What to do the Summer Before Vet School

So you applied to vet school, waited 809,089 years to get a decision, and you got accepted! What an awesome feeling! So…. now what do you do for 2-3 months before vet school begins? Never fear, your friendly vet student is here to help! 

-> Relax. I know, I know, you hear this all the time. BUT SERIOUSLY. You have 4 years of vet school to work, study, and worry. Go hiking at a national park, go lay on the beach, go read a ton of great books. But whatever you do, DO NOT PRE-STUDY. The only thing you should study is the back of your eyelids while you are napping. “But soontobedvm, what if I never had anatomy before? What if I had a few gap years and haven’t studied in forever?” I know you don’t believe me, but not only whatever you study will be taught within a lecture or two, vet school is good at catching everyone up to speed quickly, regardless of whatever background you are from. So please don’t burn yourself out already by pre-studying! If you are worried, I have several other posts about preparing for vet school, mental health, and anatomy here, here, here, and here.  If you want to glance at your anatomy book because that excites you, then by all means do so, but don’t feel like you NEED to pre-study, because I can ensure you will quickly be on the same page as everyone else. :)  

-> Establish good habits. Now one thing I WILL advocate the summer before school is to get into good habits that will follow you into school! For me this was getting into an exercise routine and trying out and freezing recipes for my crockpot. This could mean discovering your de-stressers, revamping your nutrition, or simply making time in your daily routine for “you” time. These types of things in my opinion was way more helpful to adjusting to school than pre-studying ever was. 

-> Settle in. You know what is worse than starting school and not knowing anyone? Starting school and not knowing where anything is. Take a few days (or a few weeks for some people) and explore the town you are in. Go discover some future study spots, take the route to school once or twice, unpack everything, go find something fun to do, that sort of thing. It might just make adjusting to vet school a little easier if the rest of your life is organized. :) 

-> Wait to buy materials/books. I know, I know, you are chomping at the bit to buy books, because I was too. HOWEVER, do not waste $200 a book quite yet!! Wait until you either contact your big sibling (Most schools have a second year buddy you are paired with), or communicate with upperclassmen via your school facebook group/email. You will either get hand-me-down books or online PDFs that are FREE, or you will get the down-low on whether or not you actually need these things. So just try to be a little patient and wait and see what materials you actually need! 

-> Get excited! This is it folks, you are going to be a vet in 4 years! It’s going to be a crazy, ridiculous, exhausting rollercoaster of a ride, but you always have someone to help you through the tough times, and never forget that we are all here rooting for you! 

Dear Vet Students,

I’ve never had a client ask me about my grades or GPA.

I’ve had clients thank me profusely for checking with expert veterinarians and researchers to get advice about their animal’s case. I’m most often thanked for being kind and gentle with their animal, large or small.
Clients will assume you’re smart and capable. You got accepted to a challenging professional program and made it through. That’s enough for them. Work on your technical skills, yes, but above all…

Try your best. Seek advice when necessary. Be kind. Enjoy the work.
Pass your classes and don’t look back.

Vet Med In Real Life

anonymous asked:

I just got accepted into vet school and reading your blog makes me really excited and so terrified. Your case studies are so interesting to read but I panicking thinking about how I'm ever going to remember all the information to make accurate diagnoses. Do you have any advice for new vetlings just beginning their vet journeys?

You don’t remember everything. You don’t remember even close to everything, but you get such a huge amount of knowledge and skills thrown at you that if you pick up even a third of it you’re doing well.

When I graduated I didn’t think I knew very much, but I already knew huge amounts more than the general public that like to play vet at home. You’re not really going to understand that until you’ve met the average member of the general public. Value your knowledge.

You graduate with a great breadth of knowledge, but not the most depth. That’s okay. If you have enough knowledge to go “oh, that sounds like this, I should look it up” then you have enough knowledge to start on the right track.

You don’t stop learning when you graduate. Not even close. e have this ‘continuing education’ concept for a reason.

Find some friends. Actively make some in your cohort of students. Look out for each other, and share your doubts, fears and tricks. They are the people who will get you through vet school. The friends that come out the other end of this experience with you are simply golden.

And if you get stuck with something, try this:

  • Don’t do anything stupid or dangerous.
  • Buy yourself some time.
  • Look it up or ask someone.

My case studies have the glorious benefit of hindsight, and you don’t often see my doubts, fears or panic, but I certainly have felt them. You just see a somewhat more polished and edited version of my life on here.

I also have seven and a half years clinical experience behind me, and plenty of past mistakes that I have learned from.

Try not to worry too much. Motivate yourself with the love of medicine, not the fear of failure.

An Open Letter to All Puppies With Parvo Virus (That Were Unvaccinated)

Dear Adorable Fluffs,

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that you don’t understand what is happening to you.

