Dressed in scrubs embroidered with the Grayson Technical Education Program, a handful of Grayson High School students beamed at the new surgical suite that will take their veterinary science education to the next level.
Rebecca Scoggins is a senior at Grayson High School who wanted to be a veterinarian before she realized she was allergic to animal hair. She powers through, though, as a member of Grayson Tech’s veterinary science program, partly because seeing medicine and science in action is intriguing.
A partnership between Grayson Tech and Gwinnett Technical College will allow Scoggins and her classmates to observe routine veterinary surgical procedures and perform some hands-on tasks in post-op.
“Once you know what you’re going to be seeing and (Instructor Jennifer Allen) can explain to you what’s going on so you have more information before internships, you can impress the doctors with what you’re learning from this program and actually know what’s going on,” Scoggins said.
Most students in Grayson Tech’s veterinary science program ultimately want to pursue that rigorous path, according to instructor Jennifer Allen. But the Grayson Tech surgical suite will also serve students from Gwinnett Technical College who opt to take another career in the veterinary field: a career as a veterinary technician.
Veterinary technicians are credentialed professionals that assist veterinarians by providing anything from an initial exam of a patient to administering vaccines or anesthesia and preparing for surgery. The new Grayson Tech suite will be utilized by Gwinnett Tech Veterinary Technology students on Wednesday when veterinarian Michelle Goodnight will lead surgeries as Gwinnett Tech students assist her.
The surgeries are routine electives — a spay, neuter and mass removals — but open up Grayson Tech students to experience the day-to-day of a veterinarian and technician. Patients are provided by Gwinnett Animal Shelter, which offers its adoptable patients to Gwinnett Tech for spays or neuters before adopting them out to families.
“We’ll have at least one spay, one neuter and one mass removal (on Wednesday) to feel for those surgeries and have the flow down and remember all the equipment we need to remember,” Goodnight said.
The following Wednesday, Grayson Tech students will observe the surgery and take charge of record-keeping and monitoring vital signs of animals. Allen anticipated introducing her students to preforming lab work to check for internal pesticides and in-house blood work.
“It’s going to go above and beyond just surgery,” Allen said.
The partnership between Gwinnett Tech and Grayson Tech started with a conversation between Allen and Gwinnett Tech veterinary technology program director Brian Cheek. An American Veterinary Medical Association accreditation audit required Gwinnett Tech to move from the surgical suite at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter into a new facility to complete surgeries. The Gwinnett Animal Shelter suite included space for both surgical prep and procedure in the same room, but it’s no longer deemed medically safe to perform both tasks in the same space.
Allen, a graduate of Gwinnett Tech’s veterinary medicine program, spoke with Cheek about partnering to construct a suite inside Grayson’s technical school wing so that high school juniors and seniors in the program can observe while vet tech students gain the necessary experience in an environment up to industry standards.
“Tying in another Gwinnett County entity was a great opportunity for everything to be all-inclusive,” Allen said.
Construction of the surgical suite was funded by the General Obligation Bond Program that passed last November. Equipment in the surgical suite was paid for by Gwinnett Tech and Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education department.
There are 52 students enrolled in Grayson Tech’s veterinary science program, split into two classes. Students will rotate in small groups of approximately four students per week observing surgeries. Some of the first Grayson students that observe elective procedures have already completed 15-week internships at local practices. Future students in the veterinary science program at Grayson Tech will receive hands-on experience from the surgical suite prior to their internships.
“This is going to get them a lot more prepared prior to that internship,” Allen said. “They’re not going to be seeing things for the first time. They’re not going to asked to restrain something or hold an animal or help with post-operative procedures for the first time.”