Deneen Cordell, clinical coordinator of the veterinary interdisciplinary pain service at the Small Animal Clinic in the College of Veterinary Medicine, said that pain management is her passion. “It’s very rewarding to be able to address an animal’s pain and make sure they aren’t suffering,” Cordell said. Cordell also enjoys sharing her knowledge with veterinarians and veterinary technicians and has taught continuing education workshops on pain management in Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla., and several cities in Illinois. After earning an associate of applied science degree in veterinary technology from Parkland College, Cordell worked at small-animal practices in Sullivan and Mattoon for several years before she joined the university’s staff nine years ago.
What prompted you to go into veterinary technology?
I’ve always been an animal lover. When I was in kindergarten, I wrote a little essay and drew a picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up, which was a veterinarian. But I wasn’t cut out for the lengthy education, so my guidance counselor prompted me to look into veterinary technology, and it was just perfect for me.
I work in the clinical setting in the small-animal anesthesia and pain-management section. I assist students in working up cases under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, figuring out drug protocols and helping students do the clinical work of inducing animals under anesthesia and maintaining them safely.
Veterinary technicians in pain management are the patients’ advocates, much like the nurses in human medicine. Our job is to help educate the students on pain management so that when they go out into practice they have the latest ideas and techniques.
What animals do you have for patients?
We have mostly cats and dogs. Occasionally we get a lion or tiger and a few other exotics like birds or primates.
Do you use other pain-management protocols besides drugs?
We have a rehabilitation facility that has a water treadmill that not only builds the muscles and helps the patient be more mobile, it also addresses some of the pain. We also have a veterinarian anesthesiologist who performs acupuncture.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
One of the big challenges of my job is that our patients don’t communicate verbally, so we don’t know what they’re feeling. We don’t know if they’re in pain or they’re scared. We have to imagine how we’d feel if we were in the animal’s situation.
We also have to work with a lot of different clinical sections: dentistry, internal medicine, orthopedic surgery and soft-tissue surgery. We do CT scans and MRIs, so we’re spread out all over the hospital. Each night, each section turns in a list of the procedures for which they’ll need anesthesia and we five technicians arrange to cover everybody. Technicians usually follow a student, get the animal under anesthesia and then supervise what’s going on and answer the student’s questions. We are under the supervision of an anesthesiologist in the building, so they can be called if we need help.
Do you have a favorite species of patient?
Dogs are my favorite: big, bounding, fun Labrador Retrievers. I also like the little toy breeds. If I see one, I have to carry it around part of the day.
Do you have animals yourself?
Yes, I have a Chihuahua at home named Cabo.
What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not working?
I have two kids and they keep me pretty busy. My daughters are ages 12 and 10. I like to collect antiques and go shopping for architectural primitives: shutters, window frames, posts, old stools and chairs. I don’t like to refinish them; I like them to look beat-up.