Raise your hand if, as soon as you started veterinary school, friends and family started coming out of the woodwork to asked you for veterinary advice? Yes, you feel pride, honor, and excitement. But hold your horses. There is a time and place for you to give your veterinary advice, but I’m very sorry to tell you that veterinary school is not that time.
We have to remember that no matter how much we know about veterinary medicine, or how well we are able to perform procedures and make diagnoses, we are not legally allowed to practice veterinary medicine (i.e. give veterinary advice to a specific patient) until we are officially licensed by the state in which we plan to practice. By doing so we can get ourselves into a whole heap of trouble. Not only is it morally and ethically wrong to do so, but sometimes we (admittingly) get over-confident in how much we know and can potentially cause harm to our loved ones’ pets. Sometimes we know just enough to be dangerous.
I understand that while we’re in veterinary school, we live in this in-between where we are so close, yet so far, to being able to give advice. So how do you handle these requests? There are many ways to respond and your response can and will be different for various individuals. Here’s how I typically respond.
Your friends and family, trust me, think it’s super cool that you’re almost a veterinarian. Believe it or not, some of them even live vicariously through you. When they ask for your advice, it shows they trust you and want to know what you know. So tell them what you know! For example, if your friend asks what they should do if their Baxter just ate a whole wheel of cheese (and they’re not even mad), tell them what they teach you in vet school and what your thoughts are. But here’s the important part. I always be sure to mention that I’m not a veterinarian, not yet at least, and that I highly recommend they get in touch with their primary care veterinarian. I only want the best for Baxter, and his vet will be able to run the right diagnostics and give treatment if needed.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to show off your mad skills and knowledge. Just be sure to “CYA.” The urge to help and offer advice is strong, but don’t worry. It’s only a few years (at most) until you’re a vet.