Olivia Hernandez Program Director, Veterinary Technology Carrington College, Pleasant Hill Campus
Olivia Hernandez graduated from the Veterinary Technology program at Carrington College in 2001. After working in the field for 17 years, her career circled back to Carrington College for her current role—Program Director of the Veterinary Technology program—helping students and teachers get the support they need.
What inspired you to pursue a career in this field?
My mom told me that every picture of me from childhood has an animal in it. I did my senior high school project on animal psychology and learned more about behavior. I knew I wanted to work with animals, but academically, a four-year college program wasn’t for me.
It’s interesting, though, that once I was in the Veterinary Technology program, I got straight A’s. I was finally doing what I loved and was interested in, and it felt like it was meant for me. I like to relate that to my students, too.
What did you do before your current role?
I was a hospital manager for Bishop Ranch veterinary hospital in San Ramon. The hospital is large, and unique in that it’s open late and offers urgent care, hospital overnight care, and more advanced surgeries. I worked there for 17 years.
I first worked there as a student doing clinic rotations to get hands-on experience. I was then hired as a “baby” tech—working my way up through the years to senior tech, lead tech, and then to hospital manager.
What are some of your responsibilities as Program Director of Veterinary Technology?
As a program director, it changes every day. When I worked in the hospital, new challenges kept me on my toes, and I was constantly learning. Those experiences now help me a lot in my current role.
My students come first; I am guiding and coaching them and being a cheerleader. I teach them about the field from a hiring manager’s point of view, such as how to practice professionalism, and how to get the most out of their experience in school and on the job.
I make sure the curriculum is up to par, invest in more modern industry tactics, and keep up to date on that with students and instructors so that they are in the know about the latest in medicine and technology. We do this by consulting with experts, doing research, reading journals, and reaching out to fellow techs in the field about their experiences.
I am also responsible for supporting instructors to be sure they have what they need to succeed, from work-life balance to anything else. Without my instructors, there would be no students. Both need support.
What brought you back to Carrington College after working as a Vet Tech?
I knew that after years as a vet tech, I would eventually want to switch gears. I always had it in the back of my mind that when that time came, I would love to teach at Carrington College.
When I was working at the hospital, we took on students from the Veterinary Technology program at Carrington College for their clinical rotations, and I loved teaching them and seeing them grow, watching that lightbulb turn on. Their enthusiasm brought newness and excitement back to my life—I knew then that it was time for me to make the change to being an educator.
The veterinary industry is small, we all know each other. I met an instructor at a vet conference, and he told me about a program director position that was open at Carrington College. I knew I needed to do something new to change and grow. I had grown with the hospital, and it was hard to leave, but I made the decision to take the chance, and it worked out 100 percent.
I look back now and am so glad for the change, and to be in a new environment where I feel so appreciated. I learned so much at my former job; the skills I gained there trickled into what I do now with students and instructors.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love knowing that I am in some way contributing to the veterinary industry in a positive way and maintaining credentialed technicians; everything I do is for that reason. The program is helping to create well-rounded technicians and to help put them on the road to success in the world. You value what you perform, and I hope I am instilling those things in students.
What are some of the challenges as you teach/guide students?
Sometimes when students are open and honest about their life story or challenges, I am glad they feel comfortable sharing with me, and I know they need someone to talk to, but I wish I could be more helpful to them. That part of the job can sometimes be overwhelming.
Do you have words of advice for someone who is just getting started in the program or in the field?
If someone is interested in the program, my advice for them is to do your research about what a vet tech does. Some students often don’t truly understand what being a vet tech entails or what their role is. They come here because they love animals, but to become a registered veterinary technician, you have to have the same passion as a registered nurse to complete the program and be successful in the field. Start here at Carrington—come visit and ask the questions. We are here, and we are happy to help you discover what it’s all about.