Jen Charewicz was determined to become a medical technician. But when she took her dog to an interview for a training program, the interviewer suggested another career: veterinary technician.
“Some people go in all day thinking it’s just puppies and kittens,” Charewicz said. “But it’s that aspect of helping, caring, helping, getting better, helping [with] the connection between an owner and his animal.”
Charewicz, who has been a veterinarian with the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley for 10 years, began her education at the now-defunct Argosy University in Eagan and finished with the nonprofit animal welfare organization. The Animal Humane Society has launched programs in recent years to prepare more veterinarians to fill staffing shortages as Minnesotans face long waits to bring their pandemic pets to care.
In Minnesota, veterinary technicians do not need to be certified. This opens the door to programs like the non-accredited options offered by the Animal Humane Society. There, students can learn veterinary skills through supervised hands-on experience rather than having to pay for tuition and their certification.
dr Sara Lewis, a senior veterinarian at the organization, said understanding the “why” of veterinary procedures is a big focus in their educational programs.
Some argue that a certification requirement would help vet techs trained in traditional programs get better pay and have more stable jobs.
A recent report from Mars Veterinary Health found that tens of thousands of board-certified veterinarians are needed across the country.
dr Kim Rowley, a veterinarian and program manager in the veterinary technology department at Rochester Community and Technical College, said the whole country needs more veterinary technicians and veterinarians, but the economy has discouraged people from pursuing those careers. And despite the increasing need for veterinarians, she said she hasn’t seen a noticeable increase in applicants to the Rocherster program.
“Unfortunately, depending on where they practice, vet techs don’t get paid very well,” Rowley said. “And right now the economy is such that people can graduate high school and get a job at Costco making about $20 an hour, or they can go to school for two years and make just a little more than that and pay.” have to pay off their loans.”
Charewicz, Golden Valley’s veterinary technician, is also seeking more veterinary education through an online program. She said she enjoys the flexibility of being able to work and continue studying at the same time.
Her colleague Dave Burklund was a board-certified vet who worked in private practice before his certification expired when he took time off to remain a father. When he wanted to work with animals again, the Humane Society’s program was more attractive than paying to regain his certification.
“Here you’re actually on the job during your training,” says Burklund. “Certainly you have classes or a coach to help you with the skills, but you stamp in, it’s your job.”
Lewis said both accredited programs and the Animal Humane Society’s programs address the need for more veterinary staff statewide.
“I hope we can all understand that we are in this together and that we are really trying to educate individuals so that when they go out they are fully informed and have the skills that can benefit our community,” Lewis said.
“The more knowledgeable staff we have to tend to the animals that don’t necessarily have someone else to look after them, the better.”