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Veterinary clinic offers a helping hand to elementary school students


Children get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at life in practice-and maybe a head start on their futures.

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Sometimes the best ideas come about at the most unexpected times. At least that was the case for the staff at Helping Hands Veterinary Clinic in Lynnwood, Wash., when inspiration hit in the middle of a lunch break. A group of team members were discussing field trips they took as teenagers when someone suggested that the clinic would be a great field trip for local elementary students.

David Concepcion, the practice manager, immediately ran with the idea. He reached out to all of the schools in the area to find out whether students would be interested in seeing what happens behind the scenes at a veterinary hospital. The response was overwhelming.

“We put it out there and it just blew up like wildfire,” says Concepcion. “We thought we could give the kids a head start on thinking about their future.”

Helping Hands Veterinary Clinic team members Aubrey Gabbard, LVT, Angela Guptill, LVT, Dr. Cherie Guidry, and David Concepcion are pictured with students from Miss Greathouse's class at College Way Elementary School.

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Once it became clear that there was genuine interest in the tours, the Helping Hands team decided to go all out to make them a success. During a scheduled tour, the staff shuts down the clinic for an hour to give the students their full attention. And in order to emphasize the role that every staff member plays in the clinic, the students go through five stations over the course of an hour, one for each of the primary positions in a veterinary hospital—veterinarian, veterinary technician, assistant, receptionist, and practice manager.

The staff has had fun brainstorming about how to present their role in the hospital—and to make sure the children have a good time, too. Some of the technicians set up the surgery area with a stuffed animal and “prep” it for a procedure. Others have put a jar of M&Ms among the medication bottles in the pharmacy for the children to guess how many are in it. And of course, there are always plenty of staff pets on hand for the children to pet and play with.

The clinic's lead veterinary technician, Aubrey Gabbard, LVT, demonstrates a procedure to a group of students and parents.

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The veterinarian’s station has by far been the most popular of the bunch, and the clinic’s doctors have had to field a variety of thoughtful—and entertaining—questions. While some of the older children have left a tour wanting more information about job shadowing opportunities, some of the younger ones have had more pressing concerns—how do you deal with all of the poop?

At the conclusion of a tour, the children are each given a goody bag with educational information about what they saw at the clinic, plus some fun coloring material with the clinic logo on it.

Overall, the team has been thrilled with the success of their latest community outreach effort. Concepcion says that not only has it had a positive effect on the practice’s business, but it’s also been a fantastic team-building opportunity. “It brought our staff closer as a team,” he says. “And it’s also nice to give everyone a break from their regular routine.”

Receptionists Jessica Wengren, left, and Shyanne Gates, right, proudly display a thank-you note from a group of students.

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