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A Different Kind of Breed: The Veterinary Technology Program of NDSU A Photo Essay by Arielle Glaspie

Introductory Paragraph This photographic essay is designed to showcase and explain how the veterinary technology program is different from every other academic program at NDSU. It is a small part of NDSU, and not many people know that there is actually a difference between being a veterinarian and being a veterinary technologist. A vet is a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) who has completed at least eight years of college, attained a doctorate degree for veterinary medicine, and passed the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. A vet tech is a LVT (Licensed Veterinary Technologist) who has completed four years of college, attained a bachelors in veterinary technology and passed the VTNE (Veterinary Technology National Exam). If you think of veterinarians as the doctors, then veterinary technologists would be the nurses, accomplishing many of the more minor yet vitally important footwork tasks of a veterinary clinic. Before they can even begin to take vet tech courses, prospective students must complete a number of prerequisite classes, observe in a veterinary clinic for 40 hours, obtain two letters of reference (one from a veterinarian), and of course complete and turn in an application. There are only 26-28 places in the program available each year, so the program directors are very careful about who they select to enter the program. Once students are in the program, they must maintain their program class grades at a C or higher, and are subject to a lot of out-of-classroom-time tasks. It is described by many of the students as grueling, difficult, and insane, yet rewarding, worthwhile, and fun at the same time. This type of mindset shows that vet techs are indeed a different kind of student breed. Unlike many typical college students, vet tech students spend at least half of their school time applying the techniques they learn during regular class times in real life situations. The idea behind this is to give the students as much hands-on learning as possible before they are sent out to perform these techniques in the real world.

Sideline Jordin poses outside of Robinson Hall, the veterinary technology building located on the northwest side of campus between Van Es and the Wellness Center. The garbage bag in her hand contains the remains of Parasitology lab. Each student is required to bring one fecal sample to lab, and the leftovers are taken out by the last person so the classroom doesn’t stink the next day. In other words, Jordin is holding a big bag of poop. And still smiling.

Endless Array A few of the instruments that vet tech students are required to know are displayed on a classroom counter. Next week, these will be switched out with a completely different set of tools that the students will also have to learn and know.

Intake Instructor Kari (center) and two students check a new cat for a spay scar. Live animals are used in the programs to give real hands-on experience to the students. A number of dogs, cats, rodents, and birds live in Robinson Hall, and are cared for by the students. They are circulated through the program from a number of local shelters. This cat will be heading back to the Cat’s Cradle Shelter of Fargo in about four weeks.

No, This Isn’t a Ceiling Rat Splinter the rat explores every nook and cranny of the rodent room floor during her free time. Each vet tech student is required to take vitals on and enrich one animal per week. The type of animal varies between dog, rodent, cat, bird, and horse. In order to do horse enrichment, vet tech students must drive out to the NDSU Equine Barn west of campus.

Snappy Comeback Paige shows off her towel folding skills while helper Alexia works in the background. Washing and folding laundry is a daily necessity in order to prevent the spread of disease from animal to animal. The students are encouraged to wash their scrub tops (worn whenever they work with an animal) in the Robinson Hall laundry room to prevent their pets at home from being exposed to any infections the students may pick up at school.

Double, Double, Toil, and Trouble Ashley (center), Sadie (hands at left), and Sarah (hands at right) restrain Bucky while attempting to take a chest radiograph. While most people would call this task taking an x-ray, x-rays are only used to produce the radiograph. They are not the picture itself. This is the sixth time these students have had to reposition Bucky since he keeps moving and messing up the shot.

The Aftermath I get face to face with Munster while Flower peeks out from her perch on my shoulder. Many of the students go into the dog and cat rooms after tests to de-stress and get some “fuzzy therapy� while waiting for their next class to begin.

Dual Purpose The two classrooms in Robinson Hall are used for many different things. Outside of normal class and labs, students use the classrooms as study halls or dining areas where they may catch up on homework or eat in between classes. This is especially handy since there are 55 students in the professional vet tech program and the Robinson Hall student lounge (which includes a refrigerator, microwave, and food that can be purchased from the Veterinary Technology Club) can only hold 6 people at a time.

