The time has finally come where I can say that I’ve completed my first rotation ever! It feels like I’ve been waiting for this day since the first week of vet school. As a lot of you may know, I went into vet school thinking I’d only work with small animals during my clinical year, but I ultimately decided I wanted to track mixed animal. During clinical year at my school, you complete 17 blocks that are each 3 weeks long. I started on large animal surgery and can say that I absolutely loved this rotation. Before I delve in deeper, I think it’s worth mentioning that I did not come from a background where I grew up around large animals and I didn’t have that much experience prior to starting vet school. If any of you are thinking you want to work with large animals but don’t have the experience, keep reading…
My experience in large animal surgery:
I had a lot of nerves going into this rotation because not only was it my first one ever, but it was also going to be my first time really handling and treating large animals medically. I had some experience during my third year of vet school when I took the large animal surgery lab, but not enough to where I felt 100% comfortable around them.
My biggest worries primarily revolved around being able to handle and care for the animals without getting physically hurt. These animals are incredible creatures, but their size and strength could hurt even the most experienced handlers. I was worried that my lack of experience would get my teeth knocked out on the first day BUT I’m happy to report that I still have a mouth full of teeth and no battle wounds.
On our first day, after we went through orientation, we were given our first patients. I received a horse and cow that day. I was super excited but also nervous because I knew that these patients and all the others that I’d encounter for the next 3 weeks were my responsibility. I was completely shocked when I went to meet my horse and realized he was a giant. This is probably another good time to mention that I do not know much about horse breeds, colors, terminology, lingo, etc. so when they told me that I had a warmblood gelding I was like, “Alright, sounds good.” I obviously had no idea what that was.
The first day I interacted with him, I was terrified. I had my friend who was also on the rotation, come into the stall while I did his physical exam. To make matters worse, he required multiple bandage changes and all I could think about was him kicking my head off. It took exactly 24 hours for me to get over this fear because when day 2 came around, I realized that my treatments and paperwork would never get done if I had to rely on someone else to help me every time. There’s no shame in asking for help or assistance if you are truly uncomfortable or the patient is questionable, but my fear came from not believing in myself. I didn’t believe I had the skills or competency to treat him on my own but once I realized how fast-paced this rotation was going to be and that it was up to me to give him the best care, it was almost like a switch flipped. Long story short, this horse ended up being my absolute favorite patient on the rotation and I’m convinced he made me really like horses. Having him as my first patient allowed me to get comfortable with horses and improve my overall competence in handling them.
What I learned:
I learned so much from this rotation. Animal handling, surgical procedures, communication, and basic husbandry are among the long list of things I took away during my 3 weeks on large animal surgery. I felt extremely lucky to have residents and clinicians that taught me and encouraged me throughout my time in the hospital. I felt like a little doctor even though I felt like I didn’t know what was going on 50% of the time. I tried to take on each case as if it were one of my own animals and tried to learn as much as I could each day. There were times where I didn’t sleep much, eat much, or interact with anyone or anything outside of the large animal hospital.
The biggest thing I was able to learn and want to share is that having a positive attitude and willingness to learn can do so much. You don’t need to have a billion hours of experience to be successful and pass a rotation. You just need to have a positive mentality and willingness to work hard. The learning comes naturally if you bring both those things to the table.
What I enjoyed most:
I feel like most people that took this block would say that they loved seeing all the surgeries, but for me, it was patient care. It sounds silly but I looked forward to going into the hospital every day to work with my patients. Don’t get me wrong, I looked forward to participating in surgeries too, but I really enjoyed having the privilege of doing their treatments and seeing them progress through their injuries, etc. This may have been my favorite part because this was my first patient care block but finally being able to physically do/see things what we’ve been learning about for the past 3 years was incredible.