Blog > New Faces – Centre for Arts & Technology Welcomes Veterinary Hospital Assistants Instructors

New Faces – Centre for Arts & Technology Welcomes Veterinary Hospital Assistants Instructors


This semester we said hello to a number of new Veterinary Hospital Assistant instructors Dr. Heather Gordon, Shannon Borynsky, Michelle Barker, Melissa Brayley, Michelle Heil, and Lisa Richter. Get to know them in today’s blog post!

1. What was your first professional ‘animal-related’ job and what was the most important thing you learned from it?

MBr: I was a weekend ‘helper’ at a Veterinary clinic. My biggest take away was that it is hard work – not just getting to cuddle cute animals all day!!

SB: My first animal-related position was as a pet counselor at Petland. This is where I first started learning about animal nutrition amongst other topics.

HG: My first ‘animal-related’ job was at a dairy farm in New Zealand. I was backpacking around at the time and thought it would be an interesting job. The farm was way out in the back woods, and one day there was a cow who was struggling to deliver her calf. The farmer I worked for had recently had knee surgery and couldn’t walk around much, so he made me reach into the cow and pull out the calf.

It taught me that helping an animal in distress is incredibly rewarding and that no matter how dirty or scary or uncomfortable it might be, you just have to roll up your sleeves (literally and figuratively) and give it your best shot.

2. What quality/qualities do you think are most important when working in a Veterinary Clinic or animal related job?

SB: You have to be compassionate, a good communicator and have great teamwork.

MBr: You need to be compassionate but you also need to be tough! There’s a lot of emotional stress with the job.

HG: Patience, compassion, attention-to-detail, a sense of humor.

3. What is the best thing about your job?

HG: Kittens!!!!!

SB: The best thing about my job is seeing the recovery of sick patients. It is truly amazing what medicine can do.

MBr: Why puppy and kitten snuggles of course!! But in all honesty, it’s that sense of accomplishment and overall good feeling you get when you know you made things even a little bit better for an animal.

4. What is the most challenging thing about your job?

SB: Seeing the difficult cases with poor outcomes.

MBr: When you become invested and put everything you have into it but things just don’t work out the way you wanted for an animal.

HG: Having to euthanize animals because of finances.

5. What is one piece of advice you would give to anyone going into your field?

HG: It’s not all cuddling fuzzy little animals (although there is a bit of that). It is very emotionally and physically demanding. You need to be strong, non-judgmental, and care about people as much as animals.

MBr: Remember not every day will be a good day and not every animal will be your friend but a career with animals is still an amazing experience.

SB: Always bring another pair of scrubs to work.

6. What is the funniest (or strangest) thing that has ever happened to you at work?

SB: One day a lost pig came into the clinic and we kept him for 3 weeks before we could find his owner. Every week he was with us he got a different name.

MBr: Taking an X-ray of a sick kitty to find that she had swallowed a very interesting party decoration from a bachelorette party… the shape in the X-ray was unmistakable!

HG: I was holding a dog while my colleague expressed its anal glands, and the stream shot out and got right into my eye! It was totally gross, and taught me to look away whenever anal glands are being expressed.

7. What are you enjoying about teaching so far?

SB: I love when knowledge is shared so my favourite part about teaching is the teaching. I am also continually learning from my lesson plans and my students.

MBr: It may not always be the students’ favourite but the role play scenarios have been very entertaining! It has been rewarding to see the difference in the knowledge of the students from class one to now and know I helped make that happen!

HG: Meeting all of the wonderful students, and getting to open their eyes to the fascinating world of medicine and physiology.

8. If you could only have ONE pet, what animal would it be?

SB: I had always wanted a pug and I just adopted him last month. His name is Jimi.

MBr: I’ve got to say I don’t think my life would be complete without a dog in it!

HG: Easy, a kitty cat. Or maybe a raccoon.

9. What made you decide to go into this field?

MBr: I remember when I was young my family dog got really sick and I decided I was going to do whatever I could to get him through. I syringe fed him water and food and never gave up on him. He lived despite his poor prognosis. Animals were always a huge part of my life and it just made sense to work with them!

SB: I had originally wanted to become a veterinarian but when I got into the field I stayed in my role as a VHA and loved it.

HG: I am a science geek at heart, and I wanted a career that would allow me to see
a diverse range of medical and surgical problems. Human medicine is way too specialized for me. I love the diagnostic challenge that comes with a patient who cannot speak.

10. Honestly (lol) how often do you get peed on?

HG: More often than I would like 🙂 and honestly, pee is not the worst thing I get on my scrubs.

MBr: I think I’ve been peed on by too many animals to keep count!!

SB: At least once a week.