Sunday, August 8, 2010


I would like to diverge, for a moment, from my discussion on the history of veterinary technology and discuss the concept of teamwork. What is teamwork, really, and why is it important? And, in keeping with the focus of this blog, what does it have to do with veterinary technology in the 21st century?

The following is an excerpt from the NDT Resource Center :

Teamwork is defined in Webster’s New World Dictionary as “a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group.” This does not mean that the individual is no longer important; however, it does mean that effective and efficient teamwork goes beyond individual accomplishments. The most effective teamwork is produced when all the individuals involved harmonize their contributions and work towards a common goal. (“Teamwork”, para.1)

Sometimes my students don’t understand when I harp on the concept of teamwork. Sometimes I see confusion in their eyes when they hear me tell them that just showing up is not enough. I know they drive a long way, rearrange their schedules, do their homework…I know how hard they work but more is still required. Teamwork requires a lot of heart; it requires accepting that you may not always see the results of your actions right away and it requires belief in the common goal. In reading about the history of veterinary technology it is easy to see we would not even have this profession without that kind of faith in what could be.

Where ever you see a veterinary technician you are actually seeing the hundreds of people who had a hand in getting that individual to their goal. The educators, the association members, the classmates, the family members, the mentors, the textbook authors…those who may have helped process some random piece of paperwork or somebody who bought lunch after a long day of field work. All these people, and more, worked in some way, on that person’s behalf, toward the common goal of creating a licensed technician. Each one of those people set aside their own personal needs of the day to unite with others and “harmonize their contributions”.

Being part of team is NOT the same as being a member of a group. The key to the difference lies in the ability to recognize and support a clear, common goal. Team members are unified, behave collaboratively (as opposed to individually), have high standards and support their leaders. It takes time and effort to turn a group into a team. Team members care about and support each other even when they don’t like each other. Team members do not hold themselves as superior to anyone, rather each recognizes the strengths and weaknesses present in the team and then seek to weave those strengths and weaknesses together to form a strong fabric of excellence.

So what is the common goal, the excellence that all veterinary team members should strive for? That goal is Veterinary Technology as a strong, united and proud profession which serves humanity through the care of animal populations worldwide.

I was asked recently what stimulated my interest in so many of the new career trends of the 21st century. My answer is simply this: I see nothing but possibilities for veterinary technicians. I see the possibility through shelter medicine, food safety, education, research and public health, to name just a few, that technicians can make this world a better place.

I will end by quoting one of the greatest individuals who ever graced the planet because I think that maybe Mahatma Gandhi actually defined teamwork better than anyone ever could when he urged us to “be the change we want to see in the world”.