Taking care of Fido requires real training

Submitted on January 04, 2010 at 9:57 AM

Berlin is being a good girl as the vet wraps her paw in a bandage and tape. Luckily, there is no injury here. The six month-old dog is a helpful assistant in a Volunteer State Community College class. The students look on as the vet shows them the proper way to finish the bandaging. Then it's their turn. It's part of a lab session in the new Animal Care Technology program at Vol State.

"I've always been drawn to animals," said student Janet Chambers of Hartsville. "I've been out of work for two years. This caught my eye and I thought - I can get a job with that."

The demand is strong for licensed Veterinary Technicians. "There's a huge need," said Veterinarian and Vol State instructor Dr. Mary Ergen. "I would love to have four licensed technicians at my practice. I'd hire them if I could get them."

Vol State offers a one-year certificate program. The college is applying for approval to offer a two-year associate's degree for veterinary technicians. The current certificate classes are expected to carry over to the degree program. Students gain a science background that builds a foundation of knowledge about biology and anatomy. Needless to say it's the hands-on work with animals that they seem to enjoy the most.

"They just need someone to speak for them," said student Tammy Costa of Greenbrier. "I've been around animals my whole life. I love them all- exotic and fuzzy. This program has opened us up to all the different things we can do with animals."

"This is a skill based occupation that requires hands on experience," said Dr. Doug Shaw, the director of the Vol State program. "We also help students build the knowledge they need for the board exams. The students need a license to get jobs, and they have to pass those state and national exams."

In addition to Dr. Shaw and Dr. Ergen, Dr. Elinor Grubbs will also be teaching courses. She started her career as a vet tech student and continued her education to become a practicing veterinarian.

Once licensed, vet techs can get additional training to specialize in areas like oncology, critical care, dentistry and zoo keeping.

"It's rewarding when you take a sick animal and make them better," Dr. Ergen said. "But they're not going to come to me and ask for help. We have to have the skills to help them."

For more information about the Animal Care certificate program at Vol State visit www.volstate.edu/AnimalCare or call 615-230-3261.

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