Making the transition to online learning has become a reality for many schools and universities, and the Rock Creek Campus of Portland Community College is no exception. In this blog, learn from Technician Instructor Laura Harris, CVT, about how the veterinary technology program is working around the clock to take care of their animals, co-workers, and students.
Imagine being part of a hands-on, face-to-face veterinary technician program and suddenly finding out that everything is about to get turned upside down. Covid-19 has had that effect on nearly everyone in the field of veterinary medicine to some degree, but here is how Portland Community College faced the challenge head on.
Our program houses or cares for eight dogs, eight cats, six rabbits, 13 cows, 11 calves, 23 sheep, 37 lambs, three goats, five alpacas, one llama, seven chickens, and two horses. When we received word that we would no longer have daily access to campus except for animal care, one of our first thoughts was of our dogs and cats and what would be best for them. We knew that meant making them immediately available for adoption. Fortunately, all but two of our dogs had already been adopted, and all but two of the cats had people interested in them. Within one week, the remaining two cats were taken in by a local veterinary hospital with a room for adoptable cats. They know, as did we, that the two cats would have a better chance of being adopted through them than if they stayed with us. The two remaining dogs took a little extra time, but were adopted from our program to two wonderful new owners. But what about all those other animals? We are fortunate to have a Farm Manager who lives on campus, and she is maintaining the rest of the animals that live at the Rock Creek Campus of Portland Community College.
Now, about the students. The first year students really just started to get in the groove of things with morning animal care, classes, studying, and all the normal life “stuff”. Then suddenly, questions and confusion about what would be happening with their classes began. Would they have classes the upcoming term? Would the classes be on campus? What about hands-on labs? How do they learn to make a blood smear without a face-to-face lab!? Would they be graduating on time? How are they going to mentor the incoming class in the fall if they aren’t on campus? There were many questions, and at times, there seemed to be few answers to give them. PCCs Veterinary Technology program has an amazingly adaptive and flexible student body and team of faculty and staff. It took time, but I believe nearly all questions have been answered, and while courses were taught remotely for spring term and will be for summer, fingers crossed we will be holding some labs on campus fall term.
The second year students were just about to start their final term of the program. They still had essential skills to complete, and a clinical rotation they were planning on- not to mention the last term of classes with their friends and instructors. There was much uncertainty at the beginning of this term, and to be honest, there was a time I was skeptical this Class of 2020 would actually be the Graduating Class of 2020. I am so happy that I was wrong about that. As I write this, PCCs amazing Veterinary Technology Class of 2020 is planning their Pinning Ceremony – ZOOM style. No, this pinning ceremony won’t be like the ones in the past, but these students are determined to celebrate their accomplishments with their classmates, instructors and families in the only safe way possible right now.
None of these students planned to take courses online when they applied for our program. In fact, I heard from several students that they didn’t want to learn online and that’s exactly why they applied for PCCs Vet Tech program. The same is true of our instructors; teaching online was not their plan. Making this switch as a student or instructor is not an easy one, and I am proud to be part of the team that met the challenge and was able to continue educating a new group of essential workers.