Maximizing the Fourth-Year Experience

March 2018

Another month down; time seems to pass so quickly.

Since my last blog, I have had a pretty busy schedule. For rotations, I have been on Primary Care, had a “vacation” block, and am currently in Nebraska. Primary Care is a small animal rotation focused on exposing students to general practice. Small animal medicine is not my primary focus; however I got along just fine doing routine small animal work. Although I am headed to work on swine, I am certain I will be asked questions from clients regarding cats and dogs and it will benefit both me and my client if I am knowledgeable and helpful.

My next block was a “vacation” although I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek because during that time I worked with several vets back home, and attended a professional conference. Right now I am taking a cattle feedlot rotation in Nebraska. This is part of a two week course, with the second week taking place in Iowa. It’s basically an industry tour which allows us to see different facets of the feedlot industry and understand the veterinarian’s role in each area.

The focus of this blog is not to try impressing anyone or to imply that this is how things should be done. Rather, it is to describe my approach to maximizing my clinical year experience.  For whatever reason, I am not wired to take a week off to just relax. The idea of lying on a beach all day does not really appeal to me… at all. My vacation block was scheduled so I could attend the American Association of Swine Veterinarians Annual Meeting in San Diego. I feel fortunate that with the exception of one day spent taking care of some veterinary licensing tasks (they are a bit of a doozy) I was able to either be at the convention or working with other veterinarians. Prior to this block, the only other time I have taken off was the week of Thanksgiving. That week was utilized to finalize paperwork for my new job in Independence, Iowa, tying up some loose ends at home, riding along with veterinarians, and relaxing with my family on Thanksgiving Day.

Our fourth year of vet school is hands down, the best year of school. It beats any other year of vet school, college, or high school. The opportunity to visit essentially any veterinary practice you want is an opportunity I will likely never have again. Early in my vet school career I decided I wanted to ride along with a lot of veterinarians, see a lot of stuff, and visit a lot of places. I believe I have done that.

At the end of my clinical rotations, I will have ridden along with approximately 55 veterinarians at 12 clinics/production groups, and visited 10+ states. This experience has not been without its trials. It has involved a lot of miles – approximately 12,000 so far, a lot of different beds, and a lot of restaurant food. Fortunately, the hosting clinics have been very generous by covering much of my food and lodging costs.

This year, among other activities, I palpated dairy cattle in Idaho, evaluated hog farms in North Carolina, learned new diagnostic sampling techniques for swine in Minnesota and South Dakota, observed feedlots in Nebraska, and assisted with bovine In-Vitro Fertilization in Iowa. Additionally, my experiences at school included: treating a sick ferret, examining a parrot, taking x-rays on a horse, performing surgery on a calf, assisting with arthroscopy on a dog, and providing anesthesia for a pot-belly pig (among many other great experiences). Ultimately, you don’t have to spend every day of your fourth year working in order to have a great experience. Just set your goals, pursue them relentlessly, and do what you enjoy.