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Tag Archives: penn foster

New Beginnings

21 May

I’ve been weighing in my head for months how to write this post, and I think there’s no better way to write it than to just dive in.

I’m leaving veterinary medicine.

It weighs on me, because I have accumulated a number of vet tech readers, and I know a lot of the traffic I get to the site is about my experiences as a technician. And while I’m not quitting completely anytime soon, I’m going to begin transitioning out of it.

Why?

It’s difficult for me how to explain how I’ve arrived at this fork in the road, because many things that happened in the last 6-7 months that led me to this decision. If you’ll humor me, a list:

  1. PENN FOSTER ABANDONED ME- I’ve talked in the past about the benefits of the program, and I’ve since considered deleting that post. But after years of doing practicums and acing all the tests, I came to the final practicum which required me to do film x-rays. Most clinics are digital, so it took months for me to find a place. When I did, the program waterlogged me for months and didn’t approve my location until the clinic had transitioned to digital. The head veterinarian at my clinic, Dr. S, even called the deans of the vet tech program to try and fix the situation. “We have an intelligent, talented technician here,” I heard him say on the phone. “And we are going to lose her to another industry, and I don’t want that.” Penn Foster continued to not follow through on their promises to rectify this situation. So here I sit after years of work, unable to take my licensing exam and without the vet tech degree I worked so hard for. Dr. S’s compliments rang in my ears as I decided it wasn’t worth it to me to fight Penn Foster, that maybe the industry should lose me.
  2. I DATED A MIRROR IMAGE OF MYSELF- Last fall I was dating someone who had a penchant for moping. He wasn’t where he wanted to be in his life, which I understand. But I found a deep well of frustration at him for not doing something about it, about not chasing down avenues that would move him forward. I would nag him and found myself losing respect for him. But at some point, I saw my own hypocrisy. I am not where I want to be in my life, and I have a lot of things lacking. I tend to mope and whine about it. I don’t know how many times I’ve added to my to-do lists “Figure Life Out” half-joking, half-serious. So I took my own nagging to heart. I broke up with him and decided I had to set myself on a new path.
  3. I WEARIED OF MY NEW YORK LIFE- Around this time, newly single, I found myself sliding into old patterns. Online dating, staying out late drinking with friends, complaining about how poor I am. Like waking from a dream I realized these weren’t things I wanted to do. These things were not making me happy anymore, and it was time to tackle the biggest item on my to-do list. I decided I had no time and no interest in dating. I stopped spending time with friends whose lives revolved around bar tabs and nursing hangovers. I took three days off of work and camped out in my apartment and hashed out what I REALLY, TRULY, DEEPLY wanted to make happen in my life. What my experiences and what my talents can lend themselves to.  I researched careers. I talked to a variety of people. I looked into schooling length and costs. I spent countless weekends alone at my apartment with delivered Thai food sorting through all my data.
  4. I STARTED DIPPING MY TOES IN THE WATER OF SOMETHING NEW- And I realized that this wasn’t suffice; it was better to dive in. I’ve made a commitment to pursuing something different and yet somewhat similar. It’s terrifying. It’s uncertain. But I feel more alive and more excited about the years to come than I have in so long.

So I’ve started taking the necessary steps toward becoming a Physician Assistant. All the whys and wherefores are better left for posts to come. And like any transition in life, although I’m poised to do something great in the years to come, my heart stirs with a subtle melancholy at what I know I’ll leave behind.

IMG_3323

This is a one-month old rescue kitten found under a porch in Queens. After I gave it a deworming solution, put some ointment in its tiny infected eyes, it nuzzled its whiskers against my cheek in a kitten kiss.

OF COURSE I’M GOING TO MISS THAT.

The four years I’ve had as a veterinary technician have been so meaningful to me and led me to understand that I’m way better at science than I had ever realized. That I have a passion for medicine. That I have to be in a field where I alleviate suffering and improve quality of life. I have to be challenged and excited. I’ve loved being a veterinary technician, but I always felt it was a stepping stone to something else, and I’m ready for that next step.

Like I said before, I’m still a full-time technician for the next couple of months, and my “family” at the clinic are being nothing but supportive, offering to work around a school schedule and allow me to stay on part-time. So this isn’t the end yet. And I’ll be writing about each step of my PA journey. But for now, that’s all I wanted to get off my chest. On to the next thing.

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Penn Foster Vet Tech Program: A Review

13 Oct
Cat Restraint for Practicum 1.

Cat Restraint for Practicum 1.

The vet tech career is unique in the medical world, because many vet techs don’t necessarily need a degree to work. Personally, I graduated with a degree in Creative Writing with no interest in medicine. However, I ended up as a receptionist at a vet clinic, trying to make ends meet. Within a year, I realized I loved being around the animals, was fascinated by the medical aspect and the head vet tech was willing to train me.

