Shelters Spotlight: How Being a Veterinarian for a Day Teaches Students Unexpected Life Lessons
This 9-part series is brought to you by GOOD, in partnership with Purina ONE®. We've teamed up to highlight inspiring organizations that are doing innovative and unexpected things to connect with their local communities and promote positive perceptions of shelter pets. Read more about how pets—and the people who love them—can brighten lives and strengthen our communities at the GOOD Pets hub.
Dressed in lab coats and scrubs, with stethoscopes around their necks and nametags labeling them as doctors, students ranging from five-year-olds to seniors in high school are learning how to write out prescriptions and analyze digital X-rays. But they’re not practicing to become the next generation of Doogie Howsers. They’re learning what it’s like to be a veterinarian.
Three or four times a year, when students in Virginia get the day off from school for teacher in-service days, some take the opportunity to spend a day at the Virginia Beach SPCA. Former school teacher Kathy Shambo, creator of VBSPCA’s Be a Vet for a Day program, says the shelter’s educators respect and trust the students by giving them a true experience of what it’s like to be a veterinarian: “Everything we do, we do as realistically as possible.”
To ensure that kids in the program experience valuable career-training moments, educators train different age groups to measure liquids with syringes, weigh animals, learn from anatomically correct models, scan microchips, and perform basic pet CPR. As kids measure and compare animals’ heart rates, they’re also learning what affects the heart rates. They practice the right way to use real dental tools by picking chocolate chips out of cookies, while learning about how teeth relate to animal diets. Students also learn how to diagnose heartworm and other conditions based on animal behavior. “We even have them ask veterinarians questions while witnessing real animal surgeries,” says Shambo.
Student uses a real microchip scanner on a stuffed animal.