Early on in the Penn Vet curriculum, first-year veterinary students are given a lecture about how to dress appropriately while on clinics. The lecture is geared specifically toward equine practice and contains an overwhelming amount of photos of men and women dressed in khaki pants, button-downs and polos. The lecture is particularly important for the students that have never worked at an equine-only practice and do not understand the appropriate attire that attempts to have a good balance between functionality, comfort, and professionalism.
As an equine major, my closet is stacked with khakis and button-down shirts that used to be my “going out” shirts but have now become barn attire. It becomes quite difficult to dress oneself presentably when the work hours extend from 5 am until 7 pm and you frequently find yourself getting dressed in the dark.
Conversely, I have made a concentrated effort to make myself more stylish during my rotations in the small animal hospital. In VHUP we are required to wear white coats over our professional attire. This coat has a dual purpose: protection from fecal matter in addition to creating the illusion of professionalism. (I say the “illusion” of professionalism only because as an equine major I feel like an imposter with my white coat on.) For me, the primary use of the white coat is to successfully keep my “nice” clothes separate from my clothes that interact with animals on a daily basis.
To be quite honest, I have failed miserably and have completely accepted that all my clothing, my car, and most of my belongings will have some sort of animal hair, blood, or other bodily fluid somehow associated with it. I think this final stage of acceptance marks my final transition into full-fledged veterinarian.