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Veterinary Assistant Students Learn to Take the Lead


Today’s class saw a number of radical transformations. Firstly, the Production Studio of Centre for Arts and Technology’s Kelowna Campus became, for a few high-energy hours, a simulated veterinary clinic as Veterinary Hospital Assistant (VHA) students role-played their way through a series of challenging interactions. Guided by instructor Kari Lesick and special guest speaker Brad Pattison of “At The End Of My Leash”, the students were tasked with identifying and responding to a variety of animal (and human) behaviors. As the students worked through each simulation, Brad and Kari provided extensive feedback and real-world examples designed to help them respond effectively in a clinical setting.

Right from the get go, it was evident that this class would be all about helping students get into the right mindset to approach challenges with confidence, as soon-to-be veterinary hospital assistants. At first, some of the students were shy and soft spoken, but as the scenarios played on, the second transformation occurred: the energy in the room skyrocketed and students began to the lead from Brad and Kari’s examples. Voices got louder. Actions became surer.

“As you work through these scenarios, it’s as much about how you stand and how you move as it is about what you say. Get engaged. Stand up. Feel confident. You’ve got this,” said Brad, as Kari talked to the students about the gamut of emotions they can expect to experience in a clinical setting. “The phone will be ringing off the hook. You will have ten people in line. You will have one thing coming at you after another that you cannot control, and only one thing that you can – and that is how you engage with people,” said Kari, letting this point hang in the air for a moment. “It’s about how you make them feel seen and heard. How you make them feel important. How you are empathetic. Basically, how you respond will set the tone.”

Kari illustrated her own point moments later when burst through the door holding her beloved pooch, Manu, surprising the students with another pretend emergency situation. Fortunately, Manu was quite alright (in fact, he even hammed it up for the crowd), and Kari would go on to do this several times. Each time, with additional guidance from Brad, the students’ responses grew more assertive, more confident, more energized.

The class concluded with Brad and Kari going over a number of effective behavior modification techniques, but the students did not sit idle. Brad went around the table inviting each student to provide their thoughts and challenging the group as a whole to come up with solutions to a variety of common canine behavioral problems.

Overall, the Pet Psychology class is designed to give the students an understanding of the emotional and psychological behaviors of small animals, in particular canine and feline psychology. Next week, Brad and Kari will take the class on a field trip to a local dog park to cover points on human posture and stance, leash management, positive and negative reinforcement techniques, and reacting to different animal behaviors including: anxiety, stress, fear and aggression.

Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more photos and videos from the class.