Doctor of veterinary medicine Anna Thompson is helped with Lily during a checkup of a colleague’s dog by Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Grade 12 student Brooke Stover in the first semester at the Minden Animal Hospital. Stover was given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience at the hospital for her co-op placement, which she said was insightful./DARREN LUM Staff

Bolstering a dream with real world experience

By Darren Lum
The following is one in a series of stories, depicting Haliburton Highlands Secondary School co-op placements.

Ever since she was a young girl, Brooke Stover has loved animals.
The Grade 12 Haliburton Highlands Secondary School student used this passion to embrace the co-op experience provided by the Minden Animal Hospital. The placement provided a hands-on experience and first-person insight in veterinary medicine bringing her closer to fulfilling her dream of helping animals by becoming a doctor of veterinary medicine.

The Archie Stouffer Elementary School graduate alternated between mornings and afternoons during the school week for the first semester. She performed tasks a vet assistant would carry out, which included assisting with animal treatment and examinations, weighing and cleaning up after animals, health inspections (looking for range of motion, skin conditions, overall healthy traits), clerical work, lab work – prepare slides and examine for anomalies and then alert the veterinarian about such findings.
It was only two weeks before school started in autumn that Stover said she knew she had a secured co-op placement.
“I didn’t realize by the end of this co-op I’d get this many opportunities. I assumed that I’d be kind of learning a bit. Yes, getting experience, but I didn’t realize it would lead me to a job and lead me to great things that I can put on an essay, or an application for school,” she said, referring to how she was offered part-time work as a vet assistant. Brooke said her entire experience working was positive. Any time she asked a question, staff were ready to provide insight.
“I get full answers. It’s really helped. I learned so much from just asking questions and listening to the staff,” she said. “Everyone is so helpful.”

“With that environment, it just made it so much easier to understand and get experience. It was just a nice place to be, working at. It’s comfortable here and I’m excited about coming and I don’t want to go to school. I just want to stay here,” she said.
She earned two credits with her placement shifts, which were two and four hours this past semester. Stover said, the four credit, full day option wasn’t possible with the six prerequisite courses needed for the university programs she was applying to enter this autumn.
Stover is striving for at least an 85 per cent average this year (and 90 per cent for scholarships). Her selections include the University of Guelph, the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia. Ideally, she would love to go to Guelph because of its zoology program, the community, the programs, students’ opportunities and the student residence life, but is drawn to Victoria except it doesn’t have zoology. As of press time, Brooke decided to go to Guelph University.
The hospital’s practice manager Tracey Laframboise said co-op education has always been a positive experience for everyone involved. Laframboise adds there is value in being able to offer this opportunity for not just high school students, but also college students, so they can gain experience
“We feel co-op is very important for students, as it gives them a chance to ‘try out’ a job before spending the money to go to higher education (college or university). They may start working and they find that the job isn’t what they expected, and so they have a chance to change the area of interest for further education,” she wrote in an email message. “Co-op also shows them what working is like (if they haven’t had a job before), so it’s not all about going to school. It is work experience.”
Brooke’s co-op placement education required in-class sessions. This included the completion of safety modules on WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System )and protocols pertaining to preventing the transmission and contraction of COVID-19 before starting the placement and an end of the year culminating activity with a slide show of pictures, depicting what she learned. She also completed daily entries in a journal to document what she did and learned during co-op.

Despite the limited time for co-op, she still learned more than she thought she would before starting the experience.
“I guess you don’t really know when you just bring a dog in … I was surprised to know about the pharmacy, medication and how much chemistry, math goes into this. The lab work as well,” she said.
Her experience included doing and observing, which included wathing surgeries.
She said before the co-op placement the value behind getting good grades didn’t have as much reason as it does now, which included putting her theoretical knowledge to the test.
“What you learn is important. It’s not like you’re going to learn it in high school, forget it and never use it again. I did realize you’re going to use it again. Whereas I used to think learn it, memorize it, but it doesn’t matter,” she said.
Her motivation when it comes to learning at school goes beyond just the marks on her report card.
“That was my motivation. I think it did change to now I want to learn all these things. Yes, get the marks, but just how much I’ve learned from listening and applying it. I think it’s nice to know more,” she said.
This includes chemistry, which has included applying her theoretical knowledge to the lab work she completed.

Grade 12 student Brooke Stover examines a sample, as part of lab work she did during her first semester co-op placement./DARREN LUM Staff

Co-op placement can lead to employment

Laframboise added the hospital has also offered placements to college students and that when things go well a job offer follows.
“For the college student placements it gives the experience in the field they are in so that they feel more confident going into the field they graduate from. When the students are good they may get a job offer. We have hired Brooke and we just had our last co-op student work with us up to going to university to study,” Laframboise said.
Brooke was hired as a vet assistant, working Saturdays fulfilling the same duties as she performed during the co-op. She was recently promoted to be an animal care attendant, which has expanded her role to include follow-ups with patients, answering phones, and billing.
Since she had such a positive and rewarding experience, Brooke has been sharing the benefits of a co-op placement with others.
“I’ve been telling everyone younger than me, my sister and her friends that you should definitely do it because it just shows you what you’re getting yourself into. Before you go and pay thousands and go through all this schooling, [it’s important] I want to do it and know what it’s like,” she said.
The choice to not do it was easy, but she is glad she made the effort to see this opportunity realized.
“I’m so glad that I did because I really didn’t realize how much it would help me,” she said. “Really, there is only so much you can learn out of a textbook, so when you come and apply it you learn a lot more.”