Cornell vet students have to do a cat spay surgery during the end of their 2nd year of veterinary school. The surgeries are completed in teams of 3 with one student doing surgery, one student running anesthesia, and one student assisting. Of course, the staff surgeons all walk around the room to supervise us and answer any questions that we may have. It was a nerve-wracking day, but we all made it through. The cats were healthy and fit to be adopted.
Now that we are going into the 2nd semester of our 3rd year, we have the chance to take some surgical courses before clinics start. These courses are designed to increase our surgical skills by exposing us to a bunch of different procedures on different species. I will be participating in the food animal surgical course which mainly covers bovine and sheep surgery. We will do procedures such as abomasopexy, intestinal resection, and rumenotomy.
For me, surgery is a part of the job that can be scary but is fun as well. I still feel like my hands need a lot more practice. The technical aspects of surgery feel like learning a new sport to me, so practice makes perfect. It reminds me of learning a new play in soccer, or learning how to perfect using my left foot. Sometimes it even reminds me of learning a new scale on the trumpet. You have to get the pattern down, and then your hands end up developing the ability to think on their own. It takes time, but it eventually becomes second nature.
The best part is that we get to take some courses that allow us to really become comfortable with a bunch of different procedures in different species. It doesn’t really matter what surgeries we are doing, just as long as we are learning and getting exposed to new methods that will aid in our proficiency. Once we get to clinics, we will continue to develop our skills. We will become much more efficient once we complete our rotation of doing lots of spay and neuter surgeries. But it takes time. Some vets I talk to even say that they do not feel totally confident until 2-3 years of practice. This is part of the job and not something to be scared of. We are all learning as we grow, and this profession makes us all lifelong learners.