It was a rough road at first. But, at my job, I am surrounded by talented technicians who I am still learning from. And while I saw that apprenticeship and experience was all that was needed to have a job as a veterinary technician, I also saw that without a degree in the field, I was limited in my upward mobility. I have an ambitious personality, and I didn’t just want to be a vet tech. I wanted to be a licensed vet tech. I want to become a board-certified anesthesiology vet tech. The first step was a degree.

After weighing a number of different options (including the leap of faith of going to vet school), I settled on enrolling in the Penn Foster online vet tech program. That was almost three years ago. Now here I sit, still working as a vet tech, done with my four semesters and first practicum and pulling my hair out trying to complete the second. These are my honest, not-sponsered views on how the program went for me and advice to others thinking about pursuing this program.

  1. Time management is key. I can’t stress this enough. Penn Foster advertises that the great thing about the program is the ability to make your own schedule. Realistically, this isn’t going to work for some people. I’m a book nerd who enjoys studying and has always been good at pushing myself. So I was able to sit down at the end of a long day at work and study. I loved that I was able to keep my job and not have to balance work with a class schedule. But at the same time, that structure would have been nice. I went through a 6-month period where I doubted whether this was really what I wanted to do, and I didn’t study. I wish I hadn’t squandered that time, and if I was enrolled in a community college program, I don’t think I would have. Penn Foster has tried in the last couple of years to set up suggested deadlines for tests and classes which could be a big help to less-motivated studiers. But self-discipline is a prerequisite to finishing the program.
  2. The Proctored Exams are difficult. So how does an online program establish legitimacy in their students? After all, it’s all open book, submitted over the internet, surely it is ripe grounds for cheating. These are true things. The way they eliminate the cheaters? Proctored Exams. At the end of each semester, you are given a live, timed exam. And it is difficult. It is in essay form and asks some of the most minute details from the courses. I’m still haunted by the memory of opening my first semester exam and seeing, “Name the six types of bird feathers.” Sure, I had read over that in the Integument section of Anatomy and Physiology, but I had spent no time memorizing them. Despite meticulous studying, I don’t think I got above a 75 on any of the Proctored Exams. And, yes, it is quite easy and possible to cheat on the Proctored Exams as well, but after all is said and done, we all still have to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) which I hear is quite difficult. The degree from Penn Foster is worthless without passing the VTNE, so cheating is only doing yourself a disservice.
  3. You need to be already working in the fieldThe most difficult part of the program is the Practicum. After the second and the forth semester, every student is required to complete an externship at a veterinary office under the guidance of a veterinarian or a licensed veterinary technician. I had already been working at my vet clinic for years when the first practicum came around, and all my co-workers pulled together like the dysfunctional family that they are and helped me get all my skills and paperwork completed. I don’t know how possible that would have been without already having worked in the field. Experience is more important as a vet tech. The degree is in many ways a formality at larger clinics and veterinary institutions. I suggest to anyone not already working in the field to get a foot in the door any way they can. Become a receptionist, a kennel assistant, volunteer at the ASPCA and befriend some of the people that work there. Find a way in.
  4. It’s less respected, but who cares. An online program doesn’t carry a lot of weight with people in the veterinary world. But the nice thing I already mentioned is that experience is more key anyways. Laws are slowly being passed, and the veterinary world is shifting to a more corporate atmosphere where licenses are becoming more required. But I’ve seen licensed vet techs come through my clinic doors that can’t hold a dog correctly and think diarrhea is icky. (If you can’t handle icky things, run away, run away now.) Some of the best vet techs we’ve seen are the unlicensed ones that come with references from other clinics saying that they are competent and know what they are doing. Again, it’s key to get your foot in the door somewhere to start learning immediately about holding and about the inner workings of a vet office.
  5. It’s shockingly affordable. If I haven’t scared any prospective students away, this is the biggest plus for the program. It was easy to pay off. They let me make monthly payments, without any interest added on. They also offered me deals on paying it off faster. For instance, when I had only $1400 left to go, they offered to knock off 30% if I made one final payment. So I finished paying the program off almost a year ago, and I don’t owe the school a thing. All textbooks, webinars, study guides are included. It’s clear that they make their biggest profit from students who sign up on a whim for the first semester and don’t stick it out. Just make sure that you aren’t one of those people!
  6. More than this, I did it my way. When all is said and done, I’m glad I did this program, because it was the right thing for me. I could spend my days off and my weeknights studying while still working, playing softball, writing. I could travel without worrying about missing class. I didn’t have to commute to a classroom, but could instead sit in my pajamas with a pot of tea and study. I liked that I had that freedom and that school became a part of my life without taking over. There are times I wish I had done an in-person program- for the networking, the face-to-face with professors, the structure and lack of Practicum paperwork. But at my age, and at this point in my life, it was the right thing for me.

ANYONE ELSE OUT THERE HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH ONLINE OR IN-PERSON VET TECH PROGRAMS?