Anderson Oconee Pickens
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Tri-County’s Veterinary Technology Program Expands with Evening Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 4/24/2007
PENDLETON --- Around the age of 40, Janelle Hicks sat down and made one of those to-do lists, writing down things she had always wanted to do but had yet to accomplish.
Since then she has checked off numbers 2 and 3 on the list -- learning to play the harp and being introduced to the game of bridge. Now she’s getting ready to tackle number one -- her childhood dream of studying veterinary medicine.
Come this summer, Hicks, who is program director for Health Care in Tri-County Technical College’s Corporate & Community Education Division, will enter the College’s Veterinary Technology Department’s new evening classes.
The College is expanding the program to include evening classes to accommodate persons who work during the day. The program is designed for those who are already working for a veterinarian as an assistant and want to get certification as a technician or for individuals like Hicks, who always wanted to study veterinary medicine, but never had the opportunity to come back to school because of work and time constraints. Classes begin this fall with the prerequisite courses being offered this summer.
“This is perfect for me. I can work around my schedule,” said Hicks, who will take classes from 5:30 - 7 p.m. two nights a week. Because she holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she only has to take the Veterinary Technology classes and can exclude the general education classes. It will take her three years to complete the evening program. “It’s manageable,” said Hicks, who, over the years, has worked as a registered dental hygienist, health care administrator and consultant.
As the trend in veterinary medicine has moved toward multi-doctor practices and high technology, a greater need for well-trained technicians has been created.
Today, the title of “veterinary technician” is held by individuals who have earned an associate degree in Veterinary Technology from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-accredited program. These individuals work closely with veterinarians and other members of the veterinary team to deliver quality animal health care. Today’s profession requires advanced knowledge and skills in the areas of animal nursing and critical care, inducing and monitoring anesthesia, assisting in surgery, postoperative care and recovery, diagnostic imaging, client education, hospital management and laboratory duties. Technicians can legally do everything in a practice except make a diagnosis or prognosis, prescribe drugs and perform surgery.
“The need for licensed veterinary technicians in the State is huge. As more practices and veterinary medicine follow in the footsteps of human medicine and its technological changes, the requirements for trained veterinary personnel are increasing by leaps and bounds,” said Dr. Peggy Champion, who leads Tri-County’s Veterinary Technology program.
According to figures released by the AVMA, national employment for licensed or certified veterinary technicians is projected to jump by 44 percent in three years.
“There just aren’t enough graduates to fill the unlimited job opportunities here in South Carolina and across the United States,” said Dr. Champion. “There is a huge demand for technicians in the Upstate and nationwide. Veterinarians are literally waiting for technicians who will relocate after graduating.”
She added, “Technicians are fast becoming an endangered species. It’s easier to get the technology than the technicians.”
With the ever-evolving technology used by veterinarians to diagnose illnesses, the veterinary technician must continue his or her education and master new skills to provide treatment for animals in their care.
In comparison to human medicine, a veterinary technician assumes the combined duties of a registered nurse, a lab technician, a radiology technician, a surgical technician and nurse anesthetist all rolled into one. As a doctor cares for a member of the human species, a veterinarian and the team of technicians will be administering treatment to the rest of the animal kingdom, explained Dr. Champion.
The changes in medicine over the past 25 years have been phenomenal, said Dr. Champion.
For example, 25 years ago, when she was a student at the University of Florida, Dr. Champion recalls, “We didn’t have an ultrasound to diagnose pregnancies, kidney problems, etc. We just had radiographs and our brains. The test results weren’t quick. I remember our senior project -- our first time to perform a CAT scan on a dog and we had to take him to the human hospital’s medical school. Today it’s not unusual to perform an MRI or CAT scan and receive the results almost instantaneously,” said Dr. Champion, who holds both a bachelor of science in Agriculture and a DVM from the University of Florida.
For someone interested in entering the profession, Dr. Champion says technicians must possess a love of working with animals and a desire to work in the medical field. He or she also must be dedicated to the profession and to keeping abreast of the profession. “Technicians must continue to learn for the rest of their careers. The career is for people who are dedicated to seeing that the animals have a better life and are well taken care of,” said Dr. Champion.
It’s perfect for someone like Hicks, a lifelong animal advocate. She recalls around the age of 14 when considered veterinary medicine as a career, but it was the 1960’s and she was discouraged by a family veterinarian who said, ‘You are female, and you don’t have the strength to handle large animals. You’ll probably be a wife and mother and quit working. You would have taken up a coveted space in the veterinary school.’
“We held him in high regard, so I considered other careers in healthcare,” said Hicks. “Looking back, I wish I had disregarded his advice. But with this new opportunity here at the College, I can finally take my interest in caring for animals to another level.”
Hicks says completing this degree will be fulfilling a personal lifelong dream for her. And she says the training will aid in her work with animal rescue groups. “It’s a lifelong desire. We’ll see where it takes me,” she said.
Veterinary Technology graduates may pursue careers in a variety of areas, not just private practice. Although many graduates seek employment in veterinary clinics, there are positions available in research, specialty practices, emergency clinics, and zoos or pharmaceutical sales companies and nutrition companies. There is also the opportunity to transfer to a four-year institution to acquire a bachelor of arts degree in veterinary technology which increases the opportunities for them.
Tri-County's program, which is accredited by the AVMA and endorsed by the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians, celebrates its 30th anniversary this fall. Dr. Champion and the faculty will celebrate this landmark with this first expansion in the program’s history. The department now accepts 24 students (an increase of six) in the fall day classes and 12 students in the first evening classes.
For more information about the evening Veterinary Technology program, contact Dr. Peggy Champion at 646-1357.