Summer is here! Many veterinary students are gearing up for the excitement of internships and clinical experience. I’ve been lucky to have worked in clinics that entailed 10-14 hour days. It’s really rewarding when you have an animal come in coding at the beginning of the shift and by the time you’re clocking out the same animal is alert and feeling better. It’s incredible what a day at the clinic can do! However, these days can be long if you’re not used to them. I’ve come up with some of my advice for taking care of yourself—physically and mentally—while adjusting to the long days.
- It’s all about the shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a cute pair of shoes that may or may not match my scrubs. But when you’re on your feet for such long hours, investing in a pair of shoes that support your knee and hip health is investing in a long career of comfort. A lot of days, you’re in and out of kennels, getting up and down. This can be an incredible experience with a patient, don’t let your aches take away from it!
- Don’t just go to sleep! By the time you’re out of the hospital, all the emotions of the day can be exhausting, and on top of absorbing everything you learned that day, it can be easy to just want to hop in bed. Although sleep is important, I’ve found it’s important to work out, visit with friends, and keep up with hobbies. I’ve noticed when I get into a cycle of sleep and work, I find myself feeling burnt out.
- Meal prep works wonders. The first hospital I worked in was in a busy area around major fast food joints. It was convenient on my break to grab some fries and a big soda. And while after my breaks, for about an hour I was FULL of energy (re: sugar), I crashed hard and found my energy levels, in general, plummeted with my eating habits. The best habit I’ve made is bringing a couple of healthy snacks that will keep me full throughout the day. Protein bars, pretzels, fruits, and sandwiches are all easy to grab on a fifteen-minute break and keep my energy levels high. Plus, you’ll find that patient’s families are the best bakers! There will always be a grateful pet mom with some chocolate chip cookies to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Celebrate the small victories of the day. It’s okay to feel the feels. Working emergency shifts can be emotional. Patients are often in serious medical situations, and it’s easy to grow attached to them when you’re lying in the kennel giving them love when their family can’t be there. It’s okay if euthanasia makes you cry. Feel these emotions when it is appropriate! I’ve found that talking through how I am feeling with doctors or other techs on the case helps me feel better when I’m emotional about a certain pet. I also find that celebrating the small victories–a dog deciding to eat after not for days, a back dog walking on its own even for a few steps—not only helps my psyche but brings an air of positivity to whomever you’re working with!
I hope these tips help, enjoy your summer and take care of yourself!