So Vet school is now over, and your learning is complete forever, correct? Well not quite right. Here are the 5 things you learn after veterinary school.
1. Know that a spay is not always “just” a spay
In some veterinary schools, students may perform a single ovariohysterectomy before graduation. From this experience, it can be easy to assume that all spays are alike. However, while the procedure may be similar, there can be a lot of differences between patients. A pediatric cat spay is different than an in-heat cat spay and a small immature dog spay is a different experience than a large breed overweight dog spay. As a student, I encourage you to seek as many opportunities to perform as many spays as possible on different types of animals, across various reproductive and life stages, to improve your comfort level with this procedure.
2. Make sure you have your tech skills down
There is so much to learn about being a soon-to-be veterinarian. However, there is a lot to learn about how to perform technical skills as well. Many practices have rock-star technicians that can place catheters, draw blood, and perform other technical duties super well. However, sometimes you may have new or inexperienced staff or you may be short staffed, in which case you may need to jump in to perform some technical skills. Make sure you get some technical experience during vet school so you can help out if needed.
3. When you hear hoof beats, think horses - not zebras.
This was a piece of advice imparted by a very wise professor in my vet school. The reasons to think of horses is because they represent the most common animal that you associate with hoofbeats. In veterinary school, your clinical year is often spent on rotations in advanced specialties. Oftentimes, they diagnose the “zebras” or conditions that don’t happen as commonly. However, this is not usually not representative of the case load in a general practice. Make sure you have a solid idea of the diagnostics and treatment plans for the common things...because the common things really do happen commonly and you are more likely to see those cases in general practice than more rare conditions.
4. Workplace culture and communication is key
It’s probably safe to say that no one wants to work in a place where they don’t feel like they belong. I’ve found that many practice have their own unique cultures. This affects how people feel about their sense of belonging and it also affects how they function, how well they work together and the type of care and service that pets and clients receive. If possible, try to do a working interview or relief work at a practice so you have a good idea of the culture of the practice so you maximize your chance of finding a good fit. On another related note, communication will be key in clinical practice. You will spend most of your day communicating with staff and owners so try to understand the keys to effective communication such as open-ended questions and reflective listening so you have those tools in your toolbox as a veterinarian.
5. Learn to love dentistry
If you love dentistry, then general practice will likely be a good fit as many small animal clinics do a lot of dental work on cats and dogs. And if you can’t love it, at least learn to be good at it! It is wise to learn the basics as a student and then build on your skills as a practitioner since dentistry will be a significant part of your work as a general practitioner.
Want to read more? Check out these articles written by other Veterinarians about what they didn’t learn in vet school by clicking the following links from VetStreet: 5 Things I Didn't Learn in Vet School or 7 Things I Didn't Learn in Vet School.