Vet School Clinical Rotations – Day in the Life – Dr. Katie #5

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Here Dr. Katie is getting ready for surgery during clinical rotations

Here Dr. Katie is getting ready for surgery during clinical rotations

Welcome to fifth entry in our “Day in the Life of a Veterinarian: Dr. Katie” blog series!  I’ve already blogged about why I wanted to be a veterinarian, high school and college preparation, and the classes of veterinary school.  Today’s entry is about the last 2 years of veterinary school: clinical rotations.

In October of my third year of vet school, I earned my white coat and started my clinical rotations.  Clinical rotations are the part of vet school when vet students start to make the transition from student to doctor.   As a student on clinical rotations, we see patients and start learning procedures.  We work side by side with a clinician (a fully trained and licensed veterinarian that works in the teaching hospital) to examine, diagnose, and treat patients.

Each clinical rotation lasts from 6 to 8 weeks, and each student rotates through the different services.  The core services every student must complete are as follows:

  • Equine Medicine and Surgery
  • Food Animal Medicine and Surgery
  • Anesthesiology
  • Radiology (x-rays and diagnostic imaging)
  • Neurology/neurosurgery (brain and nerves)
  • Oncology (cancer)
  • Ophthalmology (eyes)
  • Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery (surgery involving the bones)
  • Diagnostic Pathology
  • Small Animal Community Practice
  • Small Animal Internal Medicine
  • Theriogenology (fertility and reproduction of animals)

 

In addition to the “core” rotations, students must also complete around 12 to 14 weeks of elective courses.  Students can also elect to repeat core rotations for more experience in particular areas of practice.   Here are the rotations I chose to fill my elective time:

  • Cardiology
  • Small Animal Community Practice
  • Small Animal internal Medicine
  • Ophthalmology

 

Over the course of the 2 years of clinical rotations, students have 12 weeks of time off clinical.   During this “time off,” we complete externships, study for licensing exams (boards), and interview with prospective employers.  I spent 4 weeks in Houston, TX and completed externships in 2 different small animal clinics.  I also spent 3 weeks in North Carolina and completed an externship at a high volume spay and neuter clinic.  If your free block falls over a holiday, students get that holiday off from school, but if you are on rotation during a holiday…there’s no guarantee you get that holiday off!

 

To give you a feel for what clinics are like, here’s an excerpt from my own journal (January 30, 2011).

“Today marks the 5th day into my Internal Medicine rotation. Although, I’ve been the busiest I’ve been since starting vet school, I’m enjoying almost every minute of it (well aside from the hours of S.O.A.P.s [medical records] and paperwork). Every day is full of learning – and not the sort of learning where you try to cram thousands of seemingly irrelevant facts into a tired, already full brain – the sort of learning where you think through disease processes and APPLY everything for the benefit of your patient. It’s invigorating to actually try to use what you’ve learned to save a life. I’m early to rise and late to bed for the sake of my patients, but it’s worth it to see the clinical signs and blood work improve little by little, day by day.

I have to say though, my ability to keep up with the housework has dwindled to next to nothing. “Poor” Chase [husband] has had to pick up almost all of the household chores (like taking the dogs out every morning b/c I leave before my dogs care to get out of bed) and cooking dinner. And as for “me” time…well, there’s just no fitting it into my schedule.”

 

Advice for students on clinical rotations:

  • Start studying for board exams about 1 year in advance.  I did Vet Prep and passed on the first try with no problem.
  • Use your free blocks to network and experience as many veterinary clinics as possible.
  • Sleep when you can.   Don’t stay up late if you’re not on call!  There will be plenty of sleepless nights!
  • Speak up in rounds (even if you’re wrong).
  • Be nice to your classmates.  I know it’s hard to always be nice when you’re around someone 24/7, but you’re all stressed and tired.  Be as nice as you can!  What goes around comes around.
  • Respect your clinicians.   Most clinicians are board certified, veterinary specialists with YEARS of experience.  Even if you don’t agree, respect them!
  • Communicate with owners!  Explain how the teaching hospital works, and that you are a student working under a highly qualified clinician.
  • Keep the referring veterinarian up to date.  When I send a patient over to the VMTH [Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital], I still worry about those patients.  Please keep us up to date!
  • Don’t go to sleep until you’ve gotten all your medical records done.   It’s easy to get buried under paperwork, so don’t let it pile it up!  When you’re SOAPing on internal medicine, you can cover one part of a disease every day.  If you put it all in your first SOAP, you’ll run out of subjects if the patient stays for a long time!
  • Be nice to the employees in accounting and medical records.  They are just doing their jobs and trying to keep you out of trouble!

