New wildlife hospital good for students

Exciting challenge . . . Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing head of programmes Dr Francesca Brown, shown in what will be a "ward" at the new wildlife hospital, believes the collaboration will be invaluable for the school and its students. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

The planned Wildlife Hospital Dunedin will provide veterinary nursing students and volunteers with a golden opportunity to boost their knowledge with hands-on, real-life experiences.

So says Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing head of programmes Dr Francesca Brown, an enthusiastic supporter of the wildlife hospital concept.

“For our students, being involved in the wildlife hospital under the guidance of Dr Lisa Argilla will be an enormous opportunity to grow them as vet nurses,” Dr Brown said.

The brainchild of world-renowned avian and wildlife veterinarian Dr Lisa Argilla, Wildlife Hospital Dunedin is preparing to open in mid-January in association with the vet nursing school.

The Wildlife Hospital Trust and The Star are working together through the “Saving Our Native Species” campaign to raise at least $60,000 by Christmas to fund vital equipment, supplies, and for a permanent vet nurse.

The campaign is off to a strong start, with members of the public donating $6227.85 in the past week.

Established nearly 30 years ago, the Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing trains about 400 students each year – some on campus and others via distance learning around the country.

There are a range of programmes available, including animal care, vet nursing assistant, vet nursing, and rural animal technology.

The vet nursing programme was previously a one-year course, but from next year would move to a two-year course as part of the collaboration with Wildlife Hospital Dunedin, Dr Brown said.

“Having the students able to do some of their work experience hours in the wildlife hospital will be great exposure for them.

“And regardless of whether they end up working in conservation, or in a veterinary practice, the experience will be invaluable.

“To increase their knowledge while saving birds and other creatures is huge.”

Dr Argilla’s commitment to teaching would mean students were given plenty of chances to learn, including taking a hands-on role during surgery.

“It will definitely be valuable experiential learning that will mean our students are very capable when they graduate.”

The presence of the wildlife hospital will also provide opportunities for volunteers to gain experience and undertake “micro bites” of learning through the EduBits programme, which is recognised by NZQA.

As one of 12 vet nursing schools around the country, the Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing believes the association with the wildlife hospital will be an important “point of difference”, Dr Brown said.

“We think it will help us to attract people who are keen on the Dunedin experience and the wildlife experience,” she said.