The hospital is peaceful when the doctors and nurses and students and clients and tours vacate the hospital after about 6:00 pm. The hallways are quiet, the barns are less crowded, and I find that the patients seem more relaxed, too. My mind is even more relaxed. In fact, some of my favorite memories at veterinary school have occurred between the hours of 6:00 pm and 6:00 am.
I am not sure how other veterinary schools work, but at Penn most rotations require you to do a number of weeknight and weekend treatment shifts. These shifts, especially the ones on the weeknights, have a tendency to be extremely exhausting. A normal work day for a fourth-year student typically runs between the hours of 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. Adding an after-hours treatment shift, when we are required to help with all the treatments on all the patients in the hospital until midnight, is pretty much the last thing that most students want tacked on to the end of an already long day. Copious amounts of coffee are typically consumed in addition to many “food runs” because inevitably I have always forgotten to pack enough food to keep me going the entire day, if I even remembered to pack a lunch.
However, there is something to be said for the hospital after hours. I have had incredible conversations with classmates with whom I would not ordinarily have a chance to chat. I have learned clinical and technical skills (such as administering oral medications to a rabbit) that I really never thought I would do. Most importantly, I have found that I have laughed (deliriously, whole-heartedly) more frequently in these after-hour shifts than during any other time in veterinary school. It turns out that treatment shifts may not be so bad after all.