The opportunity of "I don't know"

February 2019

A lot has happened since we last spoke! I took the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE), rotated through my remaining small animal rotations, signed a job contract, finished my skills check-list, and received my NAVLE results.

I am very thankful that I passed the NAVLE, but definitely left the testing center expecting to return. This feeling was well shared throughout my fourth-year class, despite individual class rank, species interest, and hours spent studying. Students who did not pass the fall NAVLE are given another opportunity to take the exam in April and should receive their exam results around graduation time. The skills check-list I mentioned consists of about 130 items to be completed and approved by clinicians on specific rotations. For example, “perform a cranial drawer test” or “describe an equine vaccination program.” Sounds easy enough, until there are five other students who need to complete the same skill or appointments start getting canceled due to weather conditions.  

Looking at my fourth-year schedule when I was a third year, there were three required rotations I already had anxiety about: small animal surgery, small animal medicine, and anesthesia. My bias was due to what I had heard from previous students, my personal areas of interest, and the complexity of cases seen through these rotations. Remember, veterinary schools are typically referral institutions with veterinary specialists, specialized equipment, and test availability that most general practitioners can only dream of having. Looking back at these rotations, yeah I worked my butt off with long hours and trying to be as prepared as possible, but I also learned a lot about time management and disease processes.

I think it can be hard for some students to get too focused in on rotation grades and how overwhelming patient care can be that they forget to find the “big take-homes” of each case. The best advice a clinician gave me this year was to go home after each hectic day and pick out a few things that you learned and research them further. I would also challenge students to think about how they will utilize their take-home points in their future veterinary positions. Whether they end up practicing in a rural area, have accepted a position without a mentorship program, or are poultry specific despite being classroom trained to be a dog, cat, cattle, and horse vet; knowing your resources and not being afraid to say “I don’t know, let me research that further and we can reconvene to discuss” will get you a long way with your future employer, colleagues, support staff, and clientele.             

Until next time,

Megan