Tonga trip on the cards
They are set to trade the pristine surrounds of a simulation vet clinic for the rough, ready and very real Kingdom of Tonga.
A dozen Unitec veterinary nursing students will also replace the lifelike dummies they practice on with the real thing when they travel to the island nation next month as part of a contingent led by animal aid organisation South Pacific Animal Welfare.
The students will vaccinate and de-sex as many dogs as possible, and deal with any other ailment that presents itself.
Tonga has no vet clinic and an almost uncontrollable animal population.
Each year student vet nurses from Unitec make the trip to combine their learning with the opportunity to play a part in improving the standard of animal welfare on the island. Last year a crop of budding nurses performed 117 surgeries in a week, which lecturer Laura Harvey describes as a ‘‘phenomenal’’ result.
‘‘They are dealing with whatever comes in the door,’’ she says.
This even included a leg amputation.
Harvey says they will mostly treat dogs, which are owned but not in the way New Zealanders keep a pet.
‘‘They are free range, they’re not kept in the house and while they are fed it’s not dog food, just scraps.’’
In a week in Tonga the students will get through plenty of hands-on veterinary work.
‘‘They certainly get the chance to put into practice the skills they learn here, for example putting in intravenous catheters. Here they do one a week, over there they do three to five a day.’’
Students Rebecca Kent, Anna Lam and Denise Laurie will be among the 12 to make the trip in December.
‘‘It’s a massive opportunity to use our skills and get back to basics,’’ Laurie says.
‘‘We’ll strip away the technology we are so lucky to have here and get down to the real primary healthcare they don’t have.’’
Operation Tonga: Diploma of veterinary nursing students who will be heading to Tonga. From left, Anna Lam, Denise Laurie and Rebecca Kent in the Unitec Simulation Veterinary Clinic.
Go to centralleader.co.nz and click on Latest Edition to watch a video from last year’s trip.