I’m a few months into my veterinary clinical rotations, and there’s a few things I wish I’d known before starting clinics—a mixture of common sense, tricks of the trade, and setting appropriate expectations.
- Never expect your white coat to remain white. Everyone in my class, myself included, was excited to don the infamous white doctor coat during our White Coat Ceremony, which marked the transition between our academic study in the classroom and our more hands-on education while on clinics. However, white is a silly choice for veterinary doctor garb. Dirt, blood, urine, feces, vomit, and pet hair of every shade sticks to the white fabric like ticks on a dog. Even ink and food stains often make an appearance on the pockets and labels, since we’re often too much in a rush to find that missing pen cap or eat while sitting down. At least our white coats are bleachable.
- Accept that a full night’s sleep is often elusive. On certain rotations, the lack of sleep is due to on-call shifts to which students are often called in the wee hours to come help with a case. The on-call shifts were really tough for me, because I need a lot of sleep to function normally, and nights when I was on-call I averaged ~4 hrs of sleep. On other rotations, I’d lose sleep tossing and turning as I dwelled on the mistakes of the day. Often I’d have difficulty sleeping just before starting a new rotation, due to anxiety about all the unknowns ahead—unknown schedule, unknown challenges, unknown responsibilities.
- Make the effort to get to know the doctors, technicians, and classmates on your rotation. It can feel annoying or exhausting to constantly put yourself out there to get to know people, but it’s worth it. Not only will it be more interesting to work with people you’re getting to know, but people work much better as a team when they know and feel comfortable with all team members. Also, doctors and techs are more likely to give you helpful tips and tricks if they know a little about who you are. Plus I’ve found that people are much more willing to help you—answer questions, help hold an animal, do you a favor—if you make the effort to be friendly and thank them for their help.