I grew up with love for animals, just like everyone else who enters the field of veterinary medicine. I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to be a veterinarian because it seemed like a lot of school with a lot of hard work. I went to university to get the pre-requisites and learned a lot along the way. I was sure that once I had my Bachelor of Science, I would find a job that I loved or that I would know exactly what I wanted to continue going to school for, but for me, that was not the case. Instead, I worked for a year walking dogs, and then I got a job in a veterinary clinic as a kennel attendant. Kennel attendants are primarily responsible for cleaning the clinic. They walk dogs sometimes and occasionally, get to be more involved with the animals. I was lucky in that I was at a really big clinic so, in addition to cleaning, I got a lot of hands-on experience with the animals. I decided to apply to technician school, and I had the choice between Olds College and NAIT. Every school has its pros and cons, and I was having trouble making a decision, but then my husband was accepted at NAIT, so that decided for me.
Starting out at NAIT was very exciting and very scary at the same time. Most of my classmates were not fresh out of high school, so there was a wide range of experiences, though we were all mostly in the same boat. The first year in the program is mostly spent in the classroom learning all the theory, so every chance we got to work with animals was very exciting! NAIT has a clinic on campus that serves the pets of the staff and the students at a reduced rate, so there were always new dogs and cats coming in for various procedures. For all the large animal experience, we had to go off campus, so we travelled to ranches outside the city and to the University of Alberta dairy farm. In the second year, we started spending more time in the clinic and out doing large animal procedures and less time in the classroom – thank goodness! The second year of the program was much easier because most of the work was hands-on and the exams were practical instead of written. I was also one of the lucky ones because I worked a job at a veterinary clinic in the summer between first and second year. This experience was invaluable in solidifying the first year.
Once the second year was over, we all dispersed to our various practicum sites. We had to complete a 6-week unpaid practicum, either at a clinic, or a specialty practice. I chose to complete my practicum at the U of A, working in animal research! This was a very exciting opportunity and gave me a rare glimpse into the world of research. It was not the place for me though, despite their high professional standards, I was just not interested. Instead, once I finished the practicum, I took a job at the same clinic I had been at previously. During this time, I also completed Registration Day, which is arranged by the ABVMA to ensure everyone is on the same page about professional standards. I also had to write the Veterinary Technician National Exam, which is a very long written exam and is graded either pass or fail. Finally, after all of this, I was a registered veterinary technologist! To maintain this registration, I need to work a certain number of hours in a veterinary clinic every year, gain a certain number of continuing education credits and pay annual registration dues. It is all worth it to be able to provide a high standard of care for the patients I get to care for every day!
Written by Amy Field RVT