New Vet Tech Program

Instructors Nicole Nieman and Niki Wagner love teaching students who love animals

Dakota County Technical College is launching a new Veterinary Technician program fall semester 2017.¹ The 60-credit A.A.S. degree gives students the knowledge and skills they need to become certified veterinary technicians, or CVTs. Vet techs serve as key components on animal healthcare teams in a variety of veterinary settings.

Gayle Larson, dean of academic operations, liberal arts and sciences at the college, reported that Nicole Nieman, CVT, and Niki Wagner, CVT, contacted DCTC with a proposal to start a new Veterinary Technician program.

“Nicole and Niki were instructors for a very successful flagship program at another college,” Gayle said. “When that college closed down, they took the initiative and looked for ways to reestablish their program at a new institution. The new program not only offers welcome opportunities for students with a passion for animal care, but also benefits the veterinary industry in Minnesota. Our college’s Health and Human Services department is based on a ‘Service for Life’ philosophy—and that is exactly why students want to become certified veterinary technicians. DCTC and the new Vet Tech program are a perfect fit.”

Gayle added that the animal health field has become increasingly complex and fast-paced, a development that has created a strong demand for well-educated, certified technicians who can take on greater responsibilities in a clinical environment.

“Veterinary schools are teaching future veterinarians to rely on CVTs for completing such vital tasks as drawing blood, assisting in surgery, managing anesthesia, administering medications and much more,” Gayle said. “Licensed vets can then focus on their primary duties: performing surgery, prescribing medications, and diagnosing illnesses and injuries.”

Vet tech duties…

Vet techs provide a variety of services while assisting the veterinarian. In many cases, the type of services they perform are determined by state law, while in other states, the vet tech’s duties are up to the supervising veterinarian. Among the more common duties of a vet tech are the following:

  • DCTC Veterinary TechnicianWhen animals are initially admitted to the clinic, a vet tech may be in charge of carrying out the initial physical examination. This includes taking the basic measurements of the animal, in addition to recording any symptoms of illness or injury to assist the veterinarian in treating the animal.
  • If an animal is admitted suffering from injuries or illness, the vet tech will often provide the initial first aid treatment in order to stabilize the animal until such a time as the veterinarian can provide treatment.
  • A vet tech will administer any medication that the veterinarian has prescribed. In many cases, they will also instruct the owners of an animal in how best to administer any medication that is being sent home with them.
  • In some cases, the vet tech will be required to assist the veterinary team in immobilizing a frightened or hostile animal so it can be treated without endangering the medical team.

— Courtesy of Vet Tech Guide

The Veterinary Technician program at DCTC delivers hands-on learning in pharmacology, surgical preparation, animal care and more. Roughly 90 percent of students will be working in the field in their first semester as a way to gain valuable, marketable experience. All students are required to complete an internship to earn their degree. Graduates are prepared to take the Veterinary Technician National Examination, or VTNE, given by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Certified veterinary technicians, or CVTs, have passed the VTNE.

High-demand field…

DCTC Veterinary TechnicianAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide demand for veterinary technologists and technicians is “projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment will grow as more veterinarians utilize technicians and technologists to do general care and lab work, and as they continue to replace lower skilled veterinary assistants.” Minnesota ranks as one of the top 15 states with the highest employment level in this occupation.

Meet the faculty…

Nicole Nieman, CVT

Nicole Nieman, CVT

Nicole Nieman, CVT

Veterinary Technician Program Director and Faculty

Nicole Nieman grew up in Stacy, Minnesota, and graduated from North Branch High School. Nicole went on to earn an A.A.S. in Veterinary Technology from Argosy University. She became a certified veterinary technician (CVT) in 2006.

Nicole’s industry and teaching experience is extensive. She worked her way through school as a pet care specialist at PetSmart and later became the practice manager and lead veterinary technician at Banfield Pet Hospital in St. Paul. She taught in the Veterinary Technology program at Argosy from 2007 to 2010; she also worked as a lead data analyst at Midwest Veterinary Supply.

