Graduate Q&A with Veterinary Technology Graduate Alexis Mooney
Alexis Mooney came to Carrington College Stockton campus from a community college and thrived in the Veterinary Technology program. A lifelong animal lover and driven student, Alexis already has a wide variety of veterinary experiences under her belt and is quickly establishing herself in her career field. “Alexis was a hard-working student,” says Amy Abel, AS, one of Alexis’s instructors. “She would commute from Delhi to Stockton every day for class. She was always punctual and had a great attitude.”
Here, Alexis tells us about her academic and career experience and shares some stories from the practice.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m 27. I’m currently living in Idaho Falls, Idaho. I’ve been here for two and a half years – I came here after graduation. I grew up in California, in the Central Valley area, up until I moved here. I have three cats. I’m definitely an animal person, but I mostly spend time at home. I have very long days at work, so I spend a lot of time at home.
Have you always been interested in the veterinary field?
I was kind of adjacent to it. I started with going for an animal science degree. I wanted to teach agriculture, like FFA [Future Farmers of America] stuff to high school students. I got into that field of study and decided that I wanted to be more hands-on. I didn’t think I could be in the animal medical field – I didn’t think that I was smart enough for something like that. I thought it took being almost a genius, almost a human doctor to be involved in the medical side of animals. Then I just decided just to go for it and I started in one program and then ended up switching to Carrington. I liked the program better, so I stayed and completed the program. So it all just kind of started with me saying, I don’t want to just teach with animals, I want to be hands-on.
Was there anything that influenced your decision to pursue a career as a vet tech or a person who influenced you?
I’ve always loved animals. I did FFA as a high school student, so I spent a lot of time with mainly large animals, pigs and rabbits and sheep and things like that. But I was talking to my mom about it a lot and I said, “I want to be more hands-on with the animals. I don’t feel like teaching, unless I teach specific things, but I’m really not going to be as hands-on as I want to be.” She was like, “Well, are there are other options?” And I said, “Well, I could be an animal nurse, but that takes a lot, and I don’t want to be a vet.” That takes a lot of years and hard work and I really didn’t think I could handle performing surgeries. But she said, “Well, why don’t you look into that option?” And the rest of my family was like, “That sounds like a fantastic idea.”
The college that I was at offered an introductory course, and I liked the introductory course, but not the original program. So then I switched colleges and just went from there. But I think my mom was kind of the driving force for me to do more with it.
What about its program made you choose Carrington?
I was still in the program at my local community college when I decided to set up a tour of the campus and talk to somebody in the program. When they laid everything out for me, it felt like the program was well-established. At Carrington, I had my lab there and my teachers were always on campus. I had their emails if I had questions.
When I was studying for the program, I was studying for things that pertain to my career field and not a whole lot of extra stuff. I mean, I obviously did do some general ed, but it was really focused in. I felt like if I just followed the course and did my work and did the labs and sought instructions from my teachers, that I would pass, no problem. It didn’t feel like I was all over the place.
In what other ways do you think the Carrington program helped prepare you for your career?
It sounds funny to say, but the program was kind of controlled chaos. We always knew what we were doing and we always knew that if we had questions, they would be answered, but you were also held to a certain standard of animal care and a certain standard of professionalism even at school. And so, it was every day, I didn’t know what kind of questions were going to be thrown at me, what kind of things I was going to be asked. In a good way, because it prepared me for now, when my doctors will throw a random question at me or ask me about this or ask me about that. I felt like the program fit that kind of thought process of, they were going to ask you a random question sometimes, and you were expected to know the answer at a certain point.
And there was always something to be done. There was always something to know and something to learn, which I think directly correlated to the field. There’s always a million and one things to do. There’s always somebody you can be helping. And I felt like that happened a lot while I was in class. So it was kind of chaotic in a way, but it definitely prepared me for the field that I was going into.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current work and what you do now?
Currently I’m in a general practice here in Idaho Falls, mainly working with dogs and cats, large breed dogs, sometimes even giant breed dogs, but typically just dogs and cats. I just started here about two months ago at this clinic. I was at another general practice before that. In that general practice, we had a doctor who saw exotics. So I got two years of working with exotics from your typical snakes and amphibians and reptiles, to rabbits and rats and guinea pigs.
