Stories By DALE VILLEBURN OLD COYOTE
Caretakers gather their tools, carefully monitoring the vitals of the unconscious patient on the examination table. They spread the patient’s jaws open and a procedure begins.
Fitz, a 3-year-old Queensland Heeler mix, is undergoing a dental checkup at Pima Community College’s East Campus veterinary center. It’s a non-invasive procedure that, thanks to sedation, he likely won’t remember.
Even though he’s sleeping, Fitz is playing a vital role in the education of PCC veterinary students as they experience what it’s like to perform a procedure on a live animal.
“It’s a great program,” veterinary technician, Luz Arriaga, said. “I am already working in a clinic, so I know it really prepares you for everything you actually do.”
PCC offers two options for students with a desire to join animal health fields. The first is a 16-week introductory course to the field that is open to anyone and provides a certificate upon completion.
There is currently no national certification for that program.
The second option is a two-year veterinary nurse or technician program.
It follows similar course requirements to other health care programs, according to program director Dr. Timothy Krone.
Benefits of the two-year program include receiving an associate degree of applied science and being qualified to take a test to receive national and state certification to practice as a veterinary nurse or technician.
Students who undertake the two-year program should be prepared to dedicate themselves fully to their goal. Classes can be more than three hours long as often as four times a week.
On top of their studies, students are also responsible for the wellbeing of animals who are in the care of PCC.
Veterinary students interviewed said the program is difficult but worthwhile.
The intensity of their studies leads most students to trust in their classmates for support.
Many consider the in-class breaks as their favorite times. They appreciate the chance to breathe easy and bond with their equally exhausted companions.
“Our completion rate is probably around 60 percent,” Krone said. That completion rate is considered high for a technical field.
A study by the National Center of Educational Statistics found that 69 percent of students pursuing a two-year associate degree either leave higher education or switch majors.
PCC does not offer a transfer program for students seeking a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine.
Interested students need to enroll in a university program.
Animals used in the East Campus veterinary program come from Pinal County Animal Control in Coolidge.
PCC follows strict federal oversight for selecting and caring for the animals in their charge.
“Chronic conditions are more difficult from the standpoint of making sure that there be adequate continuity of daily treatments as well as adoption afterwards,” Krone said.
Veterinarians perform a health assessment on each animal to determine preexisting conditions and whether they can be treated.
Animals up for adoption at the end of the semester have been screened for diseases, and have had the necessary treatments.
In addition to being healthy, all of the animals within the care of PCC are socialized and comfortable with people.
That means anyone thinking of adopting one of the dogs or cats looking for homes can rest assured that they’ll be bringing home a happy, healthy friend.
Furry friend needs family
Pima Community College is looking for a responsible caretaker to take in Amelia, a 2-yearold Catahoula, at the end of this semester. Amelia has been offering her services in the instruction of East Campus’ veterinary students.
Amelia is current on her shots and comfortable around people.
Adoption costs $35 for licensing and microchip activation. There is a pre-adoption screening process to ensure that you and your new friend will be happy together.
Any interested individuals should call Joyce at 206-7877 to start the adoption process.
Veterinary Assistants: By the numbers
Average salary of a veterinary assistant in 2014
Percentage of expected job growth from 2014-2024
Number of jobs to be added by 2024
Number of existing jobs in 2015
Average hourly rate with no prior experience
Salary with three years of experience
Salary with 5-10 years of experience
Salary with over 20 years of experience
Average hours worked by a full-time veterinary nurse
Percentage of workforce comprised of 25-34 year olds
Percentage of the workforce comprised of women