As we speed toward the end of summer, I find myself just finishing the first of a few externships I lined up to meet my fourth-year requirements to graduate. I chose to go close to home and went to an emergency/after-hours practice in Virginia. Although I lost a week of my time to repairs after an unfortunate car accident that occurred while I was still in Alabama, I feel that I had a very enjoyable, productive 2 weeks. This experience made me feel that maybe I actually CAN do this “whole doctor thing” (other vet students know exactly what I’m talking about!).
I had the fortune to pick the brains of several different doctors with different specialties: internal med, oncology, emergency/critical care, and surgery. I had the opportunity to witness and take part in their thought processes, and how their “brand” (so to speak) of medicine flowed. While I was doing the externship, I shadowed one particular doctor who asked me about something that stuck out in my mind: the science of medicine versus the art of medicine.
The science, by comparison, can be considered the “easy” part. I know you’re reading this and asking how in the world I could ever call this easy, and believe me I know what you mean, but follow me for a second. The science has a set of guidelines, rules, and facts that, while advancing every day, don’t change by a significant amount. What we know is true today will still be true tomorrow; all that improves is our understanding and what we can do with that understanding. The “hard” part, which can’t really be taught, is the art of medicine, by which we’ll have to engage owners and get them to trust our plan above that of “Dr. Google” or what their breeder/groomer/neighbor/whoever else is claiming. Even the most brilliant doctor can have a hard time with this. The doctors I shadowed during my time were kind enough to let me join them when they consulted with clients, so I had the opportunity to see not only different styles, but the different ways in which clients were receptive to these styles. It gave me a greater appreciation for the fact that as veterinarians, we have to be able to talk to people, build a rapport with them, and gain their trust.
This can definitely be easier said than done! As students, we’re caught up in the science, but it’s important not to forget about the art. Just like the science, the art will come with practice (although there will be those people who are just naturals).
Keep this in mind as we prepare for another year of sleep deprivation and endless reading, and good luck!