I was born in Kansas, but grew up in Colorado Springs. I grew up around horses, learning to ride, compete, and care for these beautiful animals from my dad. He grew up on a farm and, for a while during my childhood, had a horse training business working with quarter horses and paints. At age five, my parents gave me my first dog, Lady, an Australian shepherd who was a major part of my life until my 16th birthday. Since animals were a daily part of my life, it was natural that by age eight I had decided I wanted to become an equine veterinarian.
That singular focus lasted until my second year at Dodge City Community College, in Kansas, where I had enrolled to complete my pre-vet requirements before applying to Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. I began to understand that an equine veterinarian is pretty much on- call 24/7, and I wanted a more predictable schedule that included a family. Furthermore, through volunteering at several private practices, I saw that veterinary nurses perform most of the hands-on care with animal patients, and that was what I wanted to do. With my new career focus, I enrolled in the highly rated veterinary technician program at Colby Community College in Colby, Kansas, graduating two years later with a job offer in hand from the clinic where I had done my nursing internship.
I spent five years with this small animal clinic in Colorado Springs before joining a mobile veterinary surgeon, specializing in orthopaedic surgery, but who also did soft-tissue and oncology surgeries. I really enjoyed the duties of a surgical technician, handling pre-operative care, administering anesthesia and monitoring vital functions during the procedure and confirming a smooth recovery for all patients.
A lifestyle change took me to Indiana, where I joined a specialty emergency clinic in Indianapolis and later a small animal clinic in Lafayette, where I worked for four years before returning to Colorado. I had missed the outdoors lifestyle, the sunshine and the unique culture and environment of the West. When I returned, I joined the staff in the critical care unit at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University.
Critical care—which is different from emergency medicine—requires in-depth nursing skills. These cases are referred to the critical care unit because they are complex and require constant monitoring. In this unit, I worked alongside some knowledgeable and highly skilled clinicians and technicians who also make time to instruct students and share their insights. Critical care work is very demanding, both physically and psychologically. After five years in the CCU, when I learned of an opportunity in radiation oncology, I was ready for a new challenge.
In my new role as a radiation oncology technician, my primary responsibility is managing the anesthetic induction, recovery and nursing care for canine and feline patients undergoing radiation treatment for a variety of cancer diagnoses. Each radiation therapy treatment requires general anesthesia to ensure that the animal patient remains in the proper position throughout treatment. I administer anesthesia, monitor vital functions such as heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure and respiratory functions as well as carefully tracking anesthetic depth and concentrations of anesthetic gases administered while patients receive treatment. Post-treatment, I ensure a smooth recovery so the patient can rejoin their owners as soon as possible to spend more quality time together.
I believe the best part of my job is helping animals who are unable to advocate for themselves. A veterinary nurse must to be attuned to their patients’ needs. It is my job to make their hospital experience as least stressful as possible while receiving the treatment they need.
I understand the emotional chaos a client and patient can experience because I have been a client myself. My 9-year-old Labrador retriever was diagnosed with late-stage osteosarcoma a few years ago and we worked with the FACC oncology team to determine options and how best to move forward while still maintaining a good quality of life for my dog. I keep that experience in mind every day while working with my patients.
When not working, I enjoy spending time with my 13-year-old German short-hair pointer, Austin; jogging or honing my indoor rock-climbing skills. I am always seeking new adventures to embark upon.