At this point, I am already half way through my clinical year. If I could do this all over again, I would do it again for sure because it’s definitely the most challenging yet rewarding period of vet school. And here are a couple tips that I’ve found helpful.
- To improve palpation skills, one thing that really helps is to practice palpation when an animal is under anesthesia because their abdomen is relaxed at that point. I know that surgical preparation and the recovery period from anesthesia can be busy times, but find chances to practice as often as you can. I was so glad that I got a chance to palpate an otherwise healthy cat when he was recovering from anesthesia after a dental procedure. I felt the liver, bladder, kidneys and intestines, especially the thickness of the intestines. After a couple times practicing, I can definitely see improvement in my palpation. Many of the cats that we see are geriatric, and the ability to palpate abnormal kidneys and intestines is important because chronic kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and intestinal lymphoma are among the most common diseases in older cats.
- View your discharge summary as an assignment – don’t turn it in for approval until you are satisfied with it, and try to learn as much as you can from writing it. The most challenging portion of a discharge summary is the assessment and plan. Sometimes I also find it hard to write a good patient history, especially when it is long and complicated. For the assessment, of course, much of it can be done by writing down what the clinician says to the client. However, it can help to study the disease before writing a discharge so that you will be more thorough and insightful in your assessment. If you turn in a discharge summary that you are satisfied with, the clinician who reads it is more likely to be satisfied with it too. And you may want to read the discharge after it is edited by the clinician, so you know what can be improved.
- Ask as many questions as you can… if you don’t ask, the teacher may not know you don’t know. I used to be too shy to ask in front of everyone and often would email questions later. However, asking a question immediately when it pops up is the most efficient and effective way to learn. And it may turn into an in-depth discussion when everyone is present. One way that I overcome my shyness is to tell myself my colleagues don’t bite, they will not eat me and I don’t need to be afraid to speak up.
Hope these help and I’ll share more tips soon!