There’s no magical formula that I can give you to find the best externship for you but to me the questions you need to ask yourself are simple.
What are you interested in?
What do you want to get more experience with?
What areas do you need more exposure to?
Where do you feel the strongest/weakest?
What kind of experiences will help prepare you for life after vet school?
For a lot of you, mentorship will be an important factor. For others, location, practice type, species focus, etc. will be more important. For me, mentorship was my priority when picking a place. I wasn’t sure where or what I wanted to do when I was deciding but I knew if I could work with people who taught, encouraged, and challenged me I’d perform my best and learn a lot.
At my school, we get six weeks of externship and we can split them into two. I chose to do the first part of my externship at a private practice in the suburbs of Illinois. These practices allowed me to see the side of general practice that I haven’t been exposed to while in school. I rotated around a few of the practices they owned and was able to see many different sides of what you can do in general practice. My favorite part was following around the new grads and seeing what their life has been like after graduating from vet school. I was also able to see how mentorship really plays out in a practice that really values teaching. I think that mentorship can be a buzzword in our industry but having the opportunity to really see a veterinarian mentor a new grad was awesome and comforting. I really enjoyed my time here because I was able to practice medicine, see how practices work in the real world and enjoy working with other veterinarians with all kinds of talents.
The second part of my externship was at a humane society. This rotation allowed me to get more comfortable with an aspect of veterinary medicine I’m not comfortable with…. surgery. I absolutely despised junior surgery and I convinced myself I would not be a surgeon after graduating vet school. So, I challenged myself to do this rotation so I can get more tissue handling and more experience doing different procedures. Now I am absolutely obsessed with doing surgeries. All it took was more exposure and I quickly became more confident and excited. There were many times where I was internally panicking with different situations that came my way such as a cryptorchid, amputations and dropping pedicles. My mentors were encouraging yet still challenged me to figure out these problems on my own and I did it every time. This was by far one of my favorite rotations and one of the most valuable in my opinion.
I encourage you to ask yourself what things are the most important to you? This looks different for everyone but there are countless opportunities for all of us to gain these experiences during our clinical year.