He was abandoned on the side of a busy road, without food, water, shelter or the ability to walk.
Life was looking bleak for a dog named French Fry until kind-hearted volunteers from Centreville Animal Hospital
and the Fairfax County Animal Shelter made it their mission to get him up, rolling and into a ‘forever home.’
As you may recall, last month we looked at the different positions required to support a full-service veterinary practice. In the coming months, we will be exploring the personal journeys of the CAH staff to better understand how their training has helped them achieve their professional and personal goals. This month I talked to Margaret Bolen about what led her to pursue LVT training.
A Virginia native with a life-long love for animals, Margaret Bolen (pictured here with Annie) accepted a position at Centreville Animal Hospital back in 1998 after moving to Northern Virginia from her hometown of Lexington, Virginia. Little did she know then that what started out as a part-time job would grow into a career. Today, 15 years after joining the CAH team, she is a busy working mom pursuing her certification as a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT).
Growing up in a rural, equestrian-oriented area, Margaret loved the fact that she was always surrounded by barn cats, farm and house dogs, and horses. But after earning a masters degree in Psychology at Hollins College, she moved to the Centreville area and began her working life, holding various professional positions, including serving as an adjunct professor at NOVA. She eventually realized that as interesting as some of her positions were, something vital was lacking in her life: she missed being around animals. So when a friend referred her to an open position at CAH, Margaret applied. The rest is history.
Pursing A Passion
Several years into her tenure at CAH, Margaret decided to pursue professional training. At first, she pecked away at doing piecemeal coursework, but realized that what she really wanted to do was to become an LVT. Having decided to take this leap, she found an accredited college degree program offering the structure and support she needed to undertake the rigorous technical curriculum, with the flexibility for part-time distance learning to accommodate her very busy life. The Distance Education Veterinary Technology Program (DEVTP) at Texas Cedar Valley College turned out to fill her needs:
- distance learning option
- option to take only 2 to 3 courses per semester
- affordable, pay-as-you-go tuition
- one-on-one support provided by the program
- innovative use of technology to complete assignments (such as using video to show completion of work she is doing at the veterinary hospital)
While this option worked best for Margaret, there are many other options for LVT training, including traditional on-campus programs, which are usually completed in two to three years. Local options include the Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) Loudon Campus and the Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in Weyer’s Cave, Virginia. Both institutions offer distance-learning programs as well. See the links provided at the end of this article for more information.
You Can’t Do It Alone
CAH’s commitment to providing educational opportunities and employee mentorship have been essential in helping Margaret achieve her goal. This engagement with staff is not only an important component of training and retention—as evidenced in Margaret’s long tenure at the practice—but participation by the veterinary hospital in the student’s training is a requirement of many veterinary programs. The doctors at CAH have agreed to support Margaret’s efforts in the following ways: staying informed about the specific requirements of her curriculum, providing her with opportunities to complete assignments during the course of her daily work, and taking time out of their schedules to work with her directly when necessary.
As a “people person,” Margaret “loves the work of caring for animals and helping owners,” and finds great satisfaction in analyzing and solving patients’ medical problems. She admits that the work takes “emotional stamina,” and in one day she may go from the excitement of the birth of a new puppy to end-of-life treatment for a beloved geriatric cat. Once she completes her LVT program, Margaret will be able to enjoy more hands-on contact with her patients, both during exams and during surgical procedures, including dental cleanings, inserting catheters, monitoring anesthesia, and playing a vital role in many other aspects of patient care and treatment.
Margaret’s pursuit of training, inspired by her passion for and commitment to treating animals, has been an example for other CAH staff. She was the first assistant in the practice to enroll in an online LVT program, and now four other staff are in similar programs, three of whom are enrolled in the DEVTP at Texas Cedar Valley College (Brittany, Kacey, and Kate). Zach Buchanan is currently enrolled in the Penn Foster program. Our group of Licensed Veterinary Technicians, including Becky Lewellen, Elise Welker, and Elisa Miller, all are an integral part of the mentor support that helps our LVT students reach their goals. Centreville Animal Hospital takes pride in being a center for constant learning.
What advice would Margaret give to someone considering a career as an LVT? “If you’re in college, don’t be afraid to take the hard science courses,” to prepare yourself and get a taste of what you will be learning as an LVT candidate. And, she urges, “Don’t give up” on pursuing a career in veterinary medicine if you have been working in another field. “It’s never too late to start!”
Veterinary Education: https://www.avma.org/professionaldevelopment/education/pages/default.aspx
—Article by Martha B. Schultz, Blog Managing Editor