Vet Tech Student’s Hawaii Externship: A Bird’s-Eye View of Animal Care
This summer, Yakima Valley College veterinary technology student Odessa Cantu’s desire to care for wildlife took flight with an externship opportunity at the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to caring for and rehabilitating native winged wildlife.
During her six-week externship, Cantu worked alongside the center’s staff to conduct physical exams on birds in order to determine treatment plans as well as a wide range of tasks needed to support their rehabilitation.
“The physical exam is the most important part when taking care of the birds as it tells you where to start and what is needed,” Cantu said.
In addition to carrying out husbandry duties such as cleaning kennels, feeding and watering, and giving appropriate treatments, Cantu also gained hands-on practice doing blood draws, giving medication, participating in euthanasias, anesthesia monitoring in surgeries, placing tubes for feedings and fluids, and helping with the capture and release of birds.
Cantu is interested in wildlife and was looking for an externship offering hands-on experience. Hoping to find an out-of-state opportunity, Cantu did a web search to see if anything was available in Hawaii.
“That’s how I got connected with the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center,” she said. “I was fortunate enough that they have an internship program set up, so it was easy for them to accept me as an extern.”
Thanks to the externship, Cantu now has more hands-on experience caring for birds under her belt.
“Working with wildlife is a competitive area so, while I can’t get into it right away, I can work my way up to getting to that point.” — Odessa Cantu
“It allowed me to handle different types of birds and perform care,” she said. “I was allowed to practice the skills I learned in [YVC’s] program.”
In the short-term, Cantu’s focus is continuing to gain as much hands-on experience as possible.
“I still have a lot to learn so being able to be receptive of the knowledge is crucial to growing as a new tech,” she said.
But in the long-term, her goal is to work in wildlife care and support the conservation and protection of species that may be endangered. Her summer experience in Hawaii puts her a step closer to that goal.
“Working with wildlife is a competitive area so, while I can’t get into it right away, I can work my way up to getting to that point,” she said.