The Summer Veterinary Technician Internship

The summer Veterinary Technician Internship was the highlight of each student’s training. I had finished my first year of studies and was eager to embark on a summer of learning my trade. A summer filled with critters galore and I was to be in the center of it all. Pure heaven!

Developing my skills as a Veterinary Technician was a priority as graduation from the MATC Veterinary Technician program was less than a year away. Having this experience would make me very marketable. At summers end I would have gained a world of knowledge and skill in using it.

Here is where the fun begins

Photo Credit: Skeez pixabay

Earlier in the year I had contacted the Columbus Countryside Veterinary Clinic and asked if they would agree to take me on as a Veterinary Technician intern in the coming summer. Dr. Gerber agreed to me interning with him and his staff. We set a start date and the clock began to tick down.

I remember vividly that morning I left for the first day of my internship. It was a mix of a nervous tummy and super excitement- all a recipe for throwing up. But, I got into my Ford Pony Escort (I always wanted a horse, but this was the closest I got!) and headed down the road, praying I wouldn’t vomit all over myself. What an introduction that would have been. Me with vomit clinging to the front of my shirt and pants. “Hi, I’m Michele. I am here for my summer Veterinary Technician Internship. Don’t mind the vomit on the front of my clothes. That’s just excitement.”

You don’t have to be crazy to work here…

As I entered the clinic the receptionist Diane smiled and welcomed me. The smell of vitamins, dog food and rubbing alcohol greeted me as well. It wasn’t a bad smell but it was unique and I grew used to it.

I was given the usual tour. Here is the bathroom, the lunchroom, the exam rooms, and doctor’s offices. Put your stuff here, hang your coat there and let’s get you over to Kris our Veterinary Technician. This was not my first time meeting Kris. I had stopped in at the clinic during early spring to confirm my summer internship and to scope out if that had any Veterinary Technicians on staff- sometimes when they have no technician the intern is a shoo-in! RATS! They have one already. Oh well.

The new best friend

Photo Credit” Cally L pixabay

Since I was the summer Veterinary Technician intern, I was going to be everyone’s best friend. A whole list of duties awaited me from exam room upkeep to front desk reception and kennel chores. Introductions to the staff were next. Dr. Hensler’s (I say “s” cause they were a husband-wife team) and once again Dr. Gerber. Next, I got a pair of farm overalls ( snicker, I used to think it was overhauls…ha!) and boot covers.

Dr. Gerber told me to “suit up” and we got into his Ford truck and were off. As the morning went on I got braver in conversation. I asked more questions (I love “why?”) and began to learn the in’s and out’s of Veterinary medicine. I had taken my skills requirement sheet along and we discussed all the skills I needed to learn and participate in by the end of the internship (I think I needed 600 hours in, which would take about 3 months).  At the end of the program, everyone in the clinic would be given a critique sheet which they would fill out rating my skills and participation during the internship.

Over hill over dale

In a large animal practice, in the middle of America’s dairyland, you get to see a lot of beautiful countryside as well as some historic barns. One of my favorite farms was a barn that had two flights of stairs. The first flight of stairs went down to the milk house and then the second flight of stairs led down to the main floor with milking stanchions. The first time I walked down into the milking floor I was surprised by the high ceilings. It was very bright as the windows were large and gave lots of light. Very open and airy. I want to say the barn was over 100 years old, but I saw a lot of old barns with great history so I can’t really be sure.

Part of a good client relationship is a mix of teasing and honest friendly conversation. I was Dr. Gerber’s helper and I witnessed how important good relationships made for good clients and happy animals. We saw lots of cows that summer along with horses, beef cattle, llamas, sheep and loads of dogs and cats and the occasional exotic animal.

Learning my trade

Photo Credit: Jan-Mallander pixabay

If one was shy about animals using the bathroom, this is not the profession for you. I got peed on pooped on, slapped in the face with urine-soaked cow tails, scratched and bit. Along with pushed, squeezed and an occasional stomp, but it was all worth it.

While watching my first surgery I nearly passed out. The smell of the warm room mingling with blood and rubbing alcohol was a bit too much. Dr. Gerber and Kristen recognized the familiar white-faced glassy-eyed look, so Kristen quickly got me a chair and had me sit in the corner and watch. Once I got used to the smell I asked to stand closer and watch.  In time the smell no longer bothered me and I began to participate as a technician in the surgeries.

Radiographs were always work getting your patient to cooperate with the position, but interesting to see what was inside. Running laboratory service for urine, feces or milk cultures along with blood counts/tests was fascinating as well.  I enjoyed microbiology the most.  It was fun to grow out cultures and then figure out what type of bacteria they are.

C-sections were fun but equally as intense. Every dog breeder wants healthy pups, so as soon as they come out, you quickly dry them and carefully “swing” them to drive the fluid from their lungs. Like babies first cry, we all loved to hear puppies’ first cry, especially the owner.

A disappearing essential life tool

Learning to work is an important step in becoming an adult. I learned that the quality of work you do is a reflection of you. Honoring those older and wiser is to your advantage- they have a lot of wisdom to impart. Generally speaking, they are people on the way back from where you are headed.  Listening and obedience are essential.

Navigating personalities was also a newfound skill. What one doctor liked, the other did not. Reception liked you to file this way, doctors liked your notes to be written that way. It was all a part of learning how to be a technician and growing up.

