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Veterinary assistant internship lands TCC grad a job and a specialty

An internship that turned into a job has turned into a specialty for Tidewater Community College alum Ashley Hernandez.

Hernandez graduated with a Career Studies Certificate in Veterinary Assistant last December; she was among the first cohort of students to complete the new program. The two-semester certificate requires back-to-back internships, and Hernandez was hired at the site of her second one, The Center of Veterinary Expertise (The Cove) in Suffolk.

She was recently promoted to cardiology assistant, which allows her to gain a higher understanding of the inner workings of an animal, an area she said she never considered before.

“I liked learning anatomy, so it’s a great fit,” she said.

Like many aspiring students hoping to work in the veterinary field, Hernandez was unsure of what path best suited her. While working as a kennel assistant at Hickory Veterinary Hospital, she heard about the TCC program, which began in the spring of 2016.

The 17-credit certificate, headed by veterinarian Megan Taliaferro, prepares students to assist and support licensed veterinary technicians and veterinarians in the health and handling of small domestic animals and exotic species.

“The classes aren’t easy, but Dr. T does such a good job that if there’s something you don’t understand, she’ll take the time to explain it to you to help you understand it better,” Hernandez said. “She’s so enthusiastic about what she teaches that it helps a lot. She was willing to stay after class and go over anything with me if I had extra questions.”

Classroom labs are hands-on, but students really get a chance to hone their skills at the required internships. TCC partners with various veterinary offices and hospitals in Hampton Roads, including The Cove, a round-the-clock care facility in Harbour View.

Danielle Russ, hospital manager at The Cove, said anyone wishing to make a career in veterinary medicine must have real-world experience. “You’re not going to just walk into a veterinary practice and get a job,” she said. “Going through the TCC program shows you’re committed and have already put the effort in.”

Russ said interns at The Cove have a skills checklist and knowledge list that they follow to the letter.

Hernandez, who eventually would like to specialize in large animal care, encourages students to take full advantage of the resources around them when they complete their internships.

“Ask what you can help with instead of doing the minimum,” she said. “If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it will come naturally to you.”

TCC’s veterinary certificate is one of 32 programs nationwide that has received approval through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America.

The application deadline for the next cohort of students in TCC’s veterinary assistant program is Oct. 16, 2017.

For information about the program, contact Taliaferro at or call 757-822-7264.

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