The time has finally come. As a third year veterinary student, we start doing surgeries as early as the second week of class. On, real, live, animals! This is the test of our memory, our mental strength, and the upholding of one of the most important parts of veterinary medicine, our immense and unending respect for the creatures of this world and the way they work. It is a real and true gift of life and learning that they give to us as students of the great big world of animals.
It is truly incredible how much more we know about the care of domestic species in today’s day and age, particularly in the surgical management of our patients. Over the years veterinary medicine has evolved through many setbacks, learning curves, and missteps in patient care to become a profession that is truly moving to rival human medicine in many of the treatments and procedures done today. While we don’t have the same kind of general access to advanced care for many of our pets (for reasons like cost, or the distance we might have to travel for a specialist), the things we can do now, even in general practice, are pretty incredible.
It’s quite humbling to think that no matter your level of specialization in veterinary practice, a veterinarian in a clinic is not only a diagnostician, but a capable and experienced surgeon as well. In practice, it’s not only possible to have at least one surgery a day, but to even have several daily surgeries. Because of this, we all learn veterinary surgery in school. It is pretty nerve-wracking, but one of those (many) parts of our profession where we have to jump in head first.
I don’t think I’ll ever feel entirely prepared to hold a life in my hands, even when it happens regularly, but it was pretty miraculous to be able to do so successfully in my first surgery I ever performed, just two weeks ago. While it might seem sentimental, I almost tear up now thinking about it—just the fact that a team of us, me, the surgeon, and my two partners, assistant surgeon (the “got my back” go-to), and the anesthetist (true hero of any surgical procedure), were able to perform a full-on surgical procedure was such an intimate glimpse into to what we, as veterinarians, will be able to do for our patients for the rest of our lives. I can’t believe how quickly these past two years have snuck by, or how rapidly the last two are moving. It is such an honor and privilege to be trusted with the life of the kinds of animals we will be treating in a very short amount of time, and, of course, I’ll never forget the animals who taught us along the way.