Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reflections on second year

The majority of second year is over- 32 credits behind me, with only 4.5 left to go (Avian Core next week and Integrative Medicine the week after). I'm not quite a third year yet, but I think it's okay to start reflecting on this year and how much has changed...
The really big deal is that we've survived what's supposed to be the worst part of vet school. Second year seems to be a beast no matter what vet school you go to, and it's also the awkward time after the novelty of being a vet student has worn off, but still a year away from entering clinics and getting to finally put all the theoretical knowledge into practice. It was an endurance test of how many flashcards you can learn, how many sleepless nights and tedious weekends of studying you can tolerate, and how long you keep aiming for good grades before you give in to the apathy of a stressful semester. If you can survive second year, you can survive anything (so they say). Now it's time to choose our tracks, start sniffing around for externships, and decide which clinical rotations we want to take. The next two years are gonna fly by.
We also survived our first surgeries, and all of our patients did too! Some people had patients that really challenged them- cryptorchid neuters, old fat labs in heat, even a kitty with an abdomen full of ectopic fetuses. Some students adopted their surgery patients, while the rest went back to the Animal Humane Society to find homes. If anyone needs a sweet little black kitty, head over to Golden Valley to meet Baby :)
We've all become more comfortable using the language of medicine, which consists primarily of making big words out of little ones, or turning things into acronyms (illustrated nicely here- beware of some colorful language...). I almost never need to pull out my medical dictionary anymore. Our professors are trying to encourage us to start thinking like doctors, but more than once they've also had to remind us to not lose our common sense in the process. The other theme of this year has been "You'll see this on boards..."
Money has been a big topic all year as the economy has weakened and as tuition is rising even more next year. The large animal folks are more stressed than the small animal, since rural vets make an average of $40,000 per year- that salary plus a nearly $2000 per month student loan payment leaves little to live on, even with the lower cost of living in rural areas. The burnout rate of large animal vets is high considering the risk involved, the exhausting work, and the crazy hours, and the pay just isn't cutting it for most of them anymore. The AVMA is trying hard to lobby for loan forgiveness programs for rural vets... Hopefully they make progress. I'm a little less worried since I'll be going into small animal medicine (and since I'm lucky enough to only be paying in-state tuition), but pets are one of the first things to get cut out of the budget when the economy goes sour...
There's also been a lot of talk about the role of the vet besides just being a doctor. We're mandated reporters of animal/child/spousal/elder abuse, business owners, mentors to aspiring pre-vets, public health agents on the front lines of recognizing agro-terrorism and zoonoses, and advocates for animal welfare in general (I'll bet you every vet, whether an equine practitioner or an urban feline-only-holistic-housecall specialist, was asked what s/he thought about Eight Belle's demise at the Kentucky Derby). We sometimes get way more information from clients about their personal health problems than their own MDs get (not that we can do anything about them...). We are therapists, we are grief counselors, and we learn ways to tell children what "putting Spot to sleep" means. Vet school can only do so much to prepare you for all this.
I guess if I had to choose one overall theme of this year, it's that no matter how much we study and learn in school, we have so much left to learn after graduation... But for now, "you'll need this for boards."

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