It seems as though the further I get into veterinary school, the faster the semesters seem to fly by.
As I am writing this post, it is week eight of my second semester as a second-year veterinary student.It seems like just yesterday that it was week one.
Probably the most exciting thing about this semester has been starting surgery.We have our “Introduction to Surgery” course this semester, and it has been such a great experience.
Even the simple things, like learning how to wrap our surgery gowns and instruments and how to get scrubbed and gowned for surgery, have been exciting for me. So far this semester, we have already practiced a liver biopsy and an abdominal exploratory.
One of the coolest things about introductory surgery is the extremely realistic models we get to use to practice procedures on. Each model even has its own pump system that simulates blood flow and bleeding.
I think that practicing on these realistic models is a great way to gain confidence before having real patients put in front of us; the things we are practicing and learning in our clinical skills and surgery courses are going to make us much more confident when it comes time to perform real procedures.
I definitely feel like I leave every semester of veterinary school more and more confident and prepared to help my future patients.
Right now, I am focused on going into equine medicine after I graduate, and so in the midst of studying, I am also arranging summer externships.
I can say that I am truly lucky to have such an amazing group of professors who have been willing to meet with me outside of class to help me establish connections with clinics that I want to extern at.
I am excited to take what I have learned this semester, and past semesters, and apply it during my externships!
Last weekend, I attended the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Job & Externship fair, and talking with veterinarians from clinics and hospitals across Texas was a blast!
As a second-year veterinary student, it is very important for me to see what is out there and where I can have my future externships. Those in attendance included small animal hospitals, mixed animal hospitals, and corporation practices, so it was a good variety of different types of clinics.
I am interested in small animal medicine, so I talked with small animal emergency hospitals as well as general practice hospitals and even a few small animal clinics that see exotics, which I am also very interested in.
It was so great to be able to talk with people from these clinics in person, so I can get an idea of which have externships during the summer or even for fourth year. It’s so exciting that so many places are willing to host veterinary students to teach and also hire new graduates in the future.
We are so fortunate that there are so many jobs in the veterinary market right now, so there is so much choice when it comes to where we might end up after graduation.
Probably the best part of the fair was getting invited to dinner by one of the clinics I talked to. It was a three-clinic practice in Dallas, which is where I am from. Two of the practice owners hosted a few other veterinary students and me at Napa Flats.
It was a great opportunity to learn more about their practice and what we can do at their externship. We had great conversations about the future of veterinary medicine and they gave us great career advice on how important mentorship is in your first job after graduation.
It is so important for us as veterinary students to make connections with current practicing veterinarians.
These are people who can answer our questions about post-veterinary school life and can give us guidance on how to find jobs. They can also host us for externships and will be great teachers who can influence on how we practice medicine in the real world.
It was such an honor to talk with so many leaders in our field. I can’t wait to get out into clinics this summer, so I can see what I have learned in school and how it translates to the real world.
What does a veterinary student do during their limited summer breaks? Anything that looks a lot like school without actually being more school, of course.
I chose to work in a few hospitals and also extern in a few hospitals. What’s an externship? Well, it’s two or more weeks of total immersion into a practice, which allows students to try and figure out if that practice or career path will be a good option for them. All fourth-year students at A&M complete somewhere between two and 12 weeks of externships at clinics all over the state and, sometimes, the world. I picked three different equine hospitals across the state and spent a few weeks this summer trying to figure out if being a horse vet is a good idea.
The first externship was still technically during breeding season and, as with most things involving babies, very little sleep was had. Every mare that came into the hospital was outfitted with an alert system so that the doctors and interns would know when she was starting to give birth. The process is pretty quick in normal horses, so when that alarm went off, it was “throw your boots on and run to the barn” and “hope you make it in time in case anything goes wrong.” The first foal delivery I was involved in decided to arrive at 4:00 in the morning. It was adorable and everything went perfectly, but it was a good reminder that horse vets (and horse vet interns, in particular) don’t really know the meaning of the word sleep between February and April. Having said that, it felt like I learned more in those few weeks than the entire previous semester.
The second externship was a whirlwind of surgery, lameness exams, and pregnancy checks. It was at an enormous hospital where each doctor is given their niche, and the sheer volume of patients they see meant that there were too many things going on for me to see them all. I generally tried to live in the operating room, as equine surgery was something I’d never really gotten a chance to see before. I saw surgeons work on colic cases, angular limb deformities, cryptorchid castrations, kissing spines, subchondral bone cysts, laryngeal hemiplegia, and on and on. In the short time I was there I was able to witness and assist with more and more diverse surgeries than I’ve ever seen in small animal practice or at school.
One day, a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist came by to take a look at a few patients with more complicated ocular disease. On a patient with unilateral glaucoma, he was able to take a good chunk of time and show the other extern and me how to do a thorough eye exam and the signs of disease in that particular horse. It was really nice to have that detailed explanation and hands-on experience before coming back to school to study equine ophthalmic diseases in the fall.
The third externship taught me more about herd health than I expected equine practitioners needed to know. Several clients owned dozens, if not hundreds, of horses, and managing them from a veterinary perspective became less about the needs of the individual horse and more about how to keep then entire group healthy. We spent an entire day driving around one property checking on different age groups of horses. Each little herd got a thorough distance exam, and those that stood out as being abnormal were inspected more closely and scheduled for diagnostics or treatments, as needed. This way problems needing medical attention were taken care of, but every individual horse did not have to have a full workup.
Every externship is different, and each of these taught me something new about being an equine practitioner. I’m still not sure if I want to be an equine vet, but now I feel like I have a good idea of what the day-to-day life involves.