030: What If Vet School Isn't For Me? A Vet Tech's Journey w/ Elizabeth Downing


For many of us, we know we want a career working with animals, but vet school isn’t always a fit. Today, Elizabeth Downing shares her story of finding an alternative path into the industry as a veterinary technician rather than attending vet school.

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Show Notes: 

Elizabeth is a certified vet tech, has worked at varying levels of the industry including at the University level, private practice and the ER. After deciding vet school wasn't the right choice for her, she enrolled in veterinary technician school and has never looked back. Elizabeth has made a successful career of being a veterinary nurse and has found passion and longevity in the field, especially when dealing with anesthetics.

Elizabeth dives deep into what factors aided her decision in leaving veterinary school, the differences between the two curriculums, and how to get through high-pressure scenarios when on the floor dealing with anesthesia. Elizabeth advocates for getting your hands dirty, learning by practicing and her tips on how to be a better nurse and technician. She preaches the importance of having a support system, why you need to constantly communicate with your doctor, and ways you can step up your physical exams.

If you aren’t sure about it taking the step towards a career as a vet technician is right for you, are looking for ways to create a supportive nurse to nurse, or nurse to doctor relationship in your veterinary culture, or are just looking for an honest and open discussion about the highs and lows of the veterinary career, Elizabeth is here to make sure you know you are not alone!

In this episode:

  • The differences between veterinary school and tech school
  • How to get a calm Zen-like state during anesthesia
  • Why you need to ‘know your normals’
  • Elizabeth’s tips and suggestions for current and aspiring technicians
  • What makes a good ER nurse and vet technician
  • The secret to finding longevity as a veterinary nurse


“I just really appreciated how we can take care of animals as well as taking care of people. And animals tend to forgive a lot better.” (5:33)

“I like to get my hands dirty. I’m not one that likes to sit at a desk and write down a lot of things, I like to be the one digging my hands in the animal. Giving them hugs, giving them what they need. So being a technician fit that perfectly cause I could get my hands dirty and then I can go home, and I'm good.” (6:31)

“If I can learn one thing every day, one thing new or relearn one thing and add to my knowledge base, it's a good day. If I screwed up, if I can learn from that and learn one thing new from that, it's a good day.” (17:03)

“I imagine if you get four anesthesia nurses in a room and you could have four right ways to do something… knowing the drugs, knowing what they do, knowing what's good and what's bad. Because there is no perfect anesthetic drug, they all have their pros and their cons.” (39:38)

“I think I fell into something that I just really love to do and love continuing to learn about… And even now I still try and learn something new. And there are so many areas in veterinary medicine that I still don't know very much about and I want to learn a little bit more. Or I want to gain or become better at what I do, within the boundaries of still enjoying my family and still enjoying my life.” (55:52)



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