 

I’m happy to answer any questions I can.  Just leave a comment here, tweet us, or post on facebook!

Dr. Katie

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A Day in the Life – Dr. Katie 4: Veterinary School Classes

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The Vet School Experience:  HOLD ON TIGHTLY!

The Vet School Experience: HOLD ON TIGHTLY!

From 2008 to 2012, I attended veterinary school at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.  What’s it like? Well let’s just say it’s like you are really, really thirsty for knowledge.  Vet school is like trying to drink from a fire hose.

Here's what my desk looked lick most of the time during my first year of vet school.

Here’s what my desk looked like most of the time during my first year of vet school.

Year 1 – The first year is all class room work covering “normal:”   anatomy, physiology, bacteriology, virology, microanatomy, immunology, genomics, parasitology, pathology, nutrition, and an assortment of other classes.    I’ll be honest, the first year is extremely difficult, and about 10% of my class dropped out or failed out during the first year.   Just as a note, Mizzou’s classroom curriculum for veterinary students isn’t broken into semesters but instead “instructional periods”  Basically 2 instructional periods equals 1 semester in terms of time, but each IP still covers a full semester of material.  Vet school classes move much faster than undergrad.  It was my observation that students tended to be good at either physiology OR anatomy and not both.   I was a physiology-minded student, and I despised anatomy.  During this year, I had to constantly remind myself why I was there, and that I chose to be there, and that there were many people who wished they could be in vet school.

 

Year 2 – The second year of vet school is all about what can go wrong in animals.  Classes include clinical pathology, internal medicine, community medicine, exotic animal medicine, public health, epidemiology, pharmacology, surgery, and other classes.

If you’re entering vet school and about to start your first year…here are some thoughts that helped me through the first 2 years:

  • Happiness = reality – expectations.  You might have been a straight A student in college, but in vet school that goal may not be reasonable.    Do the best you can and focus on learning the material for life and not for the test.  After school, the test comes first, then the lesson (and sometimes it is a hard lesson indeed).
  • Do something fun EVERYDAY!  You will likely spend most of every day studying.  I used to wake up at 4am and study for a couple of hours before school started.  I would come home, walk my greyhound, eat dinner, and then resume studying.  For the first 3 instructional periods (1.5 semesters), I didn’t spend much time doing fun things.  When I started painting (something I enjoy) again in IP 4, my grades dramatically improved as did my happiness (finishing anatomy might have helped my happiness too).
  • Sleep.   You will feel like pulling all nighters during your first year, but studies show that sleep is more important.  If you don’t know the material by then…it’s probably too late!
  • Take care of your body.  You will have a hard time focusing and studying if you neglect taking care of yourself.  Remember to eat nutritious meals regularly, exercise, brush your teeth every day, and bathe!   As a student, you pay for a membership to the student gym and the student health center with your fees.  No, you can’t opt out of paying the fees so you might as well use both facilities! If you are sick, go to the doctor!
  • Make friends.    I made some wonderful friends during vet school.  We spent a lot of the 4 years of vet school together:  studying, eating, celebrating, and commiserating. They are still very important to me although now they are miles away.
  • Be nice to teachers.  Contrary to how you might feel about them, teachers really do want you to succeed.  Your ultimate goal is to pass your “boards” (federal and state) so you can “practice veterinary medicine.”   Your teachers are there to teach you the information you need to know to pass boards and become an excellent veterinarian.  Ask them politely for help and how you can do better in their class.  They are a treasure trove of information.
  • Utilize resources.  Did you know the vet school has a counselor employed just to listen to you?  He came in a couple days per week when I was a student, and he can help you address little problems before they become big problems.   You’re paying for him with your tuition and fees!  Get your money’s worth!
  • Live frugally.  Those loans are no fun to pay back!  Talk to a financial planner at least a couple of times to help you!  The vet school has one that is very knowledgeable about loans for veterinary students.  Your tuition also pays for him!  I wish I had lived a little more frugally during vet school, because now I’m paying off my loans.  My monthly loan payment is more than (much more actually) than my mortgage and home insurance combined.

 

This picture was taken just after the Class of 2012's White Coat Ceremony.

This picture was taken just after the Class of 2012’s White Coat Ceremony.

Right around fall of your 3rd year of vet school, you have a “white coat ceremony.”   This ceremony marks the end of your classroom years, and the start of clinicals.   During this ceremony, someone very important to you “coats” you.  My husband, Chase, helped me put my white coat on since he supported and encouraged me through the challenging classroom curriculum!

