SPC alumna Nicole Becker looks over X-rays from one of her four-legged patients while working as lead veterinary technician and office manager at North Boulder Companion Animal Hospital in Boulder, Colo.
St. Petersburg College School of Veterinary Technology alumna Nicole Becker was named 2014 Technician of the Year by the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association Sept. 20.
Since she was a child, Becker, 30, knew that her future would revolve around the love and care of animals.
“Ever since I was 9 years old, I always wanted to be a veterinarian or work with animals,” said Becker, who serves as office manager and lead veterinary technician at North Boulder Companion Animal Hospital in Boulder, Colo. “I never really strayed away from that; my feelings for it never changed.”
Born in Colorado, Becker grew up in Pinellas County, where she attended high school in Indian Rocks Beach. She remained local for college, and received an associate degree in veterinary technology from SPC in Summer 2008.
“The biggest thing I find that I am grateful for during my time at SPC was all of the hands-on training that we did,” Becker said. As a student, she worked on animals every day in the kennel – taking X-rays, placing catheters, performing dental and other medical care.
Her dream is to own and operate her own veterinary clinic.
“Nicole was always a great student,” said Rich Flora, dean of the School of Veterinary Technology. “She was dedicated to her courses, her learning and mastering the skills required to be an effective, contributing, valuable member of our profession. I have no doubt that she will be a very successful practice owner.”
A few years after graduation, Becker moved back to Colorado in August 2011, where she began working as a veterinary technician at North Boulder Animal Companion Hospital. After a short period of time, she realized she wouldn’t be satisfied in the entry-level position. When the hospital’s lead veterinary technician quit with only a week’s notice, she jumped at the opportunity to take on the role.
“I told my boss that I would like to try to take on the responsibility of head technician, so I took the reins and ran with them,” Becker said. When the animal hospital’s office manager left a few months later, she decided this was her chance to do and learn more.
“I asked her to let me also take on this responsibility,” she said. “I want to keep going and don’t want to stop – I want to work my way as high up the ladder as I can go.”
What she wasn’t expecting was the difficult she faced hiring new employees. The lack of direct animal contact in veterinary education in Colorado was a shock to Becker, who spent nearly every day working hands-on with the animals as an SPC veterinary technology student.
“Out here in Colorado, animal rights organizations are a huge thing,” she said. “The students out here don’t seem to get to practice on real animals. I get CVTs (certified veterinary technicians) who come in who are certified but have never placed an IV catheter in a real animal.”
“From an office manager’s point of view, where I am now trying to hire people, I think that is the biggest factor that stands out for me,” she said.
Becker said that at SPC, she learned how to not only understand what she was reading and learning through hands-on instruction, but how it also applies to her work as a veterinary technician.
“I see it too with my new hires,” she said. “They want to understand it – and they think they do. But when they try to work through a problem, you realize that their knowledge is completely based on what they memorized from their books.”
Becker said she wants to continue her education online to receive a Bachelor of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology from SPC, where she knows the faculty are dedicated to her education and success.
Flora said it is no accident that Becker and many other SPC graduates are successful in their profession.
“The dedication and concern shown by our faculty and staff toward our students is reflected by their success after they leave St. Petersburg College,” he said. “We look forward to having her back in our BAS program.”
The SPC School of Veterinary Technology recently received full accreditation from the American Animal Hospital Association, signifying the highest level of medical care within the veterinary medical profession. Only three of the 221 veterinary technology programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association also are AAHA accredited.
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