I have been writing for the Merck Vet Student Stories Blog for close to 3 years now, and one of my favorite parts of this gig is connecting with other students. The biggest group of people that I hear from are vet students or future vet students who either have children or who want to have children. I love answering questions about my experience, and I like to remind people that everyone will have a different experience based on your situation, but overall with the right support and mindset, most people could do what I’m doing.
I was always worried about fourth-year specifically because I had heard so many different things: you will be there 16 hours a day, you get called in at all hours of the day, they will work you to the bone, etc. What I’m finding though, is a very different reality. Some days are certainly longer than others and sometimes treatments are more intense depending on a patient’s illness. Overall though, a majority of my rotations have had a great school-life balance. Generally, I have been able to leave school in time to pick up my son from daycare, and if not, I always know early enough to have a backup plan for him.
Obviously, there are some rotations that have been more intense, including small animal medicine, ICU, and surgery just to name a few. For those rotations, I made sure to let my support team know that I would likely need more help during those times. For example, when I was on Internal Medicine, we were responsible for our patient’s treatments at 8 AM and 8 PM. This means I would go into school around 6:30 in the morning, and depending on what time we were done for the day, would come back at 6:30 at night (or I just wouldn’t leave school). These were long days, but communication with family was important. Some days it seemed I would barely get to see my kids, but I made sure that I was the one who put them to bed so I could at least see them for a little bit. One encouraging thing that helped me feel better about these long hours and time away from family is that it was only 2 weeks, and then I would move on to something new. I only have 4 rotations left now (eek!). I think through this whole journey, my partner and I have done a good job collaborating with each other, and making sure our kids are taken care of.
If you’re going to get through vet school as a parent, I think it’s important to be understanding, have a positive attitude, and remember that clinical year is very different from your end goal, so don’t be discouraged! Have fun in your last year of vet school, and don’t forget to take time off from school work to be with your family.