 

The next blog post will be about surviving clinics in Veterinary School!

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A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian – Dr. Katie 3: Becoming a Veterinarian

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One of the most common questions I get asked by people (especially children) is… “How did you become a veterinarian?”   Well I can tell you, it was a long journey!   Of course it all started with deciding that becoming a veterinarian is what I wanted, and that’s covered in the last blog post (link here).   Becoming a veterinarian takes just as much education as becoming a human doctor:  4 years (most of the time) of college and 4 years of veterinary school.  After vet school, you have to take exams to make sure you learned everything you need to learn to practice veterinary medicine.  I’ll pick up the rest of my journey in middle school when I started to decide what type of veterinarian I wanted to be.

In middle school, I met Jane Goodall in person after one of her lectures. I was impressed by her intelligence and passion for helping animals and teaching people, and I dreamt of emulating her example.  Going to exotic locations to study wildlife sounded fun and exciting!  During middle school, I started to build a good foundation in studying math and science so I’d be ready for advanced courses in high school.

During high school, I really focused on my grades and gaining more experience with animals.  I studied really hard and excelled in math and science courses.  Veterinary Medicine is a lot of science, so gaining a strong background in the sciences is very important!  For more animal experience, I started volunteering at the Little Rock Zoo.   Since I love working with people and animals, I chose to volunteer in the petting zoo area with the sheep, goats, and miniature horses.  I loved every minute of it, but I still wanted more of an intellectual challenge.  During high school, I also started shadowing a few local veterinarians (including the zoo veterinarian).  I kept a record of every hour of experience with animals.  If you want to be a veterinarian, I recommend you keep a log too, because you will be able to list every hour of animal experience on your veterinary school application.

I decided to get my bachelor’s degree in Animal Science at the University of Arkansas (I come from a long line of Razorback fans).   During college, I made sure to always take a high course load (greater than 15 hours per semester) and get all the required courses to enter vet school.   Every vet school has different prerequisite courses, so you should check with the schools you are interested in attending.   I also took every animal science course I could fit in my schedule.  During the summers I worked at a small animal veterinary clinic and I loved it!  I loved the relationship humans and pets have, I loved the challenge of not knowing what cases would walk through the door.  In college, I was also very involved with extracurricular activities (Pre-vet club, honors college, Block and Bridle, Equine training, and Sisters for the Lord).  Taking difficult classes and being active in extracurricular activities demonstrates to veterinary schools that you can handle the rigors of vet school!

In June 2005, I engaged in my very own primate adventure in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.  For two weeks, I observed the feeding habits of Central American Spider Monkeys.   During those 2 weeks, I learned just how much I missed interacting with people on a daily basis (and not to mention how much I love running water and electricity).

Here's a picture of a spider monkey that Dr. Katie snapped while in the jungle.

Here’s a picture of a spider monkey that Dr. Katie snapped while in the jungle.

Your application to veterinary school is due almost a year before you start vet school!  Most schools use an online application system so you can apply to multiple schools at once.  I applied to multiple schools, but after visiting Mizzou, I knew Mizzou was the school for me!   My whole family came to visit with me, and we all just loved the faculty and facilities of the Mizzou Veterinary School.  In 2008, I graduated with my Bachelors of Science from the University of Arkansas (4 years of undergraduate), and in August 2008 I headed out to start my first year of veterinary School!

 

Dr. Katie and her family during a visit to the Mizzou Campus before vet school.

Dr. Katie and her family during a visit to the Mizzou Campus before vet school.

Advice for people who want to be a veterinarian:

  • Keep a record of every experience you have with animals.  This includes all the farm work, volunteering at zoos, animal classes, shadowing veterinarians, and anything else with animals!  Try to get as much experience in different areas as you can!
  • Study hard in school.  You’re going to need exceptional grades and an excellent foundation in education to get into and succeed in vet school.  Study! Study! Study!   This goes for students of all ages!
  • Volunteer!  Volunteering not only helps your community but it helps you gain experience in working with a variety of people and animals.
  • Remember that people are important too!  If you don’t like people, veterinary medicine may not be the job for you!  Be sure to explore many career options and get experience in the veterinary field to make sure it’s the right fit for you!
  • Be well rounded.  I know that I’ve stressed grades are important, but it’s also important to get real world experience as well!

 

I’ll be blogging next about what veterinary school is like, because I think that deserves a blog post or two all of its own!

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