Partnerships Take Real-Life Learning to Students
By Marissa Heflin
Posted: August 2011
Charleston Veterinary Referral Center (CVRC) in Charleston, S.C., has partnered with Trident Technical College in Monchs Corner to offer on-site training to the school’s veterinary technology students. The aim is to help increase the students’ knowledge base in a real-life setting.
“Our teaming up with CVRC has afforded us teaching opportunities that we could not duplicate in the classroom or lab setting,” said Paul Kerwin, DVM, program coordinator for the Trident Technical College’s veterinary technology program. “The exposure to real-life cases and technologies not available at the school will prove invaluable.”
Alan Green, DVM, founder and chief of staff of CVRC, said he got the idea even before the center opened its doors earlier this year. Dr. Green had previously practiced in New York and later was one of the original founders of BrightHeart Veterinary Centers. One of the things he didn’t get to do in New York was incorporate a learning center, something he wanted this new hospital to have, he said.
Green describes CVRC as a three-legged stool: great medical/patient care, client service and education. Partnering with Trident Technical College is just one component of the education leg, he said.
Green has always been a big proponent of veterinary technicians and licensure, he said, considering them “our unsung heroes.”
“There’s been an evolution of thought in using trained veterinary technicians to their full capacity,” Green said. “I remember in the early and mid 90s in New York a paradigm shift as far as understanding how much better a doctor you can be with a great technician by your side.
“We didn’t always think like that as veterinarians,” he continued. “My sense was that there was a lot of updating in this area that could take place.”
Trident Technical College is a wonderful setting for learning, Green said, but it lacked a place for the students to have additional education.
“What was lacking was a place to really see what a veterinary technician can be if he or she wants to be,” he said.
A real-life setting can give students the full vision of what they can go into, whether it is specializing in critical care, surgery or other branch in veterinary medicine, Green added.
Students enrolled in the program participate in an eight-week session where they spend four hours a week at CVRC working with specialists on the various topics they are studying.
The program’s first topic was radiology. Students were trained at the school to use digital radiography, MRI, CT and ultrasound. They then went to CVRC to see how such processes worked as applied to local SPCA animals in need of care.
The services were donated to these animals as a way to provide them the critical care they needed as well as a way for students to see the imaging process firsthand, Green said.
Exposing the students to a real-life setting takes some of the drudgery out of school; it’s not just about textbooks, Green said. It puts them in an exciting, vibrant setting, stimulating the desire to learn even more, he added.
“My hope is that it is a supplement to education but also a psychological boost to giving students the idea of what they can do if they achieve great things and the type of places they can work when they work hard at becoming the best they can possibly be,” he said.
Overall, the partnership is a win-win for everyone, Green said. It helps the local SPCA, it helps create great technicians for the community, it enhances an already successful college vet tech program and it gives CVRC an opportunity to be a leader in education.
“I believe it is the job of the opinion leaders in whatever area you are in, i.e., the specialty practices, to lead the charge as far as education goes,” Green said. “I think that is one of responsibilities that people don’t talk about. But who better to lead the charge?”
In related news, Platt College in Southern California has partnered with VCA Animal Hospitals to offer an Associate of Science program in veterinary technology.
The program, which was launched at the college’s Alhambra campus in July, begins with core classroom coursework and culminates with a clinical externship. The college plans to open the program at its Ontario campus later this year.
“We are pleased to add veterinary technology to Platt College’s School of Medical Sciences offerings in health care leadership, respiratory therapy, diagnostic medical sonography, medical assisting and medical administration,” said David Liss, RVT, VTS (ECC), program director at Platt College’s Alhambra campus. “We believe that the need for a quality veterinary technician training program is particularly strong in the greater Los Angeles area, where there are relatively few schools currently offering training in this area.”
The 18-month program includes in-depth training in all skills required for the California State Registered Veterinary Technician examination, such as veterinary nursing procedures and veterinary terminology.
Students are also familiarized with the fundamentals of business economics to better understand the business decisions, tradeoffs and considerations involved in the operation and management of a veterinary practice. In addition, students work to learn and refine their client communication and service skills.
The 15-week clinical externship is designed to give students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have gained in the classroom in off-campus clinical settings. Students will be placed at one of VCA’s network of more than 50 local Southern California facilities for this part of the education.
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