Meet the Veterinary Teaching Hospital Team: Shelley Ensign

Shelley Ensign getting a blood sample.

Shelley Ensign has been providing the highest levels of care to clients and their pets at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital for nearly two decades. After spending roughly 16 years in our Anesthesia department, she has served in our Small Animal Internal Medicine service for the past year and a half. In addition to being a licensed veterinary technician, Shelley was the first technician in the state of Washington to become a certified veterinary pain practitioner (CVPP) and was even a co-author of a book on anesthesia and pain management.

Outside of work, Shelley is the primary caregiver for her nephew, three Shih Tzus, a Siamese cat, and nine chickens.

What is your typical day like at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital?

I start at 7:30 a.m. and the first thing I do is write all appointments on our board and try to figure out what imaging they will need and schedule it for the residents. The students will bring me any overnight emergency cardiovascular care medicine patients and transfer patients, and I will help them do physicals and any blood draws that are needed. Appointments start after student rounds and for the next several hours I help with physicals and blood draws; and teach procedures. Because of my anesthesia background, I go along with the students to help with sedated patients that need CTs. I set up for endoscopies and direct the students on how to help with biopsies. Throughout the day I’m cleaning, stocking and putting in charges.

What made you want to work in veterinary medicine and at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital?

While I enjoyed working in private practice, I always knew I wanted to do something more and was especially interested in pain management. When I had the chance to apply for the anesthesia position, I went for it and was hired. I spent the next 16 years learning many things and pursuing my CVPP. I decided about a year and a half ago to think about a change, as the hours in anesthesia were long and required us to be on call. So, I made the hard decision to change services. It was scary to do something so different after so many years, but it is also exciting. The service has been so great and embraced me and I have learned so much from these brilliant doctors. Who said an old dog can’t learn new tricks?

What is your favorite thing about your job?

My favorite thing about this job is helping our patients and teaching students. I feel pride if in a small way I can help our students become better doctors. We are teaching them the gold standard of medicine and I feel we need to keep elevating that aspect so our students go out and give the best care to their patients.

Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?

My career goals are different from most as I’m getting close to retirement. Even though I could legally retire now, I just can’t seem to give up coming here each day. When I do retire, I’m planning on moving to one of the Caribbean Islands – I’m a beach girl at heart and love nothing more than a good snorkel and eating fresh fruit on the beach.

What do you like to do outside of work?

After work, I mostly help my nephew be the best person he can be. He has a lot of activities that require a large commitment from me. As a family, we do a lot of service and volunteering for our little community. I also like to read, hike, swim, kayak and cook.

What advice would you give to pet owners?

My advice to pet owners would be to be an advocate for your pets. With the growing cost of pet care like everything else, pet insurance is not a bad thing if you can afford it – it helps to not make that decision whether you can afford care or not. But I’m also a believer that quality of life is better than quantity, so don’t feel bad if you have to make tough decisions.