Friday, June 5, 2015

Advice and Ramblings of a Vet School Survivor

I was looking over what I had written at the end of vet school for the underclassmen, it still has some thoughts that apply today.  In italics is my take on it after being a vet for 8 years...  It probably applies to many other professions as well.

1) Remember you're NOT PERFECT, if you were, you wouldn't need to go to school.  One of my mantras, "Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement."  Always learn from your mistakes.
Still rings true- this is applicable to everything (that's why I had a hard time finding an exact source for this quote- so many people have said it).  I am a Type-A veterinarian, but I am not God and so I am not perfect...

2) You're going to make mistakes, and when you do, especially when it involves a patient's wellbeing, tell the professor.  They are kind of like priests with confession.  There is probably nothing that they haven't heard or seen before.  You are not the only vet student who makes mistakes, and most likely, yours is not the worst one.  Ultimately if you speak with a resident/professor/staff, you will benefit, some ways more obvious than others, you will learn from your mistakes and not repeat them, learn humility (always a good thing in a professional student, particularly medical student) and your patient will be better off.

This reminds me of during my internship when I was feeling bad about taking longer in surgery than I thought I should.  A well-seasoned tech told me, "you're doing fine, at least you haven't sutured the patient to the surgical drape like one of your intern-mates."  Yep, that made me feel better, there's probably nothing I've done that someone hasn't done before...

3) Grades are not everything.  The more you worry about the grades, I guarantee you the worse your grade is going to be.  Sure, worry about passing, but not more than that.  The only grade that ultimately matters in life is the respect you have for yourself and the respect your clients and colleagues have for you.  Some people are just not going to like you.  All you have to worry about is working hard, trying your best, and always being an advocate for your patient who can't speak.  The rule I've used is, I'd rather be thrown out of vet school with self-respect, than to feel that I've sacrificed my character to pass.

It's funny, I have actually forgot a lot of the circumstances that led me to the above statement, but I do vaguely remember a gut-check moment when I put it on the line to report a professor who I thought didn't have a patient's best interest at heart.  I think God helps you forget traumatic things sometimes and I forget most of the trauma from vet school and just remember the happy memories.  In vet school, the last 1 1/2 years are called "clinics" there is not really a way for objective grading, it's mostly what professors think of you.  I remember one rotation where almost a year later I found out my grade was a result of a mix- up (it was a poor grade when I had been given a mid-term evaluation of a good grade, it never made sense to me until I found out I had been mixed up with someone else, I used it as an impetus to make me work harder, but that bad grade did affect my self-confidence)

4) People are going to have bad days.  The majority of the faculty and staff are great and well-meaning.  Some people have bad days.  Some, more than others.  Some have baggage they need a tractor to remove.  For the former, be understanding and remember you have bad days too.  For the latter, feel sorry for them, pray for them or laugh; there's nothing more you can do about it; so move forward.

This is still true today.  With experience, I've focused more on the prayer and laughter.  Life's too short to let others dictate how you feel about yourself.

5) A smile burns 6 calories!  Every time you smile against your will, it burns 6 calories.  The more you smile, the more it becomes a habit, and eventually when you smile it rubs off on yourself and others.

Still true.  Share this with others in the workplace and smiling may become infectious... or... you can do it and then share a drink at Happy Hour after work guilt-free.

6) Remember where you came from.  Remember when you were a child, or when you finally decided to be a vet.  Remember thinking that being a vet was the best thing in the whole world.  Remember when you thought, "All I have to do is get into vet school," and then it was, "All I have to do is get into clinics," and then it became, "All I have to do is graduate".  Sometimes, getting in touch with the reason you got here, will give you a smile, and sometimes it will help you remember how lucky you are, how hard you worked.

It still touches my heart to receive notes from children saying how they want to be a veterinarian and appreciation of saving their pet.  Looking at the world through the eyes of a child is always refreshing.  Kind of reminds me of my two year old who refuses to say he's two.  He either says he's four or ten or fourteen.  He's so ready to get on with life.  Sometimes when we are so ready to get on with life we forget to just take a deep breath and appreciate where we are in the present.

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