I’ve written about ten blog posts on veterinary school so far, and I think most of them could fairly be considered “whiny.” My professional reason for this is that this blog is supposed to be funny and filled with hyperbole. The real reason for this is that I’m kind of a mitch.
But I don’t want my readers to think that vet school is all bad or that I hate the field I’ve chosen. On the contrary, these past few months outside of the classroom and in the hospital have showed me how right I was to become a veterinarian. So here’s a list of all the reasons why I love vet school and the field of veterinary medicine.
- You feel smart. I harp a lot on this blog about how dumb vet school makes you feel. And it’s definitely true that you will learn many things over and over because they just won’t stick.
I’m pretty sure I’ve memorized and forgotten the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System a dozen times by now.
But the flip side of that coin is a lot of things do stick, you probably just won’t realize it. Each semester in vet school basically lays down another layer of a foundation, expanding on your basic knowledge. You may not remember a ton of specifics, but you’ll start to realize you understand the basics of physiology, anatomy, pharmacokinetics, etc. And as for those specific things you do forget? When you go back to relearn them you’ll find it’s a lot easier than it was the first time around. So you will feel dumb in vet school, but you’ll also feel really smart too.
- We get to do a lot of stuff. I’m really interested in hearing from any human general practitioners on this point if they happen to read this blog. I may be totally wrong, but based on my own experience at the doctor’s office and stories from my friends, it seems like veterinary general practitioners get to become more involved in their cases than their human counterparts. This goes back to my last entry when I was severely pissed off to learn that it takes a full week to get the result of a fecal exam back. (My friends still don’t know if they actually got Crypto.)
Veterinarians do refer a lot of cases to specialists, but we also do a lot of stuff in house. Most vet clinics nowadays can run complete blood counts, take radiographs, do basic ultrasounds, and examine fecal specimens in their clinic. Again, based on my own experience and those of people I know, it seems like all of those things in human medicine usually require being referred to another doctor. I feel like when people bring their animal to a vet GP, they expect the problem to be solved. When people bring themselves to a human GP, they expect to be shuttled to a specialist.
- Boards don’t seem quite as awful as I imagined. In case you follow this blog mostly for the bad movie reviews and analyses of Jimmy Neutron, I’ll happily inform you that yes, veterinarians do have to take a board exam to practice medicine, just like human doctors. (However, I should note that we don’t have to do internships or residencies after veterinary school like M.D.s do. I consider that the major difference in our education.) At any rate, I was long worried about the NAVLE, which I’ll be taking this December. It’s hard not to be concerned about a $600, 7.5 hour test that covers every aspect of veterinary medicine.
In order to prepare for the NAVLE, nearly every vet student purchases one of two study programs: VetPrep or Zuku. I purchased an 8 month subscription to VetPrep last week since it was on sale for $300. I’m not going to start studying hardcore until August, but in the meantime I enjoy doing a few practice questions when I have some spare time. I have to say, I’ve enjoyed this a surprising amount.
It’s just plain fun to answer some multiple choice questions and see a detailed explanation afterwards of why you got it right and wrong. Going along with my previous points, I’ve actually retained a lot more information than I thought. I’m already getting about 20 – 25% of the questions right, and I even remember a few useful things about cows and horses I thought I’d long forgotten. While I’m sure things will get more stressful in the fall when I have to really start studying, at least passing the NAVLE doesn’t seem insurmountable.
- You gain a new family. I’ve already written in detail about my childhood and how I felt very lonely growing up. I started to open up in high school, but after graduating I started to close off again. When I started vet school I was still very much in the “lone wolf” mindset. I didn’t think I needed anyone except my girlfriend and was determined to stick by myself. That attitude doesn’t last long in vet school.
By the end of first semester, I’d opened up to my anatomy group. When first year was over, I had a handful of people I considered friends, but I still preferred to spend all my time outside of class alone. Second year I started to feel comfortable going out with a few people. Now, unless I have major responsibilities in the hospital, I’m begging my friends to hang out every night. I know that we’ve only got a year left before we part ways, and I want to make every moment count. No matter how introverted you may be, vet school will more likely than not thaw your icy heart. You go through too much of the same stuff together to avoid relying on each other.
Just a few happy members of MSU CVM’s class of 2016.
- What you do matters. Back when I was a cashier at Wal-Mart, I used to think I hated dealing with people. I would just be disgusted and filled with rage as I made empty small talk with customers I didn’t know. But when I moved to Lawn and Garden, I started to really enjoy helping shoppers. I quickly realized why: in lawn and garden things conversation had a purpose. When people talked to me, it wasn’t just to fill time. They usually needed help finding something or had a question about a product, and I was able to help them. Vet school takes that concept and greatly multiplies it.
When I deal with a client, I’m helping keep a member of their family healthy. I’m not trying to hurry them out the door or just fill an awkward silence while I fill their bags, I’m telling them how to help their animal and fostering a relationship so that they listen to and respect me. And I love everything about that. I love that people trust me with their pets, I love that I can actually help them, and I love knowing that I’m making a difference. I used to think that dealing with clients would be my least favorite part of veterinary medicine, but now that I’ve actually begun doing this it’s become one of the things I love most. I can’t wait to get on rotations like Internal Medicine and Emergency where I can foster longer and more intense relationships with owners, and then move into practice so I can have my own clients that keep coming back to me.
At the end of the day, vet school is undoubtedly a mixed bag. You’ll spend more time studying than working with animals, finals (especially fifth semester!) will drive you to the brink of insanity, and not every person in your class will be a joy to work with. But in spite of all that, I’ve chosen a rewarding field, feel myself growing as a person and a doctor, and made friends that I consider part of my family. For every bad night there’s been a better one, and when I think of myself ten years in the future I’m pleased with the idea of Dr. Fortier scrubbing in for surgery or discharging a recovering animal to its grateful owner. So in spite of all my mitching I really am grateful for the chance to go to MSU and become a veterinarian.
And perhaps most of all, after that pathology final exam I’m grateful for a three week vacation.