My experience in veterinary school so far has been an exhilarating, eye-opening, challenging journey. While I’ve had its extreme highs and lows, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the ride.
At the end of my second year this past spring—the halfway point in the veterinary program—however, I had a mounting fear growing in the back of my mind. I was afraid that I had spent so long in the classroom that I wouldn’t actually know what to do in a real clinical setting in which people are looking to me for answers.
To some, this may seem like an irrational fear, but to me and other veterinary students, it is a very realistic fear that we frequently struggle with. I remember thinking, “I’ve literally been in school my entire life; do I even know how to do anything other than be in school?” So that was how I ended my second year, full of self-doubt.
I didn’t intend to waste my final summer vacation, though. I reached out to numerous veterinary practices in my hometown area and asked if I could do an externship at their clinics. Many of them said yes and were very happy to have me. I was very excited to spend time in these clinics, but also still very nervous.
Once there, though, I was surprised to find that at the clinics I went to, I was treated by the veterinarians and their staff not as a student who didn’t know anything but as a future colleague. Veterinarians and technicians alike were happy to answer all of my questions and teach me new skills, as well. Many of the clinics I went to even allowed me to get a large amount of hands-on experience doing different things, which really helped my confidence.
Among all of the vets I shadowed this summer, their years of experience in practice ranged from one year to 42 years! This was very helpful to get to listen and learn from years of wisdom but to also get to hear from someone who was just in the same situation as I am now.
As the weeks went by, my confidence grew and my fear diminished. I realized that I was more capable than I initially thought I was.
I also realized that while I still have room for improvement in certain areas (and likely always will), there is no need to try to be perfect or even to know all of the answers right away. That is what colleagues and mentors are for—to help you along the way. And sometimes it’s important to know when you need to ask for help.
I realized from watching and working with all of these vets that I will get there someday, too, and until then I will just keep working hard and worrying less.
“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.” —unknown