Amy joined the first Nova Scotia SPCA College of Animal Welfare class because she wanted to work with animals. “Before enrolling in the Veterinary Assistant program, I didn’t have a single connection to the animal welfare industry,” says Amy Choi, a member of the inaugural graduating class of Veterinary Assistants from the Nova Scotia SPCA College of Animal Welfare. “However, I learned many things and got precious experiences here. And I want to say this program changed my life, and it paves a new way for me. I am so pleased to be a part of the animal welfare industry.”
Choi was one of eight graduates of the new program. The SPCA built a curriculum aimed to expand the knowledge and establish hands-on skills for Vet Assistant graduates. Located in Dartmouth, students receive both classroom training and experience with animals of all kinds. “On the first day, we explored the college, and I was surprised,” says Choi. “The SPCA hospital and shelter are right next door to our lecture hall. I was excited and looked forward to visiting them and learning.”
Marni Tuttle, Vice-President of the College, says the Nova Scotia SPCA is tackling the veterinary shortage head-on. “Our goal is to graduate Vet Assistants who can operate to their full scope of practice – working directly with clients and with their pets. Well-prepared VAs make a practice operate more efficiently and help Veterinarians help more animals.”
And working with animals, the students sure did. Cats, dogs, rabbits, and even snakes, visit the classroom. The admissions team looks for attitude, aptitude and commitment. “The hardest part of the program for me was the hands-on experience with animals. I was kind of nervous in the beginning of the semester because I hadn’t been exposed to animals as much as my classmates,” says Amy. “I felt insecure about myself. However, all the instructors of the program were so kind and knowledgeable and have a lot of field experience. I could practice many hands-on skills in class until I felt confident. It was the hardest but also the best part of the program.”
Students go on field trips to learn about the medical care of larger animals like horses. This was one of Amy’s favourite activities. “Field trips were one of the best parts! We went to animal-related places – like Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park – and we learned about not only companion animals but also farm animals, and wild animals. It was a unique and educational experience.”
Before graduation Amy was offered and accepted a full-time Veterinary Assistant at the SPCA Veterinary Hospital.