How to succeed in your vet school clinical year
You finally made it! No more sitting around in class all day – it’s time to head to the teaching hospital and see some real patients!
Wouldn’t it be great if the transition was easy? Unfortunately it’s not and as you’re about to find out, it is a completely different world out there. Some schools will have a period of overlap with your older classmates that are about to leave, but this might only last a few days, while others will give you more time to learn from the previous 4th years.
Regardless of if there’s overlap or not, you’re now dealing with real patients and the decisions you make can be the difference between your patient doing well or not. This is the time to begin to learn to be a doctor!!
Keep reading for some advice on how to make your senior year a great year!
1. Act like you’re the doctor
This is the time to learn how to be and act like a doctor. Make sure you make the best of it when you have someone to catch your mistakes! Make sure to read about your cases in advance and have a plan for your patient(s). You’ll be expected to have one ready to go, and will definitely be asked about it. Don’t worry about it being perfect!
2. Remember, these are your cases!
And you know what? You have someone with more experience as your backup! An intern, resident or faculty with be there to steer you in the right direction if you’re off track. But take responsibility – remember that your case has a real patient behind it, and that they deserve the best care.
3. Keep up with your patient’s diagnostic tests
If your patient is scheduled for an abdominal ultrasound, and you’re available, you should try to be there when it’s happening. Not only will you be able to ask the radiologist questions, but you’ll become more familiar with ultrasound in general. If you’re done with your cases for the day, tag along with your rotation-mate so you can check out any cool diagnostics that their patient might be getting.
4. Sometimes, technician work is necessary
We’ve all been there. Students can end up doing a lot of technician work. In some vet schools, you’re actually responsible for doing treatments on your patients in the ICU or intermediate care units. This might seem unnecessary to you, but you’ll be a better doctor if you have some understanding of how things work. You may have to teach your own technicians how to do something someday, so pay attention!
5. You’ll be wrong and will make mistakes often
There’s no way around this; it’s a training program, remember? The important thing is that you will learn from every mistake you make. And when that happens, you won’t make it again! Make sure you take criticism graciously, and always reflect on what you can do to improve.
6. If you make a mistake, let someone know!
It doesn’t matter if there were consequences to the patient or not. Maybe you forgot to feed your patient, or didn’t give a specific medication at the time that it was due. Make sure to tell your clinician what happened. You always want to be forthcoming in clinics and in your career in general!
7. Keep up with your paperwork
Unfortunately, paperwork can be a very time consuming part of our job. It doesn’t matter if you are a student or a board certified specialist. It’s important to develop a system that will save you time. Also, remember that your paperwork reflects on you – make sure you think about what you’re writing, and be sure it’s accurate.
8. Stay hydrated and well fed
Everyone is busy and overworked – food and water often become a non-priority. It is important to develop a plan to make sure you’re feeling your best. This could include meal prepping on the weekends, keeping some emergency snacks in your bag, and trying to keep your water bottle with you! This will make you more effective and a better doctor. Learning self-care skills early in your career will help you in your internship or private practice job.
9. Take care of your wellbeing!
This goes along with the previous bullet point. Making your well-being and quality of life a priority will help you succeed. We’re not saying it will be easy, but setting the groundwork as early as possible in your career is crucial, especially when we face multiple challenges in our professional lives that can severely affect our quality of life. Take time to enjoy your hobbies, exercise, and de-stress. Make sure you’re connecting with your friends and family. And if you need to talk to a professional to help you cope, do it!
10. You should be thinking about the Match, but don’t let it overwhelm you
You should absolutely be planning on how to approach the Match. If you have identified potential letter writers or rotations where you think you might excel, you should try to schedule those rotations before the Match deadline in December. You should also let the faculty on the rotation know that you’re interested in pursuing an internship at the beginning of the rotation, or at the latest, mid-rotation. Make sure to check out our Match blog posts and our book, How to Navigate the Matching Program.
11. The NAVLE is still far away!
Yes, the NAVLE is another stressful hurdle to overcome. Just remember that the more you learn on clinics, the easier it gets to pass it. Honestly most of it is just memorization – invest in the study program of your choice, and make a study schedule for yourself.
Good luck and feel free to share with your classmates!