I’m sorry we have to poke and prod you every little bit so we can make sure you stay alive and get the treatment you need.

I’m sorry that your intestines is literally and continuously sloughing unto the puppy pad diapers that you are surrounded by.

I’m sorry I can’t explain to you why we have to draw blood so often or why you are hooked up to so many tubes and fluid lines.

I’m sorry that you feel so crummy that you won’t eat. Puppies should be able to love to eat.

I’m sorry that instead of a bright, hyper puppy you are reduced to being a miserable and dull corpse-like ball of diarrhea. 

I’m sorry that your entire body might begin to shut down and you might go into septic shock.

I’m sorry that even around the clock care might not be good enough.

I’m sorry that even the best medicine might not be good enough.

I’m sorry that even if you walk out of here alive and possibly eventually happy, you had to endure even a single second of this awful, cruel, debilitating disease.

I’m sorry that that this was most likely preventable (Yes, there are exceptions, but they are rare and almost always has a valid reason why the vaccine didn’t work- i.e. didn’t store the vaccine correctly, giving it only once without a booster, expecting it to miraculously work immediately right before or during a pravo infection etc.). 

I’m sorry that your owner didn’t believe in vaccines or that “we just want to give them for money.” (Hint: iF we ACTUALLY were in this career for the money, then why in the absolute world would we give a $20 vaccine when we could refuse to vaccinate and make $1,000-$7,000 ++ on each critical parvo patient that walked in the door?)

I’m sorry that you could have been playing with your siblings and being snuggled as a puppy should but instead I’m trying not to sob I might have to put your tiny, emaciated body into a body bag.

I’m so sorry. You deserve so much better than this.

Clinical Burn-out

Most of the time, I enter the veterinary teaching hospital excited to learn and possibly save some lives.

Most of the time, I am enthusiastic about my cases and will eagerly research things I don’t know.

Most of the time, I understand that I won’t know everything and that I will grow with time and practice.

Most of the time, I enjoy educating clients and discussing cases with other vets.

Most of the time, I embrace scary or new situations because I know I will learn from them.

Most of the time, I am okay with doing paperwork until 11 pm or cleaning things when needed.

Most of the time, I am fine with getting up at 5:30-6:00 every morning.

Most of the time, I am content with being busy and not having much social or downtime.

But sometimes…….

Sometimes, I dread or get nervous to talk to clients or attending veterinarians.

Sometimes, I get frustrated at not knowing something or frequently forgetting things I try so hard to remember.

Sometimes, I’m dread waking up at 11 in the morning, let alone 5:30 am.

Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is to take even one step into the veterinary teaching hospital.

Sometimes, I am so overwhelmed with things to know and things to do that I become paralyzed and don’t feel like I can do anything.

Sometimes, I anguish over how unfair it is that I am doing more paperwork and cleaning than I am actually learning for my career.

Sometimes, I get depressed and upset that I am spending such much time at the hospital instead of being a normal, happy, and mentally well, human.

Sometimes, I have massive amounts of anxiety over preforming new procedures or doing something outside my comfort zone.

And sometimes, I am so burnt-out that I can’t see the light to this tunnel that is vet school. 

And that’s okay. Because everyone can, and is allowed, to become burnt-out sometimes. To anyone else struggling with me, know that this is temporary, and that there are ways to find recovery, and ways to reach out and help one another. You are not alone, and we are all going to get through this together <3

New Mini Series- How to Survive Clinical Rotations?!?

As clinical rotations are trudging on, I was thinking about how much I loved my other mini-series on how to get into vet school (here), and as I was brainstorming on another mini series, I realized that what better to cover than the one I am in now- clinical rotations! So what all would you like to know about the clinical year(s)???

Some topics I have so far (including my posts regarding preparing for clinical rotations that I already wrote here) are: What to include in your white coat, how to write medical records/SOAPs, how to present a case, how to take a history, what’s involved in a physical exam, etc! 

Suggestions welcome!

Fun With the Fundus!

Did you know, that behind the wonder that is the surface of the eye, is another layer of anatomy ready to be explored? The back of the eye, or the fundus, consists of sclera, choroid, retina, the optic nerve, and plus or minus the tapetum

The fundus can be seen by several different methods, such as direct ophthalmoscopy or indirect ophthalmoscopy (as seen below).

images from

Examining the fundus can be extremely useful to evaluate blindness, neurologic disease, or systemic disease (infectious, immune-mediated, neoplastic, etc).

What I Learned On My Cardiology Rotation:

-> ECGs can be stupidly hard to read, and take a really long time to understand. Don’t beat yourself up for not getting it right away!

-> Pacemakers in vet med are a thing! 

-> When you take a Doppler blood pressure in an animal, the basic principles are to hear the animal’s pulse on the machine (by placing the crystal on the animal’s leg), puff up the cuff until you don’t hear the pulse, lower the pressure until you hear it again- and bingo, that number is your systolic blood pressure! The only problem is it can be hard to hear the pulse…. but I found using my stethoscope on the machine itself can pick up soft pulses!!

