How a work placement at RSPCA South Australia can change your life

In life, there are moments where everything just seems to fall into place. For animal-loving Sarah Ball, all it took was a baby ginger tabby with ringworm (as most paths to enlightenment normally do).

In the past, Sarah had juggled her time between administrative roles and travelling overseas. It wasn’t until Covid hit that Sarah decided she was ready to make a change.

She enrolled in TAFE for a Certificate III in Animal Studies, with the plan to eventually graduate with a certificate IV in Vet Nursing.

In August 2020, Sarah decided to volunteer at RSPCA South Australia.

Vet Nurse Ashlea Gerrard instructs Sarah on handling a recovering kitten.

Getting to know the job through volunteering

Sarah first needed to know whether working with animals would be the right fit. She decided to gain some practical experience before pursuing a career in Vet Nursing.

“When you come into a new work environment it can be pretty stressful – everything is so new and unpredictable,” explained Sarah.

“Coming from a background in administration, I knew this would be hands-on. I knew my best option was to gain some practical experience. I wanted to know if I was making the right choice.”

Within her first week at Lonsdale, Sarah knew she had found something that interested her. She admits it’s a different direction than she had originally planned.

“I started just wanting some more experience and I came home realising how much I loved it. It opened my eyes about what best fits me.”

“They just make you feel like you are helping” – Sarah Ball

When the time came for Sarah to nominate a work placement for her certificate, there was only one clear candidate.

“What made me want to do my placement at RSPCA South Australia was that I know that I’m actually helping the staff,” she said.

“Sometimes at a private clinic, you’re just there to do your placement and watch from the sidelines.

“At RSPCA I knew I’d be in the middle of it all. The animals you interact with are not just from someone’s house, they all have a unique story and quite often it’s sad.”

Sarah moves kitten from the operating table after being desexed.

The RSPCA vet team ensure it’s a hands-on experience

Through both her volunteering roles and work placement Sarah says she has found a true sense of community.

“The teams are just amazing. For my course, I have conducted case studies and I have done video assessments and they have been so helpful with it all.”

“I love how they push me to get involved – they have been encouraging me to get into the surgery room, which is great for when I have to do my case diaries and assessments. I feel more confident now.”

“They will show you something and then tell you it’s your turn to try. One second you are watching them inject a chip or tattooing a kitten’s ear and the next you are doing it.”

Sarah assists in waking up a kitten from anaesthesia.

Sarah’s work placement has helped her to decide her career pathway

RSPCA’s hands-on approach has helped Sarah discover what type of animal care she is most engaged with.

“I’m leaning towards working with dogs. After handling them in the shelter, I’ve realised there is so much more than what meets the eye,” said Sarah.

“It didn’t take me long to realise they are often misunderstood and they just want to be loved. People just expect to walk into the shelter and have the dog immediately show them affection and if they don’t they just leave.”

“It would feel so rewarding to help a dog get to the point where it’s ready to find a forever home. I’d also love to help educate people about their complex behaviours.”

Sarah inspects a kitten’s claws post-surgery.

The moment Sarah knew she was in the right line of work

Sarah attributes an interaction with a ginger tabby as the moment she knew she had found the right line of work.

“I was working in the ringworm isolation area with some stray kittens. Most of the cats have never interacted with humans before,” said Sarah.

“When I met Stevie, a little ginger kitten, he was so tiny. He was very shy and was always looking for a safe place to hide. To start I’d simply play with him and try to entice him to come out of his shell.

“I think it was by the third week that he opened up. By the time he was cleared and ready for adoption he had grown up so much.”

Sarah said she had never felt so fulfilled through volunteering before. She was ecstatic with the news that Stevie was now settled into a forever home where he could experience the love he deserved.

Looking to give a beautiful adult cat a second chance? We have plenty of adoption options in our link here.

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