Sydney McClung was working through her final semester in TMCC’s Veterinary Technician program—which has recently been renamed as the Veterinary Nursing Program—when the sudden switch to remote learning changed everything. “It was definitely harder... I’m a very hands-on learner and I found it hard to stay motivated and retain the information just from reading PowerPoints and books. It was also harder to get the 210 hours needed for the externship since the SPCA was only doing vaccine clinics for the public 2 days a week and we were doing online training the rest of the time,” she said.
Luckily for McClung, she had already been exploring employment at the SPCA, which offered her not only an opportunity to complete her externship hours but also to get paid for it. McClung had experience working in a shelter environment, thanks to previous experience working at the Washoe County Regional Animal Services as a part of the Veterinary Technician Program.
A lifelong animal-lover, McClung grew up “borderline obsessed with animals,” both her domestic pets, which included dogs, and the wildlife she encountered in the natural world.
“As a young kid, I would spend my free time catching lizards and attempting to rescue baby birds that had fallen out of the nest. My answer when anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up was a vet, no hesitation,” she said.
Yet McClung, who also discovered a love of art as she grew up, went to college in pursuit of a degree that would enable her to become an art teacher. However, the experience wasn’t fulfilling. “I realized I was unhappy, and eventually started interning at a local animal hospital. I ended up returning to my childhood dream and began pursuing my career as a veterinary technician!”
Her externship and employment at the SPCA coincided with the COVID pandemic, which created a unique situation in terms of how people were treating their animals. “During the beginning of COVID there were many rumors going around that people could get coronavirus from their animals and this was causing a large influx of people surrendering their animals out of fear,” she said. Many veterinary offices ceased offering routine services, like spay or neutering, toenail trimming, and vaccinations. McClung worked in a vaccine clinic on Saturdays and Sundays, that helped to offer these services within the strict CDC guidelines.
“These clinics allow people to get their animals vaccinated, microchipped, and dewormed at a lower cost,” she said. Masks at the vaccine clinic were mandatory, and customers had to wait in their cars until it was time for their appointment so that there were no more than 10 people in the building at any one time. “I also assisted with treating animals who were not able to go to foster, such as our older cats who need daily medications and special diets.”
One foster cat named Bunny offered McClung the opportunity to experience the joy of caring for a foster animal that would, eventually, find a forever home. “Bunny was an obese, geriatric cat [with] kidney disease. She had been with us for over a year. I actually think that COVID helped her get adopted because we were not taking in any new animals so she was one of the few that was actually on our website for adoption. She had always been a little spicy with the staff, but once we realized that she doesn't like other cats, and we moved her into her own huge enclosure she blossomed into the funniest, sweetest cat. We even learned that she liked going on walks so we put her into a harness and would take her on walks around the building.”
Thanks to McClung and other SPCA staff, Bunny was adopted by a young couple who continue to send pictures of Bunny in her new life. “We receive picture updates on her cuddling with them on the couch, and learning that [Bunny] also loves to watch TV.”
For the moment, McClung is excited about her future, which includes living the life of a recent program graduate and studying for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE), a requirement of the Veterinary Technician license. “I’m also incredibly happy at the SPCA, and will stay here as long as they’ll have me,” she said.
Working as a Veterinary Technician has been fulfilling and McClung encourages anyone who’s interested to shadow at a local clinic or to volunteer at the SPCA to get a glimpse at this dynamic and meaningful career. “The best thing...is being surrounded by puppies and kittens all day, and that [incredible] feeling when you help to save an animal’s life.”
For more information on TMCC’s Veterinary Nursing Program, contact the department at 775-824-8640.