I have had the most amazing month that a vet student could have hoped for in the externship I’ve been on for the last four weeks. It has been a great experience to get out in the field and work with a wonderful team of doctors, clients, and patients. During the last month, I have had the opportunity to practice many skills, but one that comes to mind is the opportunity to suture.
I first learned to suture when I was a freshman in undergrad. A veterinarian I was working with had just euthanized a Labrador retriever on the operating table after finding that cancer had infiltrated its body to the point that the animal would struggle to wake up from anesthesia and then have to be euthanized shortly after. To my surprise once the dog had passed, he grabbed some needle holders and suture and taught me how to do a simple interrupted stitch. He then left me to close the incision so that the family could take the dog home. Since then I have practiced that stitch over and over on felt fabric, pillows, and skin models to the point where I can do it quickly and accurately.
That practice paid off for me in several circumstances. I had a chance to suture a shoulder laceration on a 4-month-old colt and a 23-inch gash on a mare’s side (she ran into an eye bolt and then fled). I’ve sutured catheters in place, and even closed an incision from an umbilical hernia operation. In these moments, I didn’t have time to specifically prepare but was given an opportunity to use my skills. I was able to leap into action and suture away, because my hours of practice on those skin models, pillows, etc, meant I was able to remain calm and stitch with confidence.