Becker College Celebrates Veterinary Technicians Week

Published on Friday, October 14th, 2011

Becker College’s veterinary technology program is one of only two AVMA-accredited programs at four-year institutions in Massachusetts. At Becker, students completing the two-year associate’s degree program, as well as those completing the four-year veterinary Science and Pre-veterinary programs, complete the eligibility requirements for certification as veterinary technicians.

To honor veterinary technicians at Becker—both students and faculty—the College kicked off National Veterinary Technician Week 2011 on October 9, with its second Continuing Education Conference for Veterinary Technicians.

The conference was hosted in partnership with the Massachusetts Veterinary Technician Association (MVTA) and drew notable experts in a number of veterinary fields—including compassion fatigue, practice management, and nutrition—as well as student and professional veterinary technicians.

MVTA President and Becker Clinical Instructor/Staff Veterinary Technician Melissa Supernor, CVT, VTS (SAIM), opened the conference. Supernor is also an advisor to Becker’s Animal Health Club, a student  organization that actively serves the human and animal communities, participating in animal health clinics, charity events, and the Becker College Pet Fest to showcase students’ and teaching animals’ skills and to promote animal adoption and responsible pet care.

The conference’s keynote speaker, Aggie Kiefer, LVT, of Novartis Animal Health, and former editor-in-chief of Veterinary Technician magazine (pictured above), presented innovative opportunities vet techs have created for themselves: focusing on a broad range of specialties, including nutrition and anesthesia; authoring books and articles; and starting consulting businesses and even a veterinary practice.

Kiefer’s most important messages to vet techs, she said, were to acquire the people-oriented skills that are not taught in school—communication, teamwork, and customer service; and, when things get challenging, assess the situation. “Don’t blame the profession,” she encouraged.

On the nutrition track, Kara Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, Hill’s Pet Nutrition veterinary technician specialist and president of the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians (pictured right), tackled the debate over the superiority of wet food over dry food for cats. This was Burns’ second visit to Becker; she lectured for the Franklin M. Loew Lecture Series in April 2011.

While working as a veterinary technician can be an extremely rewarding career, professionals recognize that many deal with compassion fatigue: the stress associated with caring for pets—and people—during traumatic times.  Julianne Evenhus, CVT, CFE, veterinary field educator with Veterinary Pet Insurance and a member of the MVTA executive board, held two sessions on the topic. Attendees discussed personal experiences, learned to recognize the causes and contributing factors of compassion fatigue, and to identify symptoms in themselves and others.

Heather Prendergast, RVT, CVPM took the assembled veterinary technicians down the practice management track, covering communication, human resources and operations policies, and team building. Pendergast is author of Front Office Management for the Veterinary Team, teaches online courses for St. Petersburg College and is a nutritional consultant for Nestle Purina.

Infectious diseases permeate recent headlines as well as veterinary clinics and hospital emergency rooms. On the disease track, Meri Hall, RVT, LATG, VTS (SAIM) covered prevention and control, lyme disease, and other issues for technicians and animal hospitals.

Becker College is a member of the advisory board for Worcester Technical High School’s veterinary assisting program. Christina Melvin, CVT, an instructor for the program, spoke about teaching the next generation of veterinary technicians.
Becker-educated veterinary technicians work at practices, shelters, teaching hospitals, and zoos; they attend, and teach at schools of veterinary medicine; they have written textbook chapters and presented at conferences; and they go on to work in research. A signature area of study at Becker, enrollment and interest in the animal sciences continue to grow. Program enrollment has increased 30% in the last three years.Animal science students at Becker