard work, time, and devotion to study, but the never-ending learning curve is part of this profession. And once I had my VTS, my husband convinced me it was time to share my knowledge with others. Despite my doubts, I landed a speaking engagement at Western Veterinary Conference! This opened up an entirely new passion. While I admit I don’t care for the preparation, I love teaching others how to optimize veterinary anesthesia. I love knowing that patients will be better served when I share my knowledge with other technicians who have the same passions I have.

Why am I passionate about veterinary medicine? I have always liked the fast pace and the fact that nothing stays the same. When I was at the University of Illinois, we were doing cutting-edge medicine, but would I use those protocols today? No way! We now have superior analgesic options, and we are always finding new ways to use drugs. I am living proof you can teach an old dog new tricks.

My animals are still my passion. My husband and I usually have at least one rescue pet. (You know, that one from the clinic that no one else wants because it needs a lot of extra care.) We also now have two granddaughters. My hope is that they fearlessly follow their passions wherever that may lead them.

Who knew when I started out all those years ago that I would do anything but work in a general practice? Then, there were few veterinary technicians, but my oh my, how we have expanded our job opportunities, our continuing education choices, and our professional outlook. Being a veterinary technician is no longer a job, it is a career! I am so proud of my fellow technicians and how far we have come. As I contemplate retirement, I feel confident that the generations following me will continue to expand and improve this profession.

My takeaway message? If you follow your passions, you will never be disappointed. Never be afraid of learning and expanding your horizons. Be open to new ideas. If I had let fear determine my choices, I would never have pursued becoming a veterinary technician, worked at some amazing places, or found my husband and raised our children. We don’t all have the same passions, but if you follow yours, they will serve you well.

And pass along your passion!

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