-> Correcting heart defects such as PDAs or placing pacemakers are fun to watch on the fluoroscope (a “video” x-ray, if you will). It looks like below, only the machine is placed by the chest!   

-> Heart disease is funny. Some patients with raging congestive heart failure that present almost dead can turn around with medications and do great for 3 years. Then you will get a case of a dog dying within a week of starting treatment. You just never know. 

-> Three of the main indicators of congestive heart failure on a chest x-ray include: 1) Enlarged pulmonary veins 2) Enlarged heart/heart chambers 3) pulmonary edema

-> Echocardiograms (ultrasounds of the heart) are the bread and butter of cardiologists. So many hours were spent in a dark room wondering if that black hazy area was the pulmonary valve or the left atrium or the aorta. 

-> Owners will swear their dog is having “a seizure,” when in fact it was syncope! (Falling over/passing out, commonly due to heart disease). It can look very similar (they can go rigid and even extend their legs and shake a bit), and can be hard to tease apart just by history alone. 

-> If you see a Cardiologist look at an ECG, echocardiogram, or x-ray and say “OH SHIT!” you are in VERY. BIG. TROUBLE.

How to be Prepared for Clinical Rotations- How to Survive Clinical Rotations #1

-          Have all your necessary supplies! Now, some of this will depend on the rotation and school, but some supplies to have include: stethoscope, scrubs, pens (lots of them!), highlighters (for treatment sheets), thermometer, emergency stash of advil/ibuprofen, rubber boots (equine, food animal, etc), coveralls, bandage scissors, snacks, notebooks (lots of them!) white coat, hemostats, etc. Also, if you have a computer based paperwork system, look into getting it installed on your personal computer if possible so you can do late-night paperwork at home instead of at school.

-          Have some resources on speed-dial. There is nothing worse than being panicked at 2 am for not knowing the dose of carprofen or xylazine when asked. I’m not suggesting to carry around your textbooks to your rotations (plenty of schools have a textbook library in the hospital somewhere anyway!), but it can be useful to have some websites bookmarked, some pocket books (I love my small animal differential diagnoses and veterinary nerd books- both are white-coat pocket sized!), or have a little notebook full of common drug doses handy. I also recommend the Plumb (drug reference) app that you can install on your phone that should be free if you are a student!  

-          Don’t forget the importance of food! Food is love. You can’t run around the hospital working on cases if you faint from hypoglycemia. Stuff easy finger food in your white-coat and eat when you can! If you are busy typing up paperwork in between diagnostics- EAT SOMETHING. On that note, take care of yourself! Yes, you may have some 12, 17, 24+ hour days, but you have to make sure to take time for yourself or you will be walking on the thin ice that is burnout.

-          Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seriously. Don’t sit with that blood sample all day because you don’t know what to do with it. Ask. Everyone knows you are new. Everyone knows you don’t know what to do or where things are. If someone gives you crap for it, then take a deep breath and find someone who is happy to help. If you are lucky enough like me to enter clinics with upperclassmen still there, cling to them for dear life! They know the in-and-outs of clinics now and are full of tips and tricks to survive clinics!

-          Accept that you won’t always know the answer. Or, at first, you might feel like you never know the answer. Or how to do a certain “easy” procedure. Or how to put in paperwork. Or where anything is. And that’s okay! Your attending clinicians have been doing this for years, so don’t feel bad for not knowing the 25th differential for diarrhea or for missing that IV catheter placement. It takes time, and you may not see it, but you will grow, and you will get more comfortable as time treks on.

-          Accept that you may not enjoy every rotation. In fact, you may hate a few. And that’s okay. Paying $40,000 + a year to perform scut work, yelled at, or being constantly chained to paperwork is frustrating, to say the least. It’s important to know this because vet school, even in clinics, is not the real world. And as such, it is more than acceptable to not like parts of this middle man that is vet school.  It’s also vital to remember that with the slog of clinical rotations, there are rewarding cases, clients, clinicians, and patients that make it worth it.


Other useful links:  what is a clinical rotation, what I learned after one week of clinical rotations

On the Tightwire

A few years ago, when I was in vet school orientation, and one day we had a high ropes course. We all strapped into harnesses, and were free to choose whatever obstacle we liked. Not being afraid of heights, I wanted to do it all. There was a moment of uncertainty however. Of fear, even.

