Just like with anything, you only become good at surgery through practice. Most of my classmates either find surgery exhilarating and love it, or find it nerve-wracking and approach it warily. As for myself, I’m a combination of the two: I find it fascinating and terrifying, and both eagerly await and dread any surgical opportunities.
I wanted a few more routine spays/neuters under my belt before heading off into private practice, so I booked a day with the high-volume spay/neuter clinic associated with our hospital. I took several ER shifts earlier in the week to get the 40 hours I needed for elective credit, and showed up at 7:30 am on a Friday morning to begin examining animals and prepping them for surgery. It was a whirlwind of a morning, with two doctors and two students examining 36 animals and ensuring they were healthy enough to undergo surgery. Most were kittens or strays being cared for by regional animal shelters, but several dogs were being fostered and some animals were owned, intact adults. My favorites were the kittens, of course—especially an inquisitive little black kitten that loved to snuggle under my chin.
After finishing our exams and gathering the necessary microchips or vaccines that each animal needed, the techs and doctors gathered to round on our patients and discuss the schedule for the day. We filled each other in on which animals were feisty and warranted more caution when handling. We students discussed our goals for the day: I had never done any neuters, and my classmate was interested in assisting with a rabbit spay. One of the doctors would answer any questions if we had them, and would make herself available to help us with the tricky spots if needed.
Being a high-volume clinic, the place was used to running smoothly and efficiently, and it was actually a perfect environment to boost my surgical confidence. I operated on my own but was able to ask for advice when struggling to find the uterine horn in a cat (so frustrating!). I really liked being able to ask someone to double-check my suture patterns, especially the body wall closure (since that’s the holding layer that prevents any intestines from falling out) and the skin closure (since that’s the part that owners see, and so must look aesthetically pleasing). It was a long day with lots of standing, but we finished discharging the patients by 7 pm and helped the techs clean up before they shooed us out the door. By the end of the day, I had spayed a cat, neutered a dog, and neutered five cats—a most satisfying end to the day.