My classmates and I are currently taking a course in clinical pathology. In a nutshell, we are learning how to interpret laboratory tests in order to figure out what disease process is going on inside our patient’s bodies. The tests that we most commonly use and interpret are a complete blood count (CBC), a chemistry panel, and a urinalysis. You may have heard your veterinarian say these words at one time or another. If you want to know more about these lab tests, feel free to look them up here. In order to explain every variable, I would need to write a book! I would also need to consult with many of my professors because this stuff can get complicated.
Each test gives us a bunch of variables that describe certain states of health within the body. From red blood cells to white blood cells, all the way to the liver and the pancreas, it is all covered by certain tests. It is our job and challenge to interpret all of them and relate them to what we see in front of us; the patient. Sometimes, the values that we get from the test fit what we are thinking about a patient very well. Other times, the results can be confusing or unexpected. The clinical pathology class helps teach us how to use our judgment to decide which results are important. We are even asked questions on exams about certain laboratory results that are abnormal, but not too abnormal to cause alarm. We are asked if these abnormal values are of concern, or if they are not to be worried about. Sometimes, it is hard to determine what is worrisome, what is mild, and what is actually a false result.
This requires us to demand more from ourselves when it comes to learning. The judgment that we need only comes with hands-on experience and cannot be gained from any literature or in-class exercise. Knowing what is relevant when it comes to animal health requires extensive experience in both animal husbandry and study in veterinary medicine. Together, these lead to the knowledge that each of us must possess to be an effective veterinarian.