Veterinary Technology program appeals to exotic animal lover

by Nyla on May 25, 2017 · 9:00 am

Fresno Vet Tech graduate Joshua Slusher holding lizardJoshua Slusher likes animals of all kinds, but it was his interest in exotic animals like snakes, lizards and birds that pushed him to make animal care his life’s work. That was going to mean a big life change.

He started working in restaurants right out of high school, moved up to cook at a popular Italian restaurant and – before he realized it – 11 years had passed. “I didn’t get into college like a lot of kids do after high school; I just started working,” says Joshua. “I wanted to make money.”

Joshua wasn’t certain Veterinary Technology was the right career path for him, but he decided to check out the possibilities. His research led him to SJVC Fresno. “I looked them up, and they were accredited,” he says. “And, they were the quickest route to getting a new career (in that industry). And, I wasn’t getting any younger.”

He immersed himself in the accelerated, 15-month program while maintaining an almost full-time work schedule. “I didn’t get much sleep or have much of a personal life,” he admits. His morning classes, study and work schedule allowed him very few hours of sleep each night.

“I had an hour or two break in the afternoon before going to work and would usually go to the library and get most of my homework done,” he says. “I’d get home from work around 10:00 p.m. and finish any homework I had. I’d get up in the morning and start it all over again.”

Josh was realistic about what it would take to complete the program. He tapped his inner reserve.

“I’m one of those people who likes a set schedule,” says Joshua. “I stay focused and do what I have to do. My parents raised me to work hard, and my dad taught me to be responsible.”

The Veterinary Technology program is rigorous. “You have people who go into the medical field for humans who specialize in phlebotomy or radiography or supportive care,” says Joshua. “As a Vet Tech, we have to touch on all of it. We incorporate all of those specialties in the care for animals.”

Not that the Vet Tech program didn’t have its light moments. “Our class was a bunch of goofballs,” Joshua remembers fondly. “We always kept the instructors and ourselves entertained.” The laughs didn’t interfere with the academics. Joshua earned a 3.7 GPA.

“Josh always had a positive attitude,” says Peter Bergman, Student Advisor. “His greatest strength is his work ethic. Even when you could tell how tired he was, he was always in the library. He is the kind of man who won’t stop until the job is done.”

Even before Joshua graduated this past April, he had secured a part-time position with San Joaquin Veterinary Hospital, his extern site. He started out with 12-15 hours each week, but has worked up to 25-30 hours. “As I gain more experience, they are giving me more hours,” he says.

A whole new world has opened to him. “We are one of the few clinics in Fresno that sees exotic animals,” he says, although they see their fair share of cats and dogs, too. His days are filled with performing the skills and exercising the knowledge he learned in his Vet Tech program.

“I check patients in, talk with owners, do blood draws, catheterizations, urine/fecal samples and send specimens out to the lab,” he says. “We see a lot of ‘pocket pets’ like hamsters, turtles, mice, rats, ferrets and chinchillas.”

He especially likes the diversity of his new career. “I enjoy it thoroughly,” says Joshua. “Some jobs can get monotonous, but here there’s always something to learn, new developments. The people I work with have a good attitude. I can tell they really care and are there to help. That’s what means the most to me.”

Josh has one more big push before life starts to settle into a manageable rhythm. He will take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) within the next couple of months. “I am concentrating on taking the national exam to become a Registered Veterinary Technician.”

That will be an important step if he decides to continue this career path. “I was just kind of throwing this out there to see if I really like the career,” he laughs. “And if I do, then I will educate myself more; go back to school and get a better and bigger degree. There are not a lot of vets that specialize in the exotic field.”

Joshua wants to allow a little space between his current career spot and whatever might come next. “I’ve always been pretty athletic, going to the gym, playing pool, having a beer or two with friends, and would love to get back into it.”

One thing for sure; he has probably retired his chef hat. “The closest I get to Italian food is the pizza my boss likes to order on Saturdays.”

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