Given my rather independent nature (who installed hardwood flooring almost* all by her lonesome in a skinny, irregular hallway??? who can change a flat in less than 10 minutes? that’s right, baby, that’s right), I was surprised to find myself fairly petrified at the prospect of having to make some Very Serious Decisions about my future. And finally, my future is kind of right around the corner.
When I got into vet school, I remember it took me a while to get used to the idea that I WAS IN…I didn’t need to worry about getting in anymore, I was actually in. Once classes started, they really just clipped the little leash to the collars around our necks and have been marching us through the curriculum – no real worries there. So now that I’m almost a third year, I have to face facts – in 22 months, I’m going to be a doctor. I’m going to get my life back, the road will be wide open, and I’m the one who will pick the direction.
One of my favorite things about veterinary medicine is that the options are nearly endless. Cows, dogs, birds, monkeys, hamsters, or lions….academia, research, private practice, government, military. A bored vet? They must be out there, but I’ve yet to run into one.
So in the next…I don’t know, at some point soon, I have two big decisions to make. The first, is smaller and more immediate: where do I want to do my externships during my fourth year? The second, is huge but I have more time: do I want to do an internship after I graduate?
Here are the facts about the system:
1. An externship is done by a (usually 4th year) vet student – you spend a few weeks shadowing doctors and being immersed in a hospital separate from your vet school. This is an opportunity to get experience but also to check out different practices and hospitals – sort of an informal way to introduce yourself to a future employer.
2. An internship is usually done the year after you graduate (though there are exceptions). You spend a full year as the sacrifical lamb for the hospital or school where you intern – it is a long, incredibly busy year, and you get paid in little styrofoam peanuts. The experience is invaluable – a year at a good internship is probably worth 4-5 in private practice.
3. Vets who “specialize” will do a residency, which is a lot like an internship but specific to the specialty and 3-4 years long. Usually they do this following an internship, but it’s certainly possible to go out into practice for a few years, and then start a residency. Specialties include Cardiology, Oncology, Emergency/Critical Care, Internal Medicine, etc., and also newer specialties like Behavior and Shelter Medicine. There is a difficult board certification exam at the end of the residency, and usually some requirements for being published, I think.
4. Internships are competitive. Not everyone who wants to do one gets to, and you don’t always get your first choice.
5. If you know you want to specialize, doing an internship is a no-brainer.
So with these decisions soon in my future, I have been drilling almost every vet and intern I can find at the hospital to try to get some direction. And they have been fantastic. I went in and talked to the intern director yesterday afternoon and she was wonderful. Last night I chatted up the intern on duty for about an hour and he was fantastic too. THe problem is, I talk to one person and they make SO much sense, I know clearly what I want to do. But then I see a different angle…and my mind completely changes.
So next up, I’ll talk more about the externship decision. I have a few more calls to make anyway. Sorry to post in parts, but i have to get some work done. Stupid work.
* I admit I enlisted my carpenter friend’s help to finish off the edges.
** On a Corolla, it took about 2 hours and three guys from around the neighborhood, including a professional tower, to change a tire on the Audi.