I recently completed a clinical rotation in Large Animal Surgery. This is known as one of the most physically demanding and time-consuming rotations that we must complete during our clinical year. The hours are typically 80-100 per week, with no days off. That does not include on-call time, which can be significant if the right emergency comes in. I was ready for this rotation, as I had worked in the same clinic as an assistant for 2 years.
I can honestly say that the rotation was a true challenge of physical stamina (mainly focused around lack of sleep) and of mental focus. We usually started the day in the clinic around 6:30 AM doing treatments on our patients. This would take anywhere from one to two hours, depending on how critical some of our patients were and how many treatments they required. We always planned to have extra teaching rounds at 8:15 AM or so, but we often worked right through that time and never got to hold them. Before we knew it, the day would be totally underway with surgery after surgery and the hours would fly by. We were frequently short staffed due to surprise emergencies. Lunch never happened throughout the 2-week rotation. Sure, we would grab snacks and maybe even sit for a moment, but an actual lunch never existed.
I wasn’t surprised to see this little world within the wide world of veterinary medicine. I had worked for this clinic and watched how the clinicians lived. There is hardly any free time for life outside of the clinic. I don’t know how those clinicians with families balance all of it on a daily basis. I don’t know if there is a balance. But I do know that the life of an academic veterinary intern, resident, or clinician is not for me. Work in veterinary medicine seems to never end no matter what area of the field you work in. But these interns and residents pull truly extreme hours in terms of their clinical time. They have no time to disconnect. We did not have that extreme of a rotation in terms of disconnecting, but it was close. We got a taste of what it is like to go the path of the horse surgeon or the internal medicine specialist. I will leave that path for the true academic experts and stick to my path of private practice with the population of people that I grew up with.