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Waiting for Fourth Year

Today, one of my best friends from undergrad and vet school, a fourth year named Melanie, takes the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE), arguably the most important test in a veterinarian's career.  This is the test that, if you pass, allows you to actually practice veterinary medicine.  Spread out over about a month in November and December, the fourth year students are divided and assigned a date to take this day-long test.  Now, to be honest, I don't know the details of the test-how long it is, how many sections, etc.  I just know that it covers everything I have been learning these past three years and that I will be taking it in about one year from now.  It is the one part of fourth year I am not looking forward to.

Otherwise, I can't wait until I start my fourth year.  For those of you who don't know, the fourth year of veterinary school takes place in the clinics.  For the most part, there is no classroom time, no lectures, no tests (well, besides the NAVLE) or homework.  Sure, I've heard that some rotations have assignments or that you have to do some research once you get home, but I would definitely take that compared to the past three years of 8 to 5 class and labs, which doesn't really stop once you get home (because then you have to study).  Fourth year also has a different schedule and timing than we are all used to.  The week after our third year final exams in the spring, we immediately will start our fourth year, which is divided into 2 week "rotations."  Fourth years, well, rotate every two weeks into a different department or service and work with the clinicians and residents who specialize in that area.  In other words, fourth year is all about learning by doing, with real cases and real outcomes.  You get to be involved in the decision-making, speak with clients and treat patients.

After 19 straight years of being in the classroom, I'm about ready for something like fourth year.  It's great having a friend already in fourth year, too.  She gives me the inside scoop.  To be honest, fourth year used to scare me to death.  I would think, "What do you mean, I'll be in the clinics, acting like a vet?  I don't know anything!"  But after talking with Melanie about her experiences and being able to go to the clinics myself and see what the fourth years do, my fears have definitely subsided.  I'm still anxious, but most of that energy is due to excitement and waiting for the unknown.  Because no matter what Melanie tells me about fourth year, I will not actually know what it truly is like until I'm there myself.