This one is a challenge for all 4 years of vet school, but with the added stresses and loaded schedule that 4th year brings with it, finding balance has been even more important.
With the start of 4th year and the never-ending litany of patient care, paperwork, and lack of sleep, I have to make a conscious effort to plan out the things that remind me of who I am outside the vet school. I have to carve out the spare minutes to unwind, be a human, relax when I can, recognize a losing battle of fighting to stay awake and just go to sleep, and take time to do the things I love most–like spending time with my own horse.
I will admit that this one doesn’t always get prioritized, because when you have a grade attached to your to-do list, stopping to go to bed or running to the barn for a few hours seems a little counter-productive. But I have also found when I am able to wedge those bits of self-care and balance into my day, my stress levels are noticeably lower.
This one has multiple challenges built-in. First, there is figuring where you even want to go extern, working out the logistics with both the practice and the university, setting up travel plans, planning what to do with my pets while I’m gone, arranging my on-campus schedule to fit my off-campus schedule, and figuring out how to pack for a summer’s worth of externships.
Once all that is done, the next challenge is at the externships. Every 3 weeks, adapting to a new location, with new clinicians and nurses who have new protocols, in a new hospital, with new expectations. Learning how to make myself useful at each location, interact with clinicians, nurses and staff, as well as maximize my own learning.
The last challenge of these externships is going to be transitioning back to the university. While each externship (so far) has been different, they have all been wonderful learning experiences that I have enjoyed, and they largely have less responsibility than when I am on patient care blocks at the university. And, I will have spent the entire summer at 6 different practices, who all do things differently than the university, and solely working with horses. I will have to transition back to the university, the university’s protocols, and pick up on the work and tasks that I left at the door when I went on externship.
- The Real World
This is perhaps the most terrifying one for me. At the end of 4th year, post-NAVLE and all the stress that brings…is the real world. The goal for all my externships is to be accepted into an internship with one of the practices or with an academic institution if I cannot get one with a private practice.
It is mind-boggling to me every day, that in ~9 months, my 4 years of veterinary education will be at its end, and I will be entering the career that I have dreamt of for so many years. It is exciting, and honestly pretty scary at the same time.
I have an extensive plan laid out for the internship application process, and if I know my-Type-A-self, then I know that those preparations will be more than adequate to get my applications in.
I have to constantly remind myself to zoom back in from the bigger picture and focus on each day–learning as much as I can, enjoying the different experiences I am having in 4th year, and trying to take advantage of all the opportunities that 4th year has to offer me.