Melissa Holstein is the employee every veterinary clinic and hospital hopes to hire. She's completely devoted to the work and always ready to learn something new.
Twenty years ago, she took an entry-level job as a kennel attendant. Her drive to help animals in need meant that she worked hard to make the kennel a safe and healthy space for the animals in her care. The desire to do even more inspired her to keep adding to her skill set.
"I find that in veterinary medicine, I not only help animals, but I also help people that want to help their pet," Melissa said.
Over the next decade, she learned on the job. Soon, she advanced to a technician role at a mixed small animal and large animal practice. While there, she worked hands-on with animals of all sizes. Her breadth of experience was impressive, but Melissa knew there was more to learn.
She studied Biology at Northern Illinois University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 2003. Around the same time, she transferred to a VCA speciality hospital. She once again worked her way through several positions, seeking the one where she felt she could do the most good. She worked in ICU, emergency, surgery, and dermatology before finally landing in radiation oncology.
She's stayed in that specialty for the past 10 years, so it seems she's finally found the place where she can most effectively help people and their pets.
"To many of our clients, their pets are their children," Melissa said. "They want to do everything they can for their loved one to get any extra time with them." Working in radiation oncology, Melissa helps make that possible.
After finding the right place for her talents and passion, Melissa wanted to make sure she had the training she needed to do the job to the best of her ability. Her extensive experience and bachelor's degree in biology were a good start, but she really wanted to become a licensed veterinary technician.
Something was holding her back. "I always felt that I did not have the money or it was never the right time to do it," she said.
Like many working learners, Melissa already had a busy life. She worked full time and had a family that included a husband, two children, a dog and a cat. In her spare time, she volunteered as a Girl Scout Leader and as the advancement chair for her local Cub Scout pack.
Then, VCA offered their technicians a scholarship to attend the Penn Foster Veterinary Academy. "I knew right away that this was my chance to get the degree," she said. She was sure that completing the program and passing the VTNE would open up even more opportunities for her to help people and pets.
But first she had to study. She made herself a schedule and stuck to it, studying before bed everyday after work and family activities were complete. When she needed help, she reached out to fellow students and to her instructors.
"All of my instructors that I contacted were absolutely amazing about returning messages and providing the information needed to succeed," Melissa said.
As she studied, she learned how to focus and how to multitask as well as how to plan ahead and stick to a schedule. "I found that giving myself assignments or goals was the best way to fit studying into my hectic schedule."
All of that hard work paid off. Melissa was able to pass the VTNE on her first try. Not only did VCA compensate her for obtaining her Veterinary Technician licence, she also recently accepted a new opportunity as a committee member for VCA's Pet Cancer Alliance.
"So many people think that doing an online program is easy, but this program expects a lot out of you," Melissa said. As her experience proves, it gives a lot back to you too.
Melissa hopes she'll someday have the opportunity to pay it forward. "I have a love for teaching, so maybe someday it will lead me there."
For now, she's thrilled to be a certified Veterinary Technician doing the work she feels she was born to do at a VCA hospital.
Upskill your veterinary employees with Penn Foster's AVMA-CVTEA fully accredited Veterinary Technician program. With affordable, flexible training, working learners can work toward their Veterinary Technician credential while gaining the skills they need to advance your organization. If you're ready to increase revenue and improve retention, contact a Penn Foster training specialist now.
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