About a year ago, September 2014 to be more precise, I had a fleeting epiphany that I wanted to be an equine vet. Horses are fascinating athletes, and that was in line with my love of sports. Becoming an equine practicioner seemed like my destiny. I set up an externship to gain more equine experience at a specialty hospital. Now a year later, I have a better sense of direction on where I’m headed professionally.
I still love equine medicine, don’t get me wrong; but I realize now that my passion is more specific. My three-week externship was absolutely fantastic, and a valued learning experience. By far, realizing that I want to practice in mixed or small animal medicine and hopefully specialize in ophthalmology was the most significant lesson I learned from the experience. I had the feeling that was the direction I wanted to go before starting my externship, but it was good confirmation.
Here are a couple of questions I imagine any reader must be wondering, and I think are especially relevant to any vet student. What were other positive aspects of my externship? And, why would I recommend that students complete an externship if they feel they are unlikely to pursue employment in that discipline or practice?
First, my externship made me realize that I had forgotten so much of the anatomy I had learned my first year. It was a great wake-up call to continue learning and refreshing. I was extremely fortunate to observe the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of medical and orthopedic conditions. The practice I visited had a CT, MR, and bone scan. I had the opportunity to help sedate and position horses. There were two surgery suites and the surgeons were welcoming, providing the opportunity to observe orthopedic and soft-tissue procedures. From a management perspective, it was also eye opening to observe some of the daily operations at this facility.
Second, although I doubted my future as an equine specialist before going on this externship, I still insist on the general principle that it’s important to experience a variety of disciplines. Vet med is so diverse, and it is easy to pursue a narrow track and miss so many other opportunities along the way. I know that this experience will be valuable when I enter clinics and complete equine rotations. In terms of my career, I don’t have to wonder what type of vet I will be anymore. Equine medicine is great, but it’s not the only thing I want to do; and I don’t have to struggle with that question. When I graduate I will undoubtedly have more questions and uncertainties about my career; but I will have a greater appreciation for the path that I choose. In sum, I learned much more than I expected by doing something I thought might not be for me.