As a second-year on a large animal medicine selective, I’m always surprised at the kindness and generosity displayed by the fourth-year students. They always take the time to introduce us to interesting procedures or patients, and they do their best to make sure we have some idea of what’s going on. I have a healthy curiosity, so I’m not afraid to ask questions or take the initiative to follow something interesting, but it’s a nice feeling to have someone take you under his or her wing for an afternoon. The 4th-years know what it feels like to be in a hospital where things are actually happening instead of struggling to stay awake in a lecture hall, so most of them indulge our enthusiasm and fill us in on their cases.
I love it when the 4th-years explain and demonstrate all the small-yet-crucial hands-on skills that I’d feel too silly asking a clinician about. For example, one 4th-year explained the IV fluid schedule for her equine patient, who was recovering from colic. Another 4th-year kindly whispered explanations to me during an ultrasound of a goat with chronic kidney failure. Another student showed me how to make a grain mash for a Friesian recovering from an ear infection. I was fascinated to learn how many eye medications are given to horses—medicine is squirted into a small tube that runs up the neck, down the forehead, and opens into the corner of the eye. The tube is woven into the mane and sutured into place at the eyelid, to secure the tube in place and ensure that the medication gets to the right place every time. Apparently, horses aren’t huge fans of having things applied to their eyes multiple times a day, so if you can find a way to give them their meds without them noticing, then that’s a good thing!
It’s always a feast-or-famine situation when it comes to large animal medicine patients, but even when there are no new cases the doctors and interns always make sure the students stay busy. Last week we all took a road trip to a doctor’s house to draw blood from one of her alpacas, to give to an anemic cria back at the hospital. Even though it didn’t require 8 people to draw blood, it was still a great learning opportunity for the rest of us!