One of the biggest hurdles during fourth-year (or clinical year depending on your program) is going from sitting in lectures all day to interacting with real animals and human beings. That may be a little dramatic, but you get the gist. You go from listening to others to now being the one who will be listened to. Clinical year is all about effective communication and confidence. It’s the last step between you and that DVM. Below are some confidence tips I’ve used in clinics that have helped me through each rotation.
Act like you’re the doctor (but don’t be pompous).
This is something that you’ll probably implement more when you get further into your clinical year. No one expects you to know how to work up a case, diagnose, and treat by yourself right away. But what you can do is try to exude confidence with your cases. Some examples I like to implement are using declarative statements rather than questions when I work up cases and present them to clinicians. For example, let’s say you’re working up a possible canine pancreatitis case. After presenting the case to clinicians, they will eventually want you to tell them what your plan is. Instead of saying, “Can we submit a cPLI and do an abdominal ultrasound”, change this to “I want to submit a cPLI and conduct an abdominal ultrasound”. It’s a subtle change but being confident in your plans shows clinicians that you know what you’re talking about. So try to use declarative statements when you present your plans for a case rather than seeming unsure by asking for permission.
It’s okay to say “I don’t know”
Another big part of clinical year is the new obstacle of interacting with clients. Not only do you have to put all the pieces together from years 1-3, but you must work closely and talk a lot with clients. This is one of my favorite parts about fourth-year. I have come across some scenarios where internally I did not feel confident in my answers and instead of making something up, I was upfront and honest with them. I always make sure to make eye contact with clients, truthfully answer their questions, and keep them up to date on their pets. When you act like the doctor on the case, this confidence is seen by clients.