Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Life after vet school

Wow- long time, no blog! It's only been a couple of months since graduation, but it feels like forever since the last time I was in VMC. Since then, I've been across Europe and back, up to the cabin, and on a marathon 33 hour drive from Minnesota to Tucson. We managed to squeeze everything that I thought I'd need for my internship (including the cat and the hedgehog) into the Fit. I brought every book and set of notes that I thought might be useful, which turned out to be quite a lot... and poor Chris had to haul all my boxes of books into the new apartment in 108 degree temperatures. Welcome to Tucson!

We spent the first week in Tucson exploring, looking especially for the best food Arizona had to offer. We found the best tacos at the Taqueria Pico de Gallo, a little hole-in-the-wall that used to be a taco stand. They've since grown to have enclosed seating, but you still bus your own food and clean up after yourself. They make fresh corn tortillas while you wait, and serve a type of pico de gallo made of big chunks of fruit covered in chili powder and salt. Yum! The farmer's markets had the best tortillas and salsas, although fresh produce is sort of lacking at this time of year.

We also discovered tamales, delicious concoctions of corn masa and some other delicious filling (like peppers, mushrooms, corn, cheese, etc), wrapped in a corn husk. We visited the Tucson Tamale Company based on an article from When we told them we were new to Tucson and to tamales, they served us a free tamale and taught us how to prepare and eat them. Delicious, cheap, and easy to prepare? We were hooked, and have a freezer full of tamales to show for it.

After a week of getting oriented to Tucson (and trying to adjust to the temperatures), it was time for Chris to head back to Minnesota and for me to start my internship. I was a little scared that after six weeks of thinking about anything but veterinary medicine, I would be completely useless as a new doctor. Of course, I hadn't forgotten everything, but I've also been eased into my role as an intern. We spent our first week getting oriented to the clinic, learning where things are and how things work. The next week, we split into our separate shifts- I started on days, and the other intern started on nights. We'll spend two weeks on each rotation until October, when our rotations switch to three weeks long.

So, what did I learn during my first couple of weeks as a doctor?
  • private practice medicine and university teaching hospital medicine are very different things- at the university, most people are coming in knowing there's something really wrong with their pets. In private practice, someone might come in for what they think is a routine wellness exam and leave with a diagnosis of heart failure or cancer. You surprise people a lot more often in private practice.
  • sugar gliders make terrifying sounds and will definitely bite you given half a chance.
  • my hands, generally pretty steady through things like surgery or blood draws, get shaky during euthanasias.
  • good technicians are worth their weight in gold (I already knew that, but now that I'm a doctor it's even more obvious).
  • During vet school, I got very good and thinking very thoroughly- we saw relatively few cases each day, so there was a lot of time to dig into the disease, the pathophysiology, the pharmacology of the medications involved, or all the different possible approaches to the surgery or procedure. At my clinic (and in most private practices), the pace is much faster and I'm going to have to get a lot better at thinking on my feet and trusting the knowledge base that I built during clinics.
  • puppy and kitten visits are important antidotes to euthanasia appointments.
  • I'm still not used to being called Dr. Schommer, but I kinda love it when clients call me "Doc".
  • tortoises can be hypothyroid. Who knew? (I feel like "How can you tell your tortoise is hypothyroid?" is sort of like "How can you tell your accordion is out of tune?").
  • baby hummingbirds are the most adorable animals ever.
I think everyone who went to an internship after graduation was a little nervous about what their clinic would be like- we all heard stories about programs that use interns as slave labor rather than doctors, or programs where the residents get priority for interesting cases, procedures, surgeries, etc and interns get whatever is left over. I've only been at my clinic for a few weeks, but I feel lucky. There aren't any residents to compete with, the doctors are supportive and always open to answering questions, and we're treated as full-fledged doctors (even if we're still just partially-fledged doctors ;) ).

Tonight, I start my first stretch of overnights. Wish me luck!