As an aspiring Vet Nurse or Vet Technician, you should already know that the biggest challenge facing you in gaining your certification is not about passing your exams, it is in securing the practical skills hours you need.
And it isn’t easy.
So, to help you on your journey, we reached out and asked Vet Nurses that have already overcome the barriers to entry in securing practical hours for some simple tips to help you beat these challenges and allow you to pursue the career of your dreams.
Cast a wide net
Securing the practical skills hours that you need to become a Vet Tech or Vet Nurse is never easy. Many animal hospitals and clinics simply do not offer traineeships and therefore competition for the facilities who do can be strong. You can increase your odds of finding a great spot to earn your hours by simply expanding your search and being prepared to travel or even move; not easy we know, but you have to fish where the fish are. And it is a good strategy to target the larger groups and corporate practices – they tend to have the infrastructure to support trainees, and the foresight to invest in the next generation of Vet Nurses early in your career.
Look for a mentor
“A recent NCVER report revealed that formal and informal mentoring in the workplace are a key ingredient in encouraging apprentices and trainees to complete their training…Ultimately, mentoring can be an important part of the training process when delivered correctly, helping candidates settle into their environment and learn more quickly than when left to their own devices.”
– Leanne MacNamara, Public Relations Coordinator, Busy At Work
Asking for someone to be your mentor is a very different question than asking for practical training hours and will differentiate you from the crowd. And a mentor in the animal health field can help aspiring Vet Nurses and Vet Techs in many ways. First, he or she might be able to help you find a location to complete your traineeship as they are likely to have a broad network in the industry. Second, they can provide support and guidance during your traineeship to ensure that you get the most out of your practical training experience.
Deliver your resume in person
“Drop off your resume unannounced, without making a prior appointment. Ask the receptionist if you can drop off you resume to the senior Vet on duty, the personnel manager or whomever your contact is at the company. Wait for them in the front entrance or lobby area before meeting them. Then introduce yourself and shake their hand.”
– Henry Francis, Career Trend
While you might not always be able to meet the person who could approve you for practical skills hours, by turning up you have made a statement of your commitment and will stand out from all of the applicants who submit their resumes electronically. And choose your time wisely, early afternoon is often a quieter time rather than first thing in the morning when all the admissions are happening, and evenings tend to be busy too – if the clinic is open on a Saturday, late morning can be a good time too.
Emphasise your desire for long-term employment
Continuity of care is fostered through employee retention. Some practice managers are reluctant to provide training if they suspect that a trainee will leave their team immediately upon completion of their practical skills hours. You can enhance your chances of securing a training site by expressing an interest in remaining on board as an official employee after you complete your training.
Follow up, follow up and follow up
Never make any assumptions as you explore traineeship hours opportunities. Veterinary practices are very busy and sometimes good candidates such as you can simply get lost in the shuffle. Follow up every three to five days to reiterate your interest in completing your practical skills hours at their facility.
The vet care industry has a terrific network of like-minded people who have an implicit level of trust in each other. Referrals are frequent and so building up your own connections is essential as this is the most likely way for you to initiate or hear about new opportunities. Join as many Social Media veterinary groups as you can, and actively participate in chats and discussions. Keep a keen eye out for opportunities and subtly drop your interest in practical hours into conversations.
Securing an opportunity to accumulate your practical hours to complete your traineeship or certification is tough, and there is lots of competition so you need to work out a strategy and some specific tactics to get ahead of the competition. Time to sit down with a notepad and work out your plan based on these steps; start with expanding your network and ask for their guidance – you will be pleasantly surprised at how helpful today’s Vet Nurses and Vet Technicians will be, after all they have been there too and their innate kindness will shine through.
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