Friday, January 02, 2009


Another semester is over, and there's only one more between now and the start of clinics. Wee! This next semester should be fun, as I was able to opt out of most of the large animal-oriented classes and opt in to some interesting small animal-oriented classes. Advanced orthopedics, dermatology, liver & pancreas disorders, nutrition, critical care, cardiology... And the highlight- non-traditional pets! The course load is a little lighter, and most classes are pass/fail this semester rather than graded, so that will take some of the pressure off.

So, what did I get out of first semester, third year?
  • Don't believe it when they tell you that it's all downhill after second semester, second year! It's not that third year starts out any harder than second year was, but I'd call it more of a plateau than a downhill. The classes weren't really harder, but the finals were brutal (something like 14 exams in three weeks?!).
  • Doctor-speak is starting to get easier. Words like "thrombocytopenia" and "polioencephalomalacia" roll off the tongue now, and I don't have to pick apart their Latin roots to figure out what they mean. This means it's also getting harder to remember that clients don't understand what those words mean, and harder to translate from doctor-speak to regular-speak. It's good practice to try to explain what you learned today to someone who isn't in vet school, so that you have to test your comprehension of what you learned rather than just parroting back the words. For example: "We learned about nephrosplenic entrapment as a cause of surgical colic." becomes "Horses can get their guts stuck in a hole between their kidney and their spleen, which is incredibly painful and can be life-threatening, if you don't cut them open and get the intestines unstuck."
  • Doctor-thinking is also getting easier. Different diseases are starting to sort themselves out into lists of "causes of fever", "causes of diarrhea", "causes of colic", etc. I'm getting a better sense of what is common and was is not (the point of the phrase "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras."). It's getting easier to come up with the next step when you're faced with a problem- what tests to run, what to pay special attention to on a physical exam, what questions to ask the owner, things like that. I tend to dread exams that test us on our ability to work up a case, interpret lab results, etc because they take more work to prepare for than a standard multiple-choice exam, but they really are nice for flexing our clinical muscles in preparation for rotations. Practice makes perfect, and every case-based exam feels a little easier than the last.
  • For some reason, they gave us less opportunity to interact with real live animals during third year than they did second year. I would have had a much harder time staying focused if I hadn't had a job at a clinic to keep me inspired.
  • Always always back up your data somewhere, as hard drives are fragile. That said, life goes on, even if you've lost some data. 'nuf said.
I'm going to make the most of the rest of my break before heading back for my last semester of lecture-style classes EVER. Wahoo!

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