Animals are God’s gift to us and we are to care for them kindly and lovingly. I like to think of our pets as ministers. They are there supporting us with there presence, a blood pressure-lowering pet or a nice healthy walk outside. Truly a gift to be treasured.

The summer Veterinary Technician internship was educational as well as developmental. It did lead to a job cleaning kennels and assisting where needed at the clinic. Kristin offered to sublet me a room for my last year in Veterinary Technician school. Kristen became one of my best friends and technician mentor- not to mention she pitied me and fed me protein when I could only afford pancake mix.

That was then, this is now

I went on to finish the Veterinary Technician School and take my State Board Exam. I passed and became a Certified Veterinary Technician and worked a year for Dr. Gerber. But today I find myself writing and stocking shelves at the Edgerton Food Center.

Life has an interesting road to travel with lots of twists and turns. My education was never wasted. I am able to care for and treat my own animals, and I have fun doing it. What we start out doing early in our adult life isn’t necessarily what we finish doing. It’s good to be flexible and learn new skills. It makes life interesting and keeps you engaged in life and learning!

The Day I Ate Dog Food

Most of you don’t know, but I went to school for Veterinary Technician. I attended MATC in Madison, WI. After graduating from the program, I took my state certification test and became a Certified Veterinary Technician. As part of one of our courses, we studied a section on animal nutrition. Professor Kaye invited a Hill’s Science Diet Nutritionist to come and give us a lecture on animal nutrition.  Following the lecture, there would be samples for us to try. It was the day I ate dog food.

Samples? Did she just say samples?

Yes, I heard that right, because the rest of the girls in the class were looking around to see if that word “sample” was registering with anyone else. We were all going to have to eat dog food. Oh my! Professor Kaye nodded to the class. It was if she was reassuring us that yes- yes there would be samples to give to you poor and hungry college students. My brain was stuck in a loop of asking and re-asking “Are we really going to eat dog food?” “Are we really going to eat dog food?” “Are we really going to eat dog food?”

I’ve got a bone to pick with you

I ate dog foodSometimes when one is dreading an event, one tends to place it far from their consciousness. And then when you can no longer consciously put it out of your mind, it happens. The dreaded event arrives and you are stuck dealing with reality. We filed into the lecture hall silently. There was a “green around the gills” look on just about everyone’s face. Of course, you had your “tougher- than nails- show- boaters” who relished the thought of the bragging rights to having eaten dog food, but I was not one of those. No sir! The lecture was interesting and the speaker was entertaining. I was feverishly taking notes and trying to think of an intelligent question to ask, as it was part of my grade for participating. With my question formulated I listened on. Hill’s Science Diet was no fool. We were putty in their hands. All of us were ready to graduate and go out into practices throughout the state. What easier way to influence veterinary practices than to have armed burgeoning new technicians with their wonderful information! Genius move on Hill’s Science Diet part! -Side note- I really like Hill’s Science Diet. It’s a great product and I have used it on all my pets!

What you talkin’ about Willis?

I could tell the lecture was winding down because the speaker began to reach into bags on the table and slowly set out cans of dog and cat food as well as lecture on dog foodsmall bags of kibble. I swallowed hard… here it comes, the moment of truth.  The speaker smiled as she opened bags and cans. Setting out her display like a smorgasbord. Professor Kaye with all grace and decorum stepped up to the line and carefully chose the items for her plate. With a smile, she turned around and gestured to the students. It was now our turn to come through the line.

Every which way but loose

It is a well-known fact that women use bathrooms in groups. So I decided that we would apply this to today’s adventure. That way if I need assistance getting to the bathroom I was well prepared. Like the benediction at church, somberly my table rose, said our personal prayers and headed for the table. Single file each of us grabbed a plate and a napkin. I smiled at the speaker and quickly scanned the table looking for something, ANYTHING that looked remotely edible. There. Dog biscuits. What luck! I quickly grabbed one and set it on my plate. Hmm. Now, what else should I choose? Then it hit my nose, the smell of Sunday dinner. Where was that coming from? I carefully sniffed around the table and found a can of Canine c/d. Ok, well… here we go, and I took a small scoop. Finished! I had my two items.

Dog-gone good

We all sat down and stared blankly at our plates. Who was going to go first? With a shrug, the gal next to me picked up an item and took a bite. We all held our breath. “Well?” said someone. “It’s not bad.” was the reply. That was all the courage I needed.  I grab my dog biscuit and took a bite. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Hmm. Well… it has a beefy flavor. A little grainy. I can taste milk, maybe? Okay, now for a scoop of canned dog food. Smells good,open wide Michele. Eww, it’s cold. A silent moment of deciding if this is going to go down or will it be going out? Just then my tongue found a piece of rice and I could detect a chicken flavor. Not so bad. A little more chewing and a swallow. It was done. My tongue was dry and so was my mouth. With no complimentary bowls of water to lap at the table, I was now wishing I could have a strawberry margarita. That would be refreshing.

Making the grade

Closing the lecture event we handed in our questions to Professor Kaye and were dismissed. I made my way through the college campus and exited to the parking lot. I chuckled to myself. Maybe I will turn into a Golden Retriever.  Then I could hand my head out the window and bark at bad drivers on highway 151. When I get back to my apartment I sure hope my roommate will give me a good scratch and some extra kibble.  I was a good girl today. I ate dog food. Michele