3 March 2017

Vet nurse student gains hands-on animal experience

Linley Boniface

For Richard Jin, learning to become a vet nurse isn’t about sitting in a classroom – it’s about gaining hands-on experience caring for animals in the community.

During his studies for a one-year New Zealand Diploma in Veterinary Nursing at Unitec in Auckland, Richard will have at least 120 hours of practical work.

Richard, who is from Nanchang in southern China, has been doing work experience at Unitec’s on-site veterinary clinic. He says he has learned to deal with many different situations, such as looking after animals while they’re recovering from surgery.

“It’s wonderful for vet nursing students to be able to work with the more complicated cases. You’re under the care of a senior nurse, so you have support, and if you feel confident enough you can ask the vet for more to do,” says Richard.

Hands-on experience is an important part of the New Zealand style of learning. It develops students’ creativity, decision-making, flexibility, critical thinking and problem-solving, which are among the top 10 skills the World Economic Forum says will be most needed to thrive in workplaces of the future.

As well as getting practical experience at vet clinics, students learn how to treat and take care of animals through demonstrations, practical sessions, group work, small group tutorials and real-life case studies.

“We have a totally different style of lessons here,” he says

Richard says he has appreciated the fantastic support he has had from his lecturers and from Unitec’s natural science department.

A highlight of Richard’s studies has been going to Tonga with the charity South Pacific Animal Welfare to vaccinate and de-sex cats and dogs. The island nation has no vet clinic of its own.

“We saw nearly 300 animals and carried out 183 surgeries in 10 days,” he says. “It was an amazing experience and I learned lots of nursing skills.”

New Zealand’s beautiful natural environment and excellent animal welfare regulations were among the reasons why Richard chose New Zealand for his overseas study.

“To me, New Zealand is the best place to learn to care for animals. Animals here have very good care from their owners and from vets,” says Richard.

Before starting his diploma, Richard gained a one-year New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology, also at Unitec. When he arrived in New Zealand, he took a foundation studies course at ACG in Auckland.

He hopes to work in New Zealand as a vet nurse once he has gained his diploma, and will then work towards achieving his long-term goal of training to become a vet.

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About the contributors
Linley Boniface

Linley Boniface is a contract writer for Education New Zealand. She is based in Wellington, her favourite city in New Zealand. A former journalist, Linley spent a year in Montreal, Canada, as a secondary school student.