Providing opportunities for veterinary and veterinary technician students to learn and practice new skills is an important part of RAVS' mission and we are committed to providing a high level of clinical experience for student volunteers. RAVS field clinics can be extremely demanding and it is essential that all potential volunteers understand the program and volunteer requirements prior to submitting an application.

The clinic is organized into three primary areas:

All volunteers will also participate in general clinic operations, including caring for hospitalized animals, maintaining medical records, inventory and maintenance of supplies and assisting with general cleaning of the clinic space.

Students must be committed to adequate preparation and will be required to demonstrate basic competencies before being assigned specific responsibilities. All veterinary students interested in rotating through the surgery area will participate in a practical skills assessment at the start of each clinic to demonstrate proficiency in basic suture patterns and knot tying. Student participation and responsibility levels in surgery will be defined by the level of preparation demonstrated during this assessment.

Actual clinic assignments are made based on demonstrated knowledge, skill level, and the needs of the clinic. On a five-day clinic most veterinary students who qualify for participation in all areas will spend one day in surgery and two days each in anesthesia and receiving. Veterinary technician students will likely spend four days on anesthesia/recovery and one day on receiving and may receive some exposure to surgical assisting if interested. The scheduling of some trips may not allow for equal distribution or rotation through all areas and you will be expected to work wherever you are most needed. If your only goal is to participate in surgery, this may not be the program for you.

As a student, you will be well supervised by experienced veterinarians and technicians who enjoy teaching. There will be a staff Trip Leader in charge of the trip, and additional staff veterinarians and technicians supervising various areas of clinic operations. Volunteer veterinarians and technicians will be assigned to work with students in each area.

Because of our high case load, there is not always time during the actual clinic to explain every technique or protocol. If you do not understand, or disagree with the approach being used, you may discuss it with a staff technician or veterinarian at an appropriate time. We are glad to do this. However, it is essential for patient and volunteer safety that you follow directions quickly and exactly during the actual clinic. We encourage input from volunteers on any subject, from scheduling to surgical technique. However, the Trip Leader has the final say, and all volunteers will respect their decisions.

The RAVS website contains a detailed discussion of what is expected of all volunteers and the protocols that are used in the field. While student teaching is an important part of our mission, the welfare of the individual patient is always our top priority. RAVS field clinics provide a safe learning environment and at the same time provide services for a high volume of patients. It’s imperative that you study the training material AND practice the appropriate techniques in advance so that you can optimize your learning experience while providing safe, quality treatment to the animals in your care.

As indicated previously, all students will be required to demonstrate basic competencies before being assigned to a clinic area. Those who do not pass the practical skills assessment in surgery will have opportunities to observe but will not perform any surgical procedures.

You should be warned that participating in a RAVS field clinic is WORK. The hours are long and the accommodations consist of whatever is available in the community. The days start very early and often end late. There are often long travel times and meals can be sporadic. Clinic work is extremely fast-paced and can be both physically and emotionally challenging. The experience will be more exhausting and more challenging than you expect.

With preparation, active participation and a willingness to contribute in whatever way is needed, many students find the RAVS clinic experience to be one of the most rewarding and educational experiences of their professional training. For the right person, living and working as part of a team of dedicated volunteers to provide care for the neediest of animals and their families can be an amazing opportunity and a life-changing experience. But field medicine is not for everyone and it is important that you honestly evaluate your personality and learning style before applying to participate. There are many opportunities for travel and learning that are more comfortable and less stressful than a RAVS field clinic.

Before applying to participate in a RAVS field clinic, be sure to review ALL of the materials in the Volunteer Information section of the website. Also review the specific Trip Details for any clinic you are planning to apply for. There is a lot of information here, but it is all crucial to your success as a volunteer. The Volunteer Checklist provides a very brief overview of the application process and pre-trip volunteer responsibilities. If you have any question regarding expectations or requirements, please contact us in advance for clarfication.

Thank you for your interest in RAVS volunteer programs. We look forward to working with you!