Behind the Medic: “Dr. Cranquis, the electronic prescribing system is down until further notice…”
My nurses just looked at me funny when I started flipping the workstation lightswitch on and off while making glottal techno-beat noises.
How can you ensure you get those vital work experience placements and how do you make the most of them?
I once read a quote from a vet saying ‘if work experience wasn’t so valuable, it wouldn’t be so hard to get’. When I was still at school, I wholeheartedly believed this after applying to endless vet surgeries for placements and often never even getting a reply. Perhaps this is the first hurdle hopeful applicants must pass? Determination is crucial for getting through vet school, so must we prove it before applying?
Many vets are more than happy to take on students once they are at vet school. Often, this is because of insurance policies in place to protect the students and themselves in case of accidents. Often, this is because they have a far more developed knowledge of anatomy, drugs, diseases and treatments. Often, this is because they have proved themselves worthwhile students, keen to learn and willing to get stuck in. This, however, is absolutely no help when still at school or college and is extremely frustrating since every vet school demands at least 2 weeks experience. When vet schools use work experience gained as a way of filtering applicants, these valuable placements become just as important as your grades.
So, what can you do to help get work experience placements and how should you make the most of them?
- It’s all about who you know. ANY link to a vet (family, friends, teacher’s friends, your vet, your stable’s vet etc.) is a huge asset in asking for a placement. Don’t be afraid of being shameless in asking favours or name-dropping if it will ensure you gaining that placement!
- Be persistent (but not annoying). Send a letter, phone them and if need be, drop in in person. If they say no, accept it and move on. If they are vague or don’t get back to you, try again.
- Keep an open mind. Placements don’t have to be purely veterinary based to still be extremely useful. I spent 6 weeks at the University of Liverpool studying molecular biology of plants and learnt loads of laboratory skills. This placement really made me stand out amongst applicants because it was so unusual. I also had to produce a written project report which is really similar to the research project I have to produce in 2nd year. See? Who’d have thought studying plants for a whole summer would land me with the skills I need in vet school?
- Be prepared. Read up about the practice, company or type of farm you’ll be going to. It will impress your supervisor if you’re interested in their business and prevents them having to explain the basics to you. Make a list of question you could ask before you go - most of these will be answered within your first few days anyway but you’ll find yourself adding to it during your placement. It’s also a good idea to ring a few days before your placement to confirm the timings, lunch arrangements, clothing required etc.
- Network and make contacts. A HUGE part of being a vet is about getting on with other people - colleagues and clients. If you’re shy or nervous, try to be open about it. Placement supervisors won’t push you into doing anything you don’t want to and would rather know if you were feeling uncomfortable. Having said that, make sure you get involved! Chat to as many people as you can and get yourself known. Vets are not experts in every area and are certainly not the only people you can learn from!!
- Don’t be disappointed by the bad days, focus on the good days. Everyday is different as a vet so supervisors cannot guarantee you’ll get to see groundbreaking surgery or emergency limb reconstruction. Instead,they’ll take it day by day and do their best to offer you a true taste of veterinary life. You may well spend days addressing envelopes or mucking out stables or sweeping yards. So be it. There’ll be other days where you get to witness something extraordinary, get involved in something exciting or get to meet really interesting people!
- Keep a diary. Sounds silly but you’ll soon forget your experiences or mix up days if you don’t record them properly. It doesn’t have to be long, just a quick summary of your day’s work - you could start a blog like I did! It’s also incredibly useful for adding details into your personal statement or having case studies to talk about at interview.
- Leave a good impression; send a thank you card at the very least. At the end of the day, no matter how useful/fun/educational your placement was (or wasn’t), they have done you a huge favour by letting you into their place of work. You never know when you might meet them in the future or need their help/advice for something so make sure they remember you for all the right reasons! In my experience, cakes/biscuits/chocolates always go down well in busy vet practices!
So I think that’s pretty much it…. It’s hard work to achieve, especially while balancing studies, jobs, a social life, hobbies and sleep but in a way it is great preparation for uni!
Anonymous asked: Hi, have you ever have had any experience with SIADH?
I’m afraid I haven’t! I’m on vacation so don’t have access to some of my resources I would normally have, but it seems to be a disease process seen mostly in humans with only rare cases in dogs. If you have seen a case let me know, that would be interesting to read about.
Simple names for surgical operations
-tomy: The surgeon cut something.
-ectomy: The surgeon cut something out.
-ostomy: The surgeon cut something to make a mouth. If one organ is named, the mouth opened to the outside of the patient. If two organs are named, the mouth connected two organs.
-plasty: The surgeon changed the shape of an organ.
-pexy: The surgeon moved the organ to the right place.
-rraphy: The surgeon sewed something up.
-desis: The surgeon made two things stick to one another.
cranquis asked: LOVED your commentary on the "worrying about med school debt" post. Thanks!
Thanks! I feel a bit flattered having the tumblr-lauded cranquis send me a note :) I enjoy keeping a few medblrs on my follow list to see the similiarities and differences between human and veterinary medicine, always a fascinating read. Sometimes they’re eerily similar, other times I’m grateful to be working on animals instead of people!
Ask Me Anything: Is it ok to worry about med-school debt?
Hiya Dr. Cranquis!
One of the things I’m concerned about going into the medical profession is the amount of debt I’d be going into. I know money shouldn’t be of concern if I’m going into a career that I want to be in, but I also don’t want to be in a financial mess. How do you manage to pay off student loans while getting on with your life (having a Cranq-family & all that jazz)?
EXCELLENT question - I’m going to start off by pointing you to me #financial aid tag, which contains quite a few prior replies/posts about this very question.
However, I also want to specifically address a misconception I detected in your question: “If you’re going into a career which you enjoy, and/or which is primarily focused on helping others, then it’s uncouth/impolite/a sign of weakness to express concern about the financial debt which that career entails, right?”
Interesting perspective from the human side of things. While I think student loan debt is out of control in every profession, the fact that the MDs are having a difficult time is sobering to me. Especially given that I as a recent graduate veterinarian have student loan debt in accordance with physicians (greater than $350,000) and yet earn a salary that is a little better than a military doctor ($58,000) but not as good as a non-doctor research assistant ($80,000). This is average for veterinarians. Think hard on it - the only thing that makes it worth it is the passion. If you only kinda like vet med, run the other direction! You’ve got to love this to make it anything like worthwhile with a debt to salary ratio like that!