Ten year-old veterinary assistant sparks debate in vet circles
You might have heard of her. She’s the ten year-old fourth-grader who so longs for vetdom she’s conquered the online coursework required to be certified as a "veterinary assistant." It’s clear Courtney Oliver has ambitions. But the news of her success hasn’t been as well-received in veterinary circles as it has by parenting blogs across the Web.
Some reject her claims to hold this degree—citing the online nature of the coursework and her inability to physically/legally handle the practical aspects of the job.
But these courses are currently well-accepted means for certification. It’s true, this home-schooled kid could have gotten her degree from a Crackerjack box school for veterinary assistants. And the reports of her accomplishments are confusing as to where she received her degree and what the degree actually means (tech, assistant, Associates degree?)
But not all online programs are dismissable. For instance, I once perused the curriculum for the online vet tech program at St. Petersburg Junior College in Tampa and it was impressive (they don't offer it as an online degree anymore).
As the mother of a ten year-old I can testify to the zeal and determination a sufficiently motivated child can muster. I believe a very intelligent kid of her age can theoretically do the work.
Perhaps I’m quick to defend Courtney because I can personally identify with her story. I, too, was a ten year-old “tech” back when laws didn’t strictly prohibit our presence in the OR (or smoking there either, for that matter!). I worked 8 to 12 noon for no pay for 4 straight summers before reaching minimum wage and full-time status. I was helpful and smart. I gave injections and diagnosed heartworms.
But it was a different time then. Kids were freer to take on more “dangerous” jobs (and ride their bikes to the 7-Eleven unattended, too). No one ever denied I was strong enough to hold a Mastiff (I was tall. I looked like a fifteen year-old, I’m told) or suggested I was too dumb or irresponsible to read a fecal float with perfect accuracy. I was responsible and careful.
Yet in today’s world we would’ve lynched the docs who “hired” me. In fact, this little girl’s been accused of cheating on her exams. Her mother’s been condemned for pushing her too hard. And the vet who hired her? Her license lapse (a clerical error I once committed, too) was thrust into the media spotlight as evidence of complicit malfeasance.
“Lynching” is perhaps too strong a word, but it’s fair to say there’s been suffering on the part of those criticized for taking on a ten year-old tech.
For the record, I’ve hired certified techs who couldn’t manage a microscope let alone a Mastiff. And vets sometimes suck, too. You’d not want them anywhere near your pets.
Some vet techs are no doubt upset that Courtney’s precociousness minimizes their achievements. And I can understand that. It rankles me, too, that some reports actually claim she’s a veterinarian.
Nonetheless, I believe it raises the profile of the certification process all assistants and techs are increasingly mandated to conquer if they want to work in a high-quality medical environment. And that’s not a bad thing, is it?
But a ten year-old? If she’s good, I say give her the job. And while you’re at it, pay her if she’s worth it.