Vet Tech Externship Panel Prepares Students for the Next Step

By the end of the quarter, many students are tired and ready for a restful break. While they are deserving of some time off, Vet Tech Program Chair Amy Stinson, CVT, dedicates one evening during the last week of the quarter to prepare her students for their externship.

At this event, students who have just completed their externships serve on a panel to discuss and reflect on their experiences and answer the questions of their fellow classmates who were soon to being their own externship.

Student participants at the Vet Tech Extern Panel

With the veterans lined up at the front of the room, each took turns giving their name and placement of their externship.

Participants were placed at externship sites throughout the state, most of which were in the greater La Crosse area.

Veteran students made sure to stress that the upcoming externs would notice differences between their classroom experiences and their externship sites.

“[At my externship site]everything was digital and very high tech,” Michelle Thorsen noted.

Other students agreed that practices and methods differed from site to site. “I got to do much more large animal care than I did in school, but we didn’t have a lab. All the samples were sent out for testing,” Angela Garbers said.

Recent extern student Jessica Halbrucker also got more experience with large animals. “I got to see so much more in the large animal field, and I also got to do more small animal stuff we didn’t do in school.”

Each extern’s experience differed in terms of what responsibilities and roles they completed. For example, at Michelle’s clinic, she was able to observe an ultrasound and a biopsy. She recommended new externs observe the process step by step and earn the trust of their supervisors.

Students were also able to observe different diseases and treatments during their externship. For example, extern Kristen Schultz helped treat a dog with diabetes. Amanda Wedemeier was able to witness a canine blood transfusion.

Amanda noted that being outside of the classroom environment helped her realize the pressure she might face as a future certified veterinary technician. “Everything that you’re learning becomes real life when you’re actually doing it on someone else’s animal. You’re more responsible for them.”

Vet tech externs answer questions

Several students mentioned that some days were harder than others. Early on in their externship experience, some students felt anxious and nervous.

Dealing with an upset client, an emergency situation, or euthanasia are all emotional situations a vet tech will face in the job.

To cope, Jessica Halbrucker offered a suggestion. “Keep telling yourself you can do it, and just get in there and do it,” she said.

“It’s also really important to ask questions.  It shows that you’re interested.” Jessica also noted that by asking questions, students might learn a different way to perform skills that could be more efficient.

While all the extern alums agreed that there were challenges, they also noted some great experiences.

“The best part would be the teamwork that continues on when you’re actually in the clinic, not just in school,” Tracy Arevalo said. Additionally, Michelle Thorsen and others expressed that their quarter at an externship site help them gain confidence in their skills.

Jessica Halbrucker agreed. “I got to do a lot of stuff independently…she was confident in my abilities to use my skills, that for me was a really good feeling that she had faith in me to get these things done.”

The evening panel was capped off with the announcement of job placement for Angela Garbers in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. She offered a bit of advice for the new group of externs. “Stay motivated, and know why you went into this field.”