Oh, and While You’re In‌ Heidi (left) and Olivia (right) fix a paw bandage for Ace the yellow lab. As TOC (Tech On Call), Heidi will perform similar tasks throughout the afternoon. Every vet tech student is required to complete 6 TOC shifts per semester, which involves setting aside time to do chores around the building and, in general, be a gopher. This can include filing paperwork, giving medications, obtaining vitals, cleaning or setting up kennels, laundry, portioning out prescriptions, taking radiographs, and setting up files for new animals, among many other tasks.

Wait, That Wasn’t in my Locker Before Bird residents Chicky (on bench), and Sunshine and Tango (on floor) wait in the student locker room while their room is swept and sanitized. This process, called froamering because that is the chemical sanitizer used, is done every day, although the rooms froamered each day are rotated throughout the week. This helps reduce latent bacteria and possible diseases, preventing them from being spread to other rooms. The birds are put in the locker room so they are not stressed or bothered by dogs passing by on their way out for walks. Hanging in the background are rubber boots for the students to wear when they go out to work at the NDSU livestock barns.

The Long Haul The main hallway of Robinson Hall with Britley (left) and Margaret (right), who are on Ward Care, walking toward a froamering machine. Ward Care takes place twice a day, from 6-8am and 5-7 pm, every weekday and weekend. This is the time when the vet tech students feed, walk, and clean up after the animals housed in Robinson Hall. Each student is required to complete one morning or evening shift per week, and two weekend shifts (a morning or evening shift on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday over a particular weekend) per semester. It requires careful planning, but shifts may be, and often are, traded between students.

Multitasking Lexi prepares an ear mite slide while making sure that Spirit the cat doesn’t jump off the table. Because many classes and tasks involve live animals, students must keep an eye on them at all times to make sure they do not get into trouble or go anywhere while the students complete tasks for the class. This can be quite difficult as some animals are high-strung or do not like being around other animals.

Manifold Mania From left to right, Kathy, Jennifer, and Sara work on loading and running the autoclave while a Ward Care worker prepares cat food dishes in the Wash Room. Many of the rooms in Robinson Hall are utilized for multiple purposes. As a result, students often have to shuffle around each other while going about their duties. Although they were not captured in this picture, the Wash Room also contains a large concrete tub for bathing dogs, a computer terminal, and the white board where prescribed medications are recorded.

Jammed Instructor Stacey (standing) helps Crystal (front) and Ashley (back) input medical records into the computer. Both paper and electronic medical records are kept for all animals that pass through NDSU for seven years, as mandated by state law. The importance of keeping good, clear, organized records of all actions taken with a particular patient is pounded into the students from day one.

Nerve Racking Veins The culmination of a successful jugular vein blood draw sits on a table, waiting to be tested. Drawing blood is one of the more foreboding duties that students must learn during their first semester in the professional program. Before actually performing a blood draw, they must learn which size syringe and needle to use for each draw. This changes depending on the size of the animal. Students must also learn which color tube to put the blood in when it has been collected. Pictured here are a red tube (no additives) and a purple tube (contains an anticoagulant so the blood will not clot). The type of tests that need to be performed with the blood determines which color tube the blood will be put into once it has been drawn. There are many other colors besides the two pictured here, although red and purple are the most commonly used.

A Brace of Backlash Scott, who originally came in as Scarlett, peeks out from the top shelf of a cat-climbing staircase in one of the feline colonies. At the time this photo was taken, Scott’s left ear (the ear on the right in the picture) was literally dangling from his head by a thread as a result of frostbite. Scott will also lose his other ear and the tip of his tail by the time you read this. Three other cats arrived at Robinson Hall in similar states throughout the winter, though none of their cases were as severe.


A Different Kind of Breed  
A Different Kind of Breed