What’s the best way to brighten up a rainy, dark February day in a veterinary hospital? Bring some preschoolers in to finish their project on how to be a veterinarian.
In the morning, a pair of tiny yellow school buses arrive. Tiny children arrive, and — OMG — the cuteness patrol is on rainy parade. The waiting room is in tumult as toddler rain gear, coats and mittens are removed in a frenzy.
My clients in the waiting room can’t hold back their joy. Surprise! You thought you were re-checking your dog’s ear infection, but you have been overtaken with preschool exuberance, chatter and too many questions all at once.
The Exam Room
The tour begins. We all get weighed on the walk-on doggy scale. This proves to be a highly popular event.
Our first stop is the examination room. Well-lit, friendly, bright colors. Nothing intimidating. Our goal has always been to have our pet patients experience as little fear as possible, just like these children. Veterinary medicine and pediatrics actually have a lot in common.
We don’t want to worry the kids with live animals, so we use a friendly, plushy puppy toy for demonstrations. Vet technician Kim’s introduction of the otoscope and the vaccine is particularly helpful for children who may fear ear exams or “needles.”
She explains that vaccinations are just a little “poke.” If done correctly, a little poke is all it should be, for tiny pet or tiny child.
Then we bring the now very excited children to the back rooms of our hospital.
We show them X-rays. We show them it is not scary to have an X-ray done. They see a digital X-ray of a normal kitty body, heart and abdomen.
After this, we bring the kiddos back to surgery. First, we show them the surgery table and the happy anesthesia machine. And then we dress them up to be surgeons.
Now wearing their surgical gloves — which, of course, are way too big for their little hands — and their huge surgical hats, the kids are moved to what they want to see most: live animals.
They get to see a good-looking cat recovering on IV fluids. The cat looks bright and happy after recovering from a string obstruction.
But then, the best part: My techs, Kim and Nadine, bring in their friendly guinea pig and bunny for show-and-tell. Clearly, this goes well. The children’s faces are rapt with joy and wonder as the animals’ noses twitch almost in unison.
The Kids’ Gift to Us
Pretty soon, it’s time for the children to get back for nap time. They present us with homemade dog treats in a container that they worked on together in preschool. I see a marketing opportunity here. Maybe they can team up with Girl Scouts cookie season — cookies for the kids and cookies for the dogs!
These little munchkins really enjoyed their field trip. And the best part? There was no fear. Not of “doctors” or “needles” or a medical facility. This was truly a great introduction for them to the wonderful world of veterinary care.
Here’s a short video montage of the day’s events:
Educating Children About Animal Care
The preschool teaching team had “built” a veterinary hospital to get ready for this visit.
The kids could not have come better prepared. They knew what otoscopes and stethoscopes were, and they had been “practicing” before their visit to the real veterinary hospital.
And the members of my staff — well, what can I say? On the outside, they made the whole event-filled day look effortless, but a good deal of prep work went into this. They organized with the preschool staff. They brought in the live animals, Mr. Pig Rinaldo and Fluffy Bunny, on a dreary New England winter day. And they blocked off some hospital time to delight these kids and pique their curiosity about veterinary medicine.
Come back again, kids! Just let us know when you’re coming — maybe we can get the right-sized gloves next time.