Grad Q&A with Veterinary Assisting graduate Brianna Cummings

Brianna Cummings moved from Ohio to Arizona in 2021 to be with her mom who was ill. She had been working in corrections and studying towards earning an undergraduate degree in criminal justice before the move. Then, when she got to Arizona, a job at a hospital in Tucson opened her eyes to a new path forward and employment opportunities that she hadn’t previously considered. Best of all, those opportunities would allow her to work with animals, which was something she realized she really wanted to do. Then, Brianna found her way to Carrington College and the Veterinary Assisting program where she carried a 4.0 every term, despite facing the devastating loss of her mother during the program. Brianna’s teacher, Lea Walton, who worked with her through her grief, describes her as a “rock star.”

Please tell us about yourself

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and then moved to Arizona in November 2021 to be with my mom. She moved to Arizona about six years ago when I was turning twenty-one. In 2015, I graduated with my associate’s degree and went to college for a little bit after that to get my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. My heart just wasn’t into that degree, though. After I moved to Arizona to be with my mom, I stopped taking classes because the job that I had back in Ohio where I was a correctional officer was paying for my schooling. Then, when I worked at Northwest Hospital in Tucson, service dogs would come around and greet us and let us pet them. I always felt so much better when they came in even if I had been feeling like crap that day. I’ve always loved animals but I never thought to pursue a career working with them.

When did you decide to pursue a career as a veterinary technician?

I started looking into vet assisting programs in June of last year and Carrington was the one that stood out the most to me. Everyone on the staff was so nice and welcoming. They also helped me with everything. I won’t lie, I suck at filling out the FAFSA form–I don’t know what it is about that paperwork! But they walked me through every step and made it so much easier for me. I remember when I was doing my two-year degree, I struggled with FAFSA then, too. My mom and I sat at the computer in the library for hours. It was just awful.

Was there something that motivated you to choose Carrington?

When I contacted Carrington and met their staff, they made me feel like I was smart and they would have my back if I did the Veterinary Assisting program. That helped me feel like I could get through it both mentally and financially. Then, when the program started, I found that everything they said was true. They really do check up on you to make sure you are doing all right and you are always able to get the help that you need. This means if you need things like someone to proofread a paper, the help is there. If you take the time and do the work in this program, you can succeed–you really can. They make it easy for you to get help if you are confused or even if you need extra time on something, they will work with you.

Did you have a favorite class or part of your program at Carrington?

I think my favorite part was when we went on our field trip and learned about different horses. We also cleaned the horses and learned about common injuries they get. There was a horse with an injury on site and we had a chance to see how the injury was healing. I think that field trip was my favorite part of the program and more field trips to see large animals would be awesome. We mostly focused on dogs and cats, but I also enjoyed learning about larger animals.

What would you say was the most challenging part of your program?

I had a lot going on in my life when I was in school. I had to make arrangements with my teachers to take one of my finals over the phone because my mom was in hospice. She passed away the day after I completed that test. Then, we don’t get a break after our finals, so if you take your final on Wednesday, your next term starts on Monday. I was still grieving, so I missed the first two weeks of my second-to-last term. I couldn’t go back to school until I was mentally able to get back to work, which meant that I had a lot of catch-up work to do when I returned. I missed the class when they taught CPR, so my teacher Ms. Lea let me stay after class to learn. Everyone at Carrington was patient with me as I caught up and I was able to pass that term with a 4.0. I went through the entire program with a 4.0 and I’m proud of myself because I know things could have gotten a lot worse. I could have quit or I could have failed the term, but I pushed through it.

Is there a Carrington instructor or staff member who you would like to acknowledge?

Ms. Lea definitely.  I really couldn’t have done it without her help. I missed two weeks because of my mom dying and missing two weeks in this program is like missing a whole month. She helped me push through and make up the work I missed. I even had days when I went to class and I just couldn’t finish because of my grief. I would leave and she was very understanding and patient with me. It seems like a lot of people want you to kind of brush that stuff under the rug and get back to work. She let me take as much time as I needed and that helped a lot. Her patience gave me another reason to want to finish.

Did you ever feel like quitting?

Yeah, it felt like my entire world had turned upside down in just four days when my mom died. I knew she was sick when I came out to Arizona to be close to her, but everything just happened so fast. I wanted to pack up my stuff and move back to Ohio right away, but my dad encouraged me to push through and finish the program. That’s what I did and I’m proud of myself for doing it. Now I’m in the process of moving back to Ohio.

Would you say that your dad got you through your most challenging time?

Yes, my dad and a cousin that came when my mom died. They both really got me through my challenging time.

Where did you do your externship?

I did my externship at ABC Pet Care Clinic. It’s not that far from my house. It’s funny because I started my externship on February 14, and the next day my manager was talking about hiring me after I had finished my externship hours. I found that what Carrington teaches us is true–you don’t want to stand off to the side with your hands behind your back. If someone needs help, you want to offer it. I was drawing blood and restraining animals the first day. I was also cleaning up after pets. So, I made a big impact on the clinic by jumping in and helping right away. I guess you could say I went in there with guns blazing! I didn’t waste any time helping out and showing them what I had learned during the program.

Are you still at ABC Petcare and, if so, what do you do there?

Yes, I’m at ABC Petcare Clinic until I move back to Ohio. I was hired as a veterinary assistant, so I assist the vets and get them whatever they need. I also look in ears, draw blood, place catheters, help with euthanasia, run in-house labs, trim nails, perform x-rays, express anal glands, check patients in for surgeries–there are so many different things! I haven’t done surgery prep yet, but I am hoping to do that in my future job. I would also like to do ultrasounds. There is so much you can do in this field and I want to learn everything!

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I like that I get to deal with animals, especially when they bring in cute, nice ones. You’re not always going to deal with nice dogs or cats, so the good ones sort of override the naughty ones. Also, most of the animals that come in are nervous and I don’t know if I have a magic touch, but I can calm most of them down. It’s great to hear the owners say that I make their pets feel comfortable. Another thing is I like working there because of the teamwork. Nobody ever feels like they have to do something alone or by themselves. You can always ask questions–even if it is the same question multiple times, too. They are patient and really helpful.

How would you say Carrington prepared you for your career?

They prepared me by providing me with the education and hands-on experience that I needed to confidently enter my externship and quickly get hired. They gave me all the tools that I needed and helped me whenever I needed help. That’s why I feel like there’s no excuse for someone to be unsuccessful at Carrington. The staff and faculty want you to be successful and will do everything they can to help.

Do you have any advice for people interested in pursuing Veterinary Assisting at Carrington College?

Do it! If you set your mind to it, you can do it. I know it can be expensive, because I had to pay out of pocket, but the experience is worth it. I don’t regret anything and I know I would have regretted it if I hadn’t completed this program and become a vet assistant.

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