She even did surgery on a goldfish. So I got experience with fish as well – it was really awesome to be able to see those parts of things. The fish actually survived and did really great after surgery. The owner was very happy. We had multiple tanks set up so it would filter in clean water and rotate water and help the fish with stress levels and stuff. So it was definitely a process, but the fish went home. But overall, typically, I’ve been in a general practice the last three years.
What do you enjoy most about your work and what do you find most challenging?
I think the most rewarding part of my job is just being a helping hand in everything that doctors do. You’re kind of taught in school, the doctor is the final say so on things, and that’s very true, especially legally. But just to be able to be there with an animal through treatments and through sickness and being hospitalized and all of that, and then having them go home and get to see their owners again and get to be a dog again, or a cat again, is really the most rewarding part of my job, and it has been since I graduated. I mean, puppies are always fun. That’s quite rewarding in itself. But when you have a patient that you think may not make it or is going to have long-term side effects and they go home normal or healthy, it’s really rewarding to have that happen.
I think the most challenging thing for me and a lot of my coworkers has been, especially through COVID and through everything being curbside for the last year or so, communication has been really difficult with owners. We try to get as much information as we can to be able to treat effectively, but it can be kind of difficult when you have to make five phone calls to approve treatments and talk through blood work and options.
Also, mental health in our industry is a problem and it has been for many years because we work with sick and dying animals. That can be really hard on people, and COVID didn’t make that easier. But I think there’s more resources now than ever for things like that and I think that’s what a lot of people deal with in this field. So I think those are the hardest things.
What was the hardest part about going to school and what got you through those hard times?
For me personally, the hardest part about going through school was that I traveled an hour both ways to class four days a week. I was working two jobs and going to school. Doing that two hours of driving every single day through 20 months of schooling, was pretty difficult and physically and emotionally taxing.
For the classes themselves, there’s just so much information and it feels like you’re never going to retain all of it. And you’re probably not going to retain 100% of it. That can be really difficult and daunting at first. And even still now, sometimes I’m like, “I know my teachers told me that,” and I can’t remember what exactly the discussion was. So overall, the amount of things that you have to know, being a technician in this field, and for me personally, just the amount of driving and traveling I had to do to finish my program.
And what drove me to really finish was I knew that this is what I wanted to do. And I knew that this was the first step to getting to my licensing and getting to a career. I started this process and it was a hard process, but I knew that once it was done, then I was done with school and that I had accomplished something really big and important. That, and being self-sufficient in having a career and having my own home and things like that, really pushed me to finish the program. And honestly, it flew by so fast. It moved so quickly.
Is there any advice that you received or any advice you would give for students who are going into the veterinary world or going to school to become a vet tech?
Don’t get in your own head about things. Don’t overthink it to the point where you’re overthinking your own knowledge. That was my big problem in school and when I first started. I would doubt my own brain and I would doubt what I knew that I knew. It’s always good to double and triple check things. Any doctor will tell you, “I’d rather you double or triple check than do it wrong,” and that’s very true. But when you know something, trust your gut, trust your instincts. The more you sit there and question yourself, the more it’s going to just keep happening over and over again. And then you won’t trust yourself with the simplest of things. I had to get myself out of that rut. Hearing that from somebody, to just trust what you know, is really important and was really helpful to me.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, nothing big and specific. I’ve always thought of myself as somebody who would move somewhere else and potentially work in large animal again, either an equine hospital or just work for a large animal vet period. I really do love large animal a lot. Or potentially look into working in zoo medicine, which is a really interesting field and very difficult to get into. Those have been my two things where at some point in my life, I’d either like to be in zoo medicine or go back into large animal medicine because I think that’s where I’m happiest and where I’m meant to be.
Is there anything else that you want to add?
I think the most important thing is just trust your gut, trust your instinct, and keep up on the work. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of notebooks, and a lot of paper, and a lot of flashcards and a lot of time. But once you get that down, the rest of it just kind of flows together. So, I think that’s the last thing to leave with.