Meet a Relief Tech, Alyssa Mages

So you’re looking for a rock band. Wait, no, a painter? Synchronized swim coach?

No? My bad.

How about a technician who can not only mentor and encourage your team, but can do so in conversational Spanish, French, and German?

Pennsylvania and New Jersey likely already know her. How about you?

Meet Alyssa Mages.

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Everyone has a story – what’s yours? What inspired you to become a technician/nurse?

​Like one of my fave songs, mine is definitely a long & winding road! I initially set out as a marine biologist and pivoted to veterinary medicine in 2004. After multiple volunteer positions – kennel, reception, assistant – I happily became a scrub nurse/assistant in a specialty/ER hospital in Vancouver, BC. I loved it so much that I applied to vet school, got in…and didn’t go, as I found out I was going to be a mom! Fast forward to 2012, and I finished my AS in Veterinary Technology and obtained my CVT. I was working full-time throughout school, added a second kid to the crew, and pivoted once more into education as an adjunct professor for a few years, and, yet again, swiveled into a leadership role focusing on education and development.

My inspiration? Being the voice for the voiceless. This initially encompassed my patients but has now grown to envelope my teammates and co-workers. This led to the establishment and launch of Empowering Veterinary Teams, LLC in 2019​.

What roles have you held outside of this industry?

I was a synchronized swimmer for 20 years as well as a coach – I love this sport and the athletes within it! I’m a mom to two spectacular humans, a 13 year old daughter and 8 year old son, and two furbabies, a 2 year old Cane Corso who is blind and 13 year old DSH who is cranktastic!

Keeping it PG, what is your favorite relief job story?

One of my most memorable veterinary stories had to be my first abscess experience. A German Shepherd Dog came in with an anal gland abscess.  At the time, I was so new that EVERYTHING was fascinating. I was keen to learn and was pretty much always asking questions. I was mid-ask when the abscess ruptured – a direct shot into my open mouth. Instant vomit. Lesson learned: when dealing with abscesses, especially anywhere near the hind end, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!

How do you feel that relief practice supports the veterinary profession as a whole?

It allows the team to utilize their paid time off, to take a break, and to come back stronger. Relief work also allows you to gain insight and knowledge from every practice you work with.

What are your favorite things about being a relief tech/nurse?

The medicine: I love the science.  The patients: Being their advocate, their voice, and providing them medical care and physical comfort. The teams: Being a part of the experience, witnessing and having aha moments.

Techs/nurses are known for their “Mary Poppins pockets” that seem to contain the world. What supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job?

stethoscope, bandage scissors, mini-hemostats, pens, nerd book

What are your least favorite things about being a relief tech/nurse?

Seeing that team members are burning out and wearing down.

Have you picked up any unique practice tips? These could be related to medicine, workflow, practice organization, or anything really.

Absolutely, how much time/space do I have? 😉 The biggest takeaway that I want every single member of a veterinary team to know is that they aren’t ‘just’ anything. Own your awesome and know that you are an integral part of the team. The other takeaway would be to make training an essential part of the practice – clinical and human skills should not be a side thought. A robust, thorough, and standardized approach that covers a new team member from onboarding through growth and development can prove beneficial.

What advice would you give new relief techs/nurses? (Alternatively, what advice would you give someone who is thinking about being a relief tech/nurse?)

Speak up, early and often. No one will be a better advocate for yourself than you will be. If you are considering being a relief tech/nurse, make sure that you allocate enough ‘you’ time, don’t overreach yourself.

How has the global pandemic affected your relief work?

We had to pivot from in-person training to virtual/distance models, which, amazingly and luckily, has really worked.  I cannot wait to get back out on the ground with the veterinary teams, though!

What states do you currently work within? Any other states in your sights?

I am primarily in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but we have clients throughout Canada and the US.

Aside from English, what language(s) do you speak?

Conversationally, and very minimally, Spanish, French and German. Basically, I can greet someone, ask them how they’re doing, ask for directions, and say please/thank you. I need to take the time to do improve my language skills and would love to learn ASL.

What are your hobbies/passions outside of work?

I love to get out in nature – hike, camp, paddleboard, canoe, swim – and if that involves hanging with friends and family all the better!  I am an amateur painter, as well as a singer in a local rock band.

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To learn more about or contact Alyssa Mages, click here.

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