I was about 100 feet up, on a wooden platform. My ultimate goal was to ride the high zipline. It would be so fun. However, in order to do so, I had to shimmy across a tiny wire (we could hold on another one about chest height as we went), which was about the size of my pinky finger. With adrenaline pumping, I made the first step unto the tightwire. I grabbed the higher wire, and suddenly I was leaning forward and looking straight to the ground. My body began to physically betray me, and I began to shake. I suddenly couldn’t move, and I started to falter. My palms were sweaty, and I felt like I was going to fall straight to the ground. I was terrified, and for a moment I forgot even if I fell, I would be safe. I would be caught by my safety net. But all the penetrated my mind was the fear of falling.

Vet school, in classes and in clinical rotations, often feels like I’m suspended 100 feet in the air, trying not to slip off that tightwire. Whether I am struggling to pass exams, or stumbling through complicated cases in the hospital, there is a overwhelming fear of failing. Fear of never being enough. Fear of losing myself to depression. Fear of falling off that tightwire and crashing into the ground below. However, just like in orientation, I always forget that I have a safety net to catch me when I fall. My family, my classmates, my friends, and my professors are all here to support me if I start slipping. 

No matter how terrified you are, no matter how alone you feel, no matter how certain you think you are going to fail, just remember that there are people here for you. 

Even if you forget, or even if you can’t feel it, you have a safety net, and we are ready to catch you when you fall. 

Dealing With (Social) Anxiety in Vet School

There are certain situations that certain people thrive in. And some situations that certain people will falter in. But what if you are in a career that you flourish in that contains situations in which you flail in?

Welcome to my world.

I am in a continuous battle with myself to maintain eye contact, to not stumble over my words, to not freeze in fear in the middle of a conversation. It’s so ridiculously frustrating because I love the career I am going into, and I want to be the best communicator I can be. I want to not be terrified of my superiors, I want to not stumble when I speak, and I want to explain everything to an owner in an easy and concise fashion. But it’s like my body overrides my wishes and begins to tremble at the slight inclination of a confrontation or unknown interaction.

I would like to say that it gets better the more you put yourself out there and practice being out of your social comfort zone. And maybe it does. Maybe I am far too critical of my own communication skills. Maybe I simply can’t see the growth that others are witnessing.

But I do know this. That you and I are not alone, and there are so many people (classmates, professors, family, mentors, friends, professionals) that are there to help you through and cross that finish line of whatever you are struggling with, whether that be social anxiety, depression, or a broken foot.

5 Common Misconceptions About Vet School

Lately, when I’ve been discussing school with pre-vets, family, or friends, I’ve received some interesting insight into what people think vet school is like. So what are some of the common misconceptions that I heard of? Well…

1) If you love vet med, you’re going to love everything about vet school. Unfortunately, this one is something a lot of us believed before matriculating into vet school, to the point that when we realized we disliked some parts of it, we questioned whether this was the career for us. For all of those pre-vetties out there, let me be the first to tell you that there might be parts about vet school that you don’t like, whether it be the constant exams, overwhelming stress, or the sinking feeling that you think you just aren’t good enough for this. You even might actually dread going to school sometimes. And you know what? This is OKAY. Because you are not going through 4 years of torture to become a vet student, you are becoming a vet, so it’s okay to hate the middle man sometimes. I promise that you can still dislike vet school at times but still enjoy being a veterinarian.  

2) You get to play with puppies and kittens all day. Ha, if only! While we do have lots of club wetlabs and get some “clinical skills” sort of classes where we learn how to do physical exams, draw blood, etc, the first 2-3 years of vet school is sitting in a lecture hall for 8-10 hours a day cramming as much knowledge as we can down our throats. Sometimes the only interaction with animals we get are with dead ones.

3) The hardest part about vet school is getting in. This one is dependent on the person, so I won’t say this isn’t true for some people, but this is a bit of a blanket statement that is false for a lot of people, though I do admit I certainly would not want to apply again either. Once you get in, it’s not a guarantee like this statement would suggest. People who did well through undergrad can not only struggle, but they can actually fail out. Or they can do okay grades-wise but fall victim to crippling depression and have to take a year or two off. As much as I am eternally grateful where I am, the academic rigor, combined with the mental and financial sacrifice that I make every day, makes surviving vet school much harder than getting in, personally.

4) Vet school is only for 2 years or online. Most people are shocked when they find out that it takes 4 years to get your DVM (after 4 years of undergrad!). I, for one, am happy about the length, because I don’t think I will be ready to treat anything after 4 years, let alone 2 years! So yes, vet school is 4 years, and yes, I promise I’m going to be a real doctor practicing real medicine, even though I’m not treating humans. 

5) Once you graduate, you will know everything there is about being a vet. I’m not close to graduated yet, but I know this one is completely false. When I graduate, while I’m sure I’ll be on my way to becoming a competent veterinarian,  I’ll probably know about an inch out of a mile’s worth of knowledge. When I take my oath in a few years, I will pledge my life to continuing education to further advance the medicine that I will be practicing to provide the best quality care for my patients that I possibly can. Learning doesn’t stop once I cross that stage.