Board-certified specialists, general practitioners, and ER veterinarians often will say things like, “an internship is like 5 years in 1 year” or “an internship gives you 5 years of experience in a 1-year timeline.”
But after 2 months of internship training, I feel like an internship is more like an entire year’s experience in a quick, non-stop, mind-numbing, brain-melting 12 hours. I’ll explain below.
If there’s ever a reason to do an internship, its this. You can have the internal, futile battle between choosing an academic or private practice internship, you can have self-doubt and wonder if you’ll ever have enough confidence and self-preservation to complete an internship, you can worry about not sleeping, not eating, not being able to maintain a sense of your own humanity, but you should not be concerned about lack of experience and becoming a smarter, stronger, and more confident veterinarian.
Every individual learns in a different way, but all individuals, one way or another, learn by experience. Learning by experience, by doing, and by habit is ingrained in us and part of our genetics and biological construction. Our ancestors; when hunting, gathering, interacting with one another and their environment and performing rituals, 100% of the time and all the time, learned by experience. They had to learn by experience so that they wouldn’t go hungry, be killed, be labeled an outcast, or weaken tribal bonds. To survive, they learned by experience, they didn’t forget.
The ability to learn by experience is still with us today in veterinary emergency rooms across the world. Below is a list of pets who presented to a specialty/ER hospital during a 12-hour shift, all of which were managed and treated by interns:
- Dog – DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis)
- Puppy – Ehrlichiosis (with pancytopenia) and GI bleed
- Puppy – Skull fracture
- Dog – Hepatic and adrenal tumors
- Kitten – Hemorrhagic diarrhea, anemia, failure to thrive
- Dog – Vomited a tapeworm
- Dog – Multiple gunshot wounds
- Cat – Lily Toxicity
- Dog – Marijuana toxicity
- Puppy – First-time seizure
- Dog – CHF (congestive heart failure), multiple mammary masses, osteoarthritis
- Dog – IVDD (intervertebral disc disease)
- Dog – Allergic reaction
- Dog – CCL (cranial cruciate ligament) tear
- Cat – Acute glaucoma
- Chameleon – Necrotic tongue and oral infection
- Dog – Multiple lacerations, canine v. canine
- Dog – Lateral, non-ambulatory, cranial nerve deficits, atrial fibrillation
- Duckling – found by a Good Samaritan
If you are looking for experience and for the opportunity to be presented with any and all of the things, an internship would be worth your while, regardless of your intention to specialize. If your intent is to be a general practitioner, an internship may boost your confidence and strengthen your biological database of disease etiologies, presentations, physiologies, and treatments. If your intention is to specialize, well, get ready for it all.