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Partnership Between Vet Tech Program and Brightside Animal Clinic Flourishes in Redmond

By LindaOrcelletto

Veterinary Technician Students with anatomy chartCentral Oregon is known for its love of animals. Bend was even named DogTown USA by DogFancy Magazine in 2012 because of the many ways we make certain animals are an essential part our family and enhanced quality of life.

It was a natural fit for COCC's veterinary technician program to partner with BrightSide Animal Clinic (formerly the Humane Society of Redmond) and its shelter animals. The two-year Vet Tech program at COCC prepares students with the training and skills needed to receive an Associate of Applied Science degree upon graduation. Students are then eligible to take the National Veterinary Technician Examination (VTNE) to become a certified veterinary technician (CVT).

In 2013, COCC worked with Chris Bauersfield, former executive director at BrightSide, to form the partnership. COCC then purchased a small parcel of land behind BrightSide for its state-of-the-art training facility. The lab was completed in time for the 2015 winter term. The hands-on training lab is a short walk from the shelter, eliminating the extra step and cost of transporting already frightened or anxious animals to area clinics for medical care. The pet-friendly space will be used extensively during all of the program's six terms, giving students direct interaction with many animals.

"The hands-on training the students receive is a vital part of Vet Tech program," says Beth Palmer, CVT and vet tech program director. "Through this partnership, we are able to offer what is in the best interest of COCC, the students and BrightSide, but most importantly, the animals."

Under supervision of certified instructors, plus guest veterinary professionals from throughout the area, training includes animal restraint for exams, physical exams on both dogs and cats, follow up procedures, grooming, dental work, blood draws, urinalysis, surgery prep and anesthesia. The lab also houses a space for spay and neuter surgeries, pharmacy and a radiology lab with the latest technology X-ray equipment.

COCC's training lab and collaboration with BrightSide not only allows students to receive the training needed with shelter animals, but gives BrightSide, a nonprofit agency, added value of having students assist our furry friends on site. Students work in teams seven days a week for one week at the shelter to learn all aspects of animal husbandry, including cleaning kennels and the cattery, plus feeding, watering and walking dogs.

"Students are exposed to things you can't learn from a book," says Steve Miller, BrightSide shelter manager. "We've seen unplanned benefits of the students helping at the shelter. You can see and feel the changed demeanor of the animals in their care."

Students work with animals that aren't aggressive or have behavioral issues. Students train with 10 animals per week, usually for basic and/or only needed care. But there are the occasions where students assist with animals that have unique needs, such as extensive grooming or dental work due to neglect. BrightSide also has access to the lab's radiology equipment. The X-rays are then used as a learning tool for students. Most shelters don't have the equipment, staff or time to offer these services, allowing for a significant cost savings to BrightSide.

Yet the lab isn't meant to take away from services of our extensive veterinarian community. Only certified professionals are able to work with client-owned animals.

In addition to lab training, students work 360 hours with three different area veterinary clinics during their second year as a requirement for graduation. The COCC Veterinary Technician Program is accredited by the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities as a program for educating veterinary technicians.

"We are fortunate to have BrightSide and its animals next door to our facility," says Cindy Elston, DVM and COCC faculty. "This partnership helps the vet tech program attain its goal of offering the most current and highest standard of quality of care for the animals."

Financial contributions to the vet tech program for student scholarships can be made through the COCC Foundation at cocc.edu/foundation/online-donations.

For more information about the program, contact Beth Palmer, COCC vet tech program director at 541-318-3724 or bpalmer@cocc.edu.