After Years of Success as Air Force Mechanic, Vet Tech Grad, Alisha Eisenhauer, Transforms Her Passion for Animals into New Career
For more than a dozen years, Alisha Eisenhauer was laser-focused on her career in the United States Air Force. She was trained as an aircraft mechanic and worked on F-16s, KC-135s, and other military aircraft. She thrived on the discipline and focus the job demanded and loved being deployed to such diverse places as Japan, the Middle East, and England.
But after she was injured on the job and retired from the service in 2013, deciding what to do next proved to be a challenge. She first earned her associate’s degree in Aviation Technology but then decided to pursue a career in law enforcement. She completed her BA in Psychology, with a minor in Criminology, at Brandman University. She enrolled in the Napa, California police academy and graduated number one in her class, earning four fitness awards along the way.
Soon after being hired as a police officer in Fairfield, California, Alisha made a tough decision.
“I loved the job, but I discovered I didn’t love the pressure that came with it,” she says. “The best part of that time of my life is that I met my husband, Justin, on the job. He encouraged me to pursue a new career that I was passionate about. I worked for a while as an aerospace quality control inspector, but I soon realized that was really ready for something new.”
That’s exactly what Alisha, 40, found when she enrolled in the Veterinary Technology program at Carrington College’s Sacramento, California campus in 2019. She recently graduated with honors and will soon take the Veterinary Technician National Exam. She is now employed with a large Sacramento veterinary hospital.
We talked with Alisha about why she loves working with animals, how she thinks her military background prepared her to be a better student, and what it’s like to have four dogs of her own—including a six-year-old German Sheperd who holds a full-time job.
How did you first learn about Carrington’s Vet Tech program?
The Veterans Administration offers a vocational rehab program that pays for schooling for vets who want to train for a new career. Carrington is one of the approved institutions, so I researched the school and was impressed. I felt like the program was very organized and focused, which is what I wanted. Within three months after I first checked out Carrington, I was in the classroom for the first day of my Vet Tech program.
What were your impressions of the program and the instructors?
Everything I learned in my program felt relevant. I didn’t feel like a minute was wasted. I also enjoyed the variety of instructors I had. They each had their own unique personalities and teaching styles, which kept it fresh and engaging.
What is it about working with animals that appeal to you?
Ever since I was a child, my family called me an ‘animal whisperer’ because I loved animals so much. I once found a baby bird and decided it was my job to save him. I’ve always had a soft spot for animals, so being able to work with and help them every day feels like a privilege. When an animal goes to the vet, they’re afraid and anxious. I find it very rewarding to help comfort them through the process. I treat every animal as I would want my dogs to be treated.
You ended up getting your job through another Carrington student. How did that happen?
I met Kathryn in class and we became friends. After she was hired by the veterinary clinic where she did her externship, she recommended me for a Veterinary Assistant position. I interviewed in January, 2021 and was hired. I’ve worked in the emergency room and Intensive Care ward, and have learned so much. I’ll be able to make the move up to a Registered Veterinary Technician position as soon as I pass my exam later this summer.
What do you like most about the work you’re doing?
I love the variety of the job. One minute I’m drawing blood or inserting a catheter, the next I’m shooting diagnostic radiographs, administering medication, or monitoring vital signs during surgery. There is no such thing as a typical day. Some are easier and less intense than others, but they’re all rewarding because I’m helping animals.
Do you think your military background, training, and experience have had an influence on the kind of student and employee you’ve become?
Definitely! The military taught me to be organized, strong, respectful, and to always complete my goals. I think my years in the military instilled a sense of structure and discipline. In the military, for example, you don’t call in sick. When you commit, you follow through. I think that level of commitment is something employers look for and really value. Being in the military also exposed me to a variety of cultures and people. I was lucky enough to travel all over the world, and I think that kind of exposure influences how you relate to people and how you see the world.
You have four dogs, including one who goes to work every day. Tell me about Leon.
My husband is a police officer and Leon is his canine partner. Leon is a six-year-old German Sheperd who is trained to find drugs—heroin, ecstasy, meth—and to find suspects who are hiding. I think the only thing Leon loves more than going to work is coming home from work. Our other three dogs are lazy dachshunds who welcome him after every shift with a big sniff festival. Charlie Brown is 16 years old, Odin is two, and Willow is one. Even though they each have very unique personalities, they’ve become one big, very happy pack.
What would you tell someone who might be thinking about enrolling in Carrington’s Vet Tech program?
If it’s something you’re willing to commit to, I’d say go for it! Beyond the education and training, the program offers, I graduated with a sense of confidence. I know that I’m well-prepared to get a job as a Vet Tech and that I can be successful. The hands-on experience that the program provides really helps you overcome whatever self-doubt, fear or anxiety you start with. It was a great program for me. I saw it as an investment in my future, and that’s really what it’s proven to be.
Carrington College offers the Associate of Science degree in Veterinary Technology at six California campuses.