When Taking a Chance Pays Off

By Paula Nalbaru

Sometimes it takes longer than expected for dreams to come true. And as Bailee Sampson would say, “celebrate the wins and never give up.”

It worked for Bailee. It took her five years to find her perfect fit with the Nova Scotia SPCA College of Animal Welfare and its Veterinary Assistant (VA) Program.

She was always drawn to animals and knew she would thrive in an environment where she could help. She admits she took a chance on the animal welfare industry. For Bailee, the support and hands-on experience were key when deciding on a Veterinary Assistant school.

Luckily for her, the Nova Scotia SPCA College of Animal Welfare had both.

“One thing I didn’t know about this program is how supportive the instructors would be and how many hands-on skills we would actually learn. I am so thankful that we have had the opportunity to learn a broader range of treatment and clinical knowledge,” says Bailee.

The hands-on experience during the one-year Veterinary Assistant program comes in different shapes and sizes, offering students experiences that will help them become well-rounded Veterinary Assistants. Students stay quite busy with classes such as Animal Nursing or Handling – some of Bailee’s favourites -or field trips to farms.

They start small, practicing on stuffed animals. Once students gain more confidence in their skills, this is where the Veterinary Assistant class’s mascot, Audrey, makes her debut.

Audrey is calm and patient with each student she meets, allowing them to practice nail trims and grooming among other things. Of course, she gets a lot of breaks and treats in between immense amounts of hands-on training and even some snuggle therapy. Bailee says, “I believe Audrey is the reason we graduated with such confidence in our hands-on training. We love her!”

A unique bonus for students is that the Nova Scotia SPCA College of Animal Welfare is steps away from the Nova Scotia SPCA Dartmouth Shelter and the Nova Scotia SPCA Veterinary Hospital. This gives students the chance to experience different environments and be supported not only by expert staff and teachers but the entire Nova Scotia SPCA community.

Another way our students get hands-on experience is by doing a four-week internship before they graduate. Bailee chose a dog lodging facility in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. About her internship she says, “I chose to work at this facility because as a Veterinary Assistant, there are so many places you can work. I decided to see how being a VA in a facility other than a clinic would be, before starting my career.”

As Bailee’s journey with the Nova Scotia SPCA College of Animal Welfare comes to an end, she reminisces on the first day of classes. She admits there were some nerves, but between meeting her new classmates and learning about everything the next year would offer, the enthusiasm grew.

Bailee credits the instructors for playing a huge part in making the first day, and the rest of the year, exciting. “Jen and Barbara made us feel so comfortable and welcomed right away. I was very excited to start after our first day.” Bailee says they connected with students on a personal level and supported them every step of the way.

After gaining more knowledge and perspective, Bailee tells students that there’s nothing wrong with exploring options. She understands the future can be overwhelming, and the right fit can be in the most unexpected places. The first step can be the hardest, but no one has to do it alone, and our students know that firsthand. Bailee’s advice, “If you’re thinking of going into the Veterinary Assistant program with the Nova Scotia SPCA College of Animal Welfare, book an appointment with Jen to go over the program and she will make sure you have all the information to make the right decision!”

It has been quite a long journey for Bailee, but now she has even more wins to celebrate. A fresh graduate of the Veterinary Assistant program, in the top three, and a new job as Technician Assistant at the Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Paula Nalbaru

Paula Nalbaru is the Philanthropy Communications Coordinator with the Nova Scotia SPCA in Dartmouth. She’s a proud fur-parent and referee between her dog, Summer, and cat, Marshmallow.