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Renée Hájek, AAS

Hometown: Canberra, Australia

Why did you choose the Purdue Veterinary Technology Distance Learning (VTDL) program?

I chose Purdue's VTDL program because it was one of the few long-distance training programs in veterinary technology that did not require students to attend lectures in 'real-time' (problematic when you live in a distant time-zone!).  Also, Purdue was welcoming of international students, and successful in maintaining affordability of the program.

Renee Hajek, AAS

What was it like when you first joined the VTDL?

I didn't really know what to expect when I first started.  I was hoping that I would be provided with notes, slide-shows, references for textbooks, and videos to guide my learning, as well as instructors to answer my questions.  I got all that, as well as a network of acquaintances via discussion groups which made it feel like a real classroom.

What's it like to take a course?

Taking a VTDL course really feels like attending a university in real life without the inconvenience of wasting time in traffic and scribbling notes frantically while a speaker is lecturing.  The notes are provided - you can focus on understanding, and relax that you are not missing out on some important information.  You acquire practical experience in the mentorships which form a large component of the program.

What was your favorite course?

My favorite course was Animal Diseases (taken in my last year - the best comes at the end!).  It calls for your understanding of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, clinical pathology, imaging, nutrition, nursing - you finally get to put all these topics together to understand disease processes in sick patients.  I couldn't get enough of this course, it's a real buzz.

Did the program's faculty and staff help you?

You get great academic support - any question you may have about the material is answered promptly and always very competently.  You also get deadlines and clear objectives set by the instructors that help assure your continued progress in learning.  In the mentorships, the support has gone beyond that and taken the form of positive suggestions to improve your techniques in a way that is targeted to you in the context of your practice.  It's very tailored to your situation.  Lastly, your academic adviser will help you stay on target to achieve your degree.

What challenges did you face as a VTDL student and how did you get through them?

At first I mainly feared that I wouldn't have the IT technical knowledge to take courses electronically and to provide videos or make films for the mentorships.  I was very concerned about that when I started, and yet as I went on it wasn't all that hard after all.  The IT people at Purdue helped me a number of times and made everything easy.  I got myself a good tripod and a phone (to take videos) with a LOT of memory!  You also need a supportive network in your practice to help you out (there are so many exams to supervise, and you will need many helpers to film your tasks).

If you could give one piece of advice to a prospective student, what would it be?

One thing that has helped me a lot was to be working in a veterinary practice throughout my studies at Purdue (not just at the time of the mentorships).  It really is exciting, when you have filled your head with information from your readings at school, to go to work and make connections with real patients.  Practice gives shape to the theory, and seeing real cases helps you remember and understand the information presented in the courses.  Also, if your hospital has rounds - attend them (with a pen and paper to take notes).  They will challenge you to remember what you have learned 1 month ago, 1 year ago, or just yesterday.  It makes it fun.

What are two things that helped you be successful in your clinical mentorships?

Having a job that calls for the skills that you are acquiring in the VTDL program is very helpful because this allows you to acquire some practice before you attempt to film yourself doing some tasks. 

You need a very supportive workplace.  Filming tasks is time-consuming, resource-consuming, and it does slow down everybody in a fast-paced practice.  You will feel pressure to "get it right" the first time around.  Given that there are many videos to submit, you will need a team that is understanding and supportive of your project.  Baking a cake for your colleagues at times, to say thank you, will go a long way in maintaining patience and humor around you.

How did you find your clinical mentorship?

I was working at my mentorship site before I became a student at Purdue.

Any final pieces of advice?

This program is very challenging but extremely rewarding.  I would encourage anyone who is keen to improve their vet nursing skills or to understand their patients better, to enroll.

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