Parkland vet tech selective, competitive program
Parkland offers a two-year veterinary technology certificate which was one of the first in Illinois, and those involved say it is a competitive and challenging program.
The vet tech program is for students who wish to work alongside veterinarians or with animals. Students learn a wide range of skills while completing the program.
Sarah Hurley teaches classes in the vet tech program. She is also a graduate of the program in its earlier years.
“It’s medicine,” Hurley states. “We combine all of the health professions into one program. They learn how to clean teeth, help with surgeries which includes the preparation and anesthesia, and they also learn radiology, nursing, and laboratory testing.”
There are several prerequisites that are needed for students to get into the program. Most of these are based on experience.
“We have selective admissions. We take thirty-six students in the fall,” Hurley says. “Work, volunteer, or observational hours in a veterinary setting are suggested and helpful, but not required. We really encourage people applying to have some type of background in biology, chemistry. Some people get it in high-school; many of our students take college anatomy and physiology before applying to the program.”
Along with experience, students need to have an open mind, good communication skills, and basic math skills, Hurley says.
“It is good for students to brush up on math,” Hurley says. “They have to have pre-algebra level math. Students should have good communication skills as well. I’ve noticed that a lot of students who read a lot excel when they get to the vet tech program. The medical vocabulary comes a lot easier to them.”
Once a student has applied and been accepted into the program, they begin their classes. There are a number of required classes that students must complete.
“There a few classes students have to take,” Hurley says. “Large Animal Nursing which is pretty basic handling and physical examination. We hold that class at the U of I. Radiology is where they learn to take x-rays and dental x-rays. Pharmacology is another one; they learn about medicine and its effects. Clinical Pathology is where students learn about diseases. Another one is the lab animal class where they learn all about the birds, rodents, reptiles, exotic creatures. We also have animal management and practice management classes.”
These classes are challenging, and a student has to be committed to the program to continue through it. Students have to get at least a 75 percent grade to pass, Hurley says.
“It’s challenging, no doubt about that,” Hurley states. “Students are learning many species, not just human. The majority of time is spent in the lab, not in lecture. Plus, it’s a heavy course load that must be taken in a sequence. Students who don’t successfully complete a class will have to wait a year until that course is offered again.”
Students not only have to complete all of the classes, but between their first and second year they are required to do a six-week internship.
“They have to complete a minimum of six weeks doing an internship,” Hurley states. “They can choose whatever they can find in the animal field. Some things that students have done in the past is wildlife rehab, small animal clinics, working in biomedical research…it’s whatever they can find that fits along with the program.”
Once students have completed the program—and have passed their classes with the requisite percentage of points—they then have to take a board exam.
“Students who complete the program cannot just start work right away,” Hurley states. “They have to take a board exam to be able to get their license. Out of all of our students, almost one hundred percent pass.”
After receiving their licenses, veterinary technicians can start working at a variety of places.
“Once they pass their board exam, students will start looking for jobs,” Hurley says. “A lot of students have jobs while being in the vet tech program, but once they graduate and pass the board exam they will be Certified Veterinary Technicians. Their license opens up opportunities for work in zoos, research facilities, clinics both small and mixed…can also work as animal welfare inspectors, in sales and medicine, and some even go on to work at the University of Illinois vet school.”
A direct, first-hand educational experience is a staple of the program and means students are prepared for the occupational environment.
“Students will get a lot of hands-on learning,” she says. “There is lecture, and it goes over a lot of vocabulary, but most students take it in stride…The majority of students will get a job once they graduate.”
Hands-on learning means that students actually get to work with real animals. These animals include dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, etc.
“Students get to work with animals one on one,” Hurley says. “They work with a variety of animals. They work with dogs and cats, which is the majority of their hands-on learning. They also work with lab animals which include rabbits, mice and guinea pigs.”
The professors who teach the vet tech program take great care to make sure they do not overuse their animals. They also adopt out their animals once they have finished the school year.
“We get new animals each fall,” Hurley states. “We get the cats, and some of the dogs, from a shelter in Danville. We adopt out the pets near May. We have always placed the animals into homes at the end of spring. They are spayed, neutered, vaccinated, and socialized. We follow a protocol to keep the animals safe during class. Safety and well-being of the animals are our top priority.”
To learn more about Parkland’s vet tech program, visit parkland.edu/academics/departments/health and click on “Veterinary Technology” in the list on the left side of the screen.