a rant, in parts

Rant subject: The favorite saying of a medical director at a place where I did an externship had a favorite saying, which I heard at least three times as he made the case for doing an internship after one graduates. That statement was: “Vet school simply does not prepare you to become a clinician.”

Exhibit A: At the same hospital, I watched as an intern, who had graduated that May from a vet school that I am not going to, did her very first dog neuter (IN LATE SUMMER…AFTER SHE GRADUATED FROM VET SCHOOL). I double-checked with another student who goes to that school, and sure enough: students were allowed to graduate with no surgical experience other than two dog spays. No cats, no neuters, and certainly no advanced surgery. [Students at this school can do extra surgeries if they go out of their way to.]

Exhibit B: I (and I’m pretty representative of my classmates) have done two major intra-abdominal surgeries (including gastropexy, gastrotomy, splenectomy, nephrectomy, liver and renal biopsies, gastropexies and resection and anastomosis), spayed a dog and neutered both a dog and cat, in addition to spaying four additional cats during feral cat clinics.

Exhibit Ba: A classmate who just came back from an externship with a shelter (I’m doing the same thing in March) completed 56 spays and neuters during her two weeks there. FIFTY-SIX!!!

Exhibit C: On most of my small animal rotations, the students job is to take a complete history from the owner, perform a complete physical exam, formulate a plan, interpret diagnostics, adjust plans, prescribe medications, etc. OF COURSE there are clinicians there who back us up, correct us and guide us, but the responsibility is real, the expectations are real, and we do, OF COURSE, learn an absolute shitload.

So why, then, will I be SO unprepared to be a good clinician when I graduate? What better preparation is there, than three years of very directed education followed by a year working with people who’s job is to make you a good clinician? Is it the fault of some schools, who maybe have more of an academic focus and not enough of a practical/clinical one?

And is there not something in the MD’s line about not being prepared that smacks of scare-tactic? Wouldn’t it be more encouraging and more accurate to say “do an internship if you want to be an excellent clinician, right off the bat? do an internship if you want more training, and want to better yourself in that way”?

I’m still on the fence about doing an internship, and leaning more and more away from it. As the disparities between veterinary education and experience show, everything is exactly what you make of it. So if, for lifestyle reasons, I don’t feel like an internship would be right for me, I’m still not going to doubt my abilities to excel as a new vet.

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5 thoughts on “a rant, in parts

  1. homeless parrot

    You are not prepared. Our vet school was very similar to yours. I had done those same surgeries and neutered/spayed during senior year.

    The reason you are not prepared is hard to explain. I guess the easiest way to put it is that – no matter how much history you take, how much of a treatment plan you formulate, etc – nothing is truly on you. There is always a senior clinician/intern/resident above you who is ultimately responsible for the case. The responsibility you assume once you graduate is AWESOME – and no one I know was prepared for it including myself.

    It’s more than that though, and it’s hard to explain. It’s the lack of experience, too. You can read about something a thousand times, but the first time you see it, you’re often like WTF? It takes a really long time to bridge the gap between book knowledge, one year of being a highly skilled tech/very low on the totem pole vet and a true veterinarian. I still haven’t fully jumped the gap.

    If you read on VIN, you’ll see there is a LOT of discussion on how to help new vets with the transition from vet school to DVM.

    Oh – the other big thing about transitioning is learning to be a professional. In vet school – you’re a student – so you can be friends with techs, you can gossip with your friends about people, and generally act like a student. Transitioning from that to being the boss of people is a HUGE step, and it’s often extremely hard to learn how to be professional. I’ve seen many of my classmates struggle with that – the inability to be professional and mature. They don’t teach you that in vet school.

    I don’t know that an internship necessarily will help you with any of that. I think it’s just a learning process whether you go straight into the work force or to an internship. On the other hand, the internship is nice because you have the safety net. I wouldn’t be where I am (high paid ER work) if I hadn’t done an internship. If I was in ER without that experience, I would be SCARED SHITLESS.

    Good luck with your decision!

  2. elizabeth

    While I appreciate the feedback, I still am unconvinced. I was a professional for 11 years really before I came back to vet school. I’ve been a manager, I’ve been a coworker, and I’ve always been really good at that. So being a professional again is something I CAN’T WAIT for!!!

    Also (and yes, I know it’s different, but…) I did my undergrad in computer science and then went on to take a related job. When I graduated I didn’t know how to do EVERYTHING my new job required – there were procedures to learn, people to get used to, entirely new programming languages to learn, etc; but with my education and work experience, I was able to figure it all out – do the ncessary research, ask questions, etc. So yeah, no one died when I screwed up software implementation, but still, knowing how to figure things out, how to communicate, etc., I feel I’m really good at.

    Either way, internship or new job, it’s a new experience that you just have to get used to – I’m just not convinced that an internship is necessarily superior to a good job in getting you prepared. (again, I think an internship is undoubtedly a good education, not trying to be an internship nay-sayer!).

  3. homeless parrot

    That’s why I said this: “I don’t know that an internship necessarily will help you with any of that.” I really don’t think that an internship helped me with the professional aspect or learning how to be a boss/dealing with people at all. It enhanced my medicine and surgery skills, though. I also think there is a HUGE difference between academic and private internships – with each having different pros and cons.

    The place that an internship made me shine was that I am now working ER and doing stuff that most of my classmates haven’t even come close to doing. I’m eternally grateful for that – because I’m making LOTS of money, and I love what I’m doing.

    All that aside, I think that you can be a great doctor if you go straight into private practice. I also think that your previous experiences in the “real world” will help you tremendously. Many of my classmates went straight into veterinary med from college without ANY experience in the real world, so professionalism is unknown to them. They were technicians before that – which isn’t a professional job.

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