Before coming to DCTC, Nicole served as executive program chair for the Veterinary Technology program at Globe University. She currently works as a surgical research technician at Surpass, Inc., a contract research organization (CRO) specializing in preclinical services for medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biologics and combination products.

Teaching philosophy

“The big thing is we are here for our students—they come first. I want to know their wants and desires as a way of making sure they are successful in their careers and assets to our industry.”

What Nicole loves best about teaching

“I learn so much from interacting with my students. The people drawn to our profession have strange and strong personalities that really work well together.”

Nicole resides in Somerset, Wisconsin, with her fiancé and her 8-year-old daughter, Paige, who loves four-wheeling and riding her Honda scooter, and the family’s four chinchillas, the boys, Sunny and Fonzi, and the girls, Sapphire and Luna. When she’s not teaching or working, Nicole loves to run or work out on her elliptical machine, averaging 16 miles a day, eight in the morning and eight at night. She also enjoys crocheting and knitting.

Vet tech specialties…

Supervised by licensed veterinarians, certified veterinary technicians work in animal hospitals and private clinics. CVTs also work in zoological parks, aquariums, research facilities, nature preserves and animal shelters. A CVT can branch out and earn more money by becoming veterinary technician specialist, or VTS. Becoming a specialist requires additional training to receive credentials in one of 10 specialties recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).

To learn more, visit: Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia

DCTC Veterinary TechnicianSurgical
To learn more, visit: Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians

Internal Medicine
To learn more, visit: Academy of Internal Medicine for Veterinary Technicians

To learn more, visit: Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians

Emergency and Critical Care
To learn more, visit: Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians

To learn more, visit: Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians

To learn more, visit: Academy of Veterinary Zoological Medicine Technicians

To learn more, visit: American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians

Clinical Practice
To learn more, visit: Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Clinical Practice

To learn more, visit: Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians

Niki Wagner, CVT

Niki Wagner, CVT

Niki Wagner, CVT

Veterinary Technician faculty

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Niki Wagner, CVT, graduated from West Side High School before earning her B.A. in International Studies and Russian from Macalester College. Niki went on to get her B.S. in Biology from the University of Minnesota and her A.A.S. in Veterinary Technology from Globe University. She is currently earning an M.S. in Biology from the University of Nebraska, Kearney. She became a certified veterinary technician (CVT) in 2008.

Niki’s teaching and industry experience is extensive. She started her career in IT, serving as a project manager, Web developer and network administrator at a number of organizations, including Hewlett Packard and St. Catherine University. Her veterinary experience began during a vet tech externship at the Wildlife Rehab Center of Minnesota in Roseville, Minnesota. She went on to work as a vet tech at Riverbend Pet Hospital in Hastings and Valley Creek Road Animal Hospital in Woodbury.

Niki began her teaching career as a veterinary technician instructor at the Minnesota School of Business in Lakeville; she also served as adjunct vet tech faculty at Globe University.

Teaching philosophy

“I am a flexible, student-centric instructor. I build my lesson plans with a focus on what my students need to know.”

What Niki loves best about teaching

“Class is different every day. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve taught a class, things will always be different because the students change and the animals change.”

Niki lives in Hudson, Wisconsin, with her husband, John, and their twin 12-year-old daughters, Kate and Jenny, and Snowball, a big, fat, black cat. She enjoys reading romance novels and likes exotic animals such as lizards, birds and snakes—unlike Nicole, who is no fan of snakes.

Vet techs care for representatives from all corners of the animal kingdom—from bats, tarantulas and dolphins to bloodhounds, giraffes and barn cats…

Cats and dogs
Large animals
To learn more about the new Veterinary Technician program at DCTC, contact:

Nicole Nieman, CVT
Veterinary Technician Director and Faculty

Niki Wagner, CVT
Veterinary Technician Faculty

Tocho, my little funnel-head

Tocho, my little funnel-head

¹ Final 2017–2018 A.A.S. degree pending Minnesota State approval.