The veterinary technology program adapts to the pandemic to guide students towards graduation

Pierce College’s veterinary technology program is one of the few classes that is still working on campus during the fall quarter. The program is using the school’s new safety plan to keep the students and staff safe. Additionally, labs were reduced down for fall quarter from the usual 20 to a total of five.

Students of the veterinary technology program are required to show their competency in mandatory essential skills that an outside accrediting body dictates. For example, some essential skills the students need to have are being able to properly administer anesthesia and correctly working with blood count.

Additionally, all instruction is online except for a few select labs where the students are brought onto campus.  

“These are the labs that absolutely require live animals or clinical equipment that the students need to have an understanding of,” Hurtado said. Salvador Hurtado has been the director of the veterinary program since 2008.

Learning these skills from a distance and without the professor’s immediate help is a challenge. Therefore, the program has been permitted a limited quantity of in-person lab sessions.

“Honestly, a lot of it is not getting enough experience before I’m let loose in the world with my degree,” said Smith. Amanda Smith is a student at Pierce College in her second year of the veterinary technology program.

Due to the limited lab time, Professor Markiva Contris has created an experience where students are sent home with teaching aids, follow-along videos, relevant assignments to help prepare for labs and other ways to practice necessary skills. There’s a large quantity of information for the students to take in with the additional at-home research they conduct.

“It’s tough. A lot of the students feel frustrated ‘cause they would like to see a lot of the things done beforehand, before we have to try it, but it feels like we’re being thrust into some stuff a lot faster, but for me, I actually like that,” Smith said.

The week before a lab, students must work through the demonstrations and lab instructions in order to be familiar with the process before completing it hands-on. This has allowed students to have more time to focus on their skills during the lab. 

To attend face-to-face class, students must fill out a questionnaire to confirm they haven’t been exposed to, and aren’t showing symptoms of, COVID-19. Hand sanitizer is provided at the front door where students and staff have their temperatures checked before continuing further into the building. Students are required to wear a face mask at all times when they’re in the building. Students wear lab coats over their scrubs along with face shields and gloves when working on the same animal with other students. 

Seating arrangements in the class are staggered and the quantity of students in each lab has decreased from the capacity of 24 to the new maximum of 12. After each class, students disinfect all surfaces and leave their lab coats and face shields in their lockers to eliminate cross-contamination. 

The veterinarian program usually has an animal colony that is cared for by students. The animals that were housed on campus before the pandemic are now being fostered by an array of students, alumni and other community members close to the program. The organization of the program has increased because scheduling animals for labs now involves the foster parent’s agenda. 

Despite the current pandemic, students must meet the unwaivable required skills before graduation in order to be able to function as veterinary technicians in a hospital.

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Eliza Myers

The veterinary technology program adapts to the pandemic to guide students towards graduation

by Eliza Myers time to read: 2 min
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