Hey there everyone. It has definitely been a while and all I can say is final year is crazy. All day you are in clinics and super busy trying to keep up with everything, and then you go home in the evening and all you can think about is the NAVLE (North American Licensing Exam). You then sleep and repeat all over again. Needless to say I have been swamped! But I finally took my NAVLE and took a little breather for a few days before heading off to my 3 week internship. This is what I want to tell you guys about in this blog because internships come in all different shapes and sizes. Here are some tips I have on finding experience/internships while in vet school to help you gain the most experience.
- Stay for a minimum of two weeks in the same place. If you can make it three weeks I think that is the best time frame and here is why. During week one of any work experience you are just following people around. Even if you are keen and willing to do things, they are trying to figure out what you can and can’t do and what they want to let you do. This is the trust building week. This is the week that you clean and do anything and everything even if it doesn’t involve touching an animal. Running tests and helping out wherever you are needed. Even though you aren’t doing as much as you’d like, you can still learn a lot in this week. Make sure to pay attention to everything that is going on around you. Even if you are just running tests, try to think of what tests you would want to run next or look at the results and see what you think before the doctor has a look. Listen and learn from all the nurses and people around you and ask questions. Then by week two they start letting you do some things and see how you do at those. This is why two weeks is my minimum so I can get a feel of the place and gain their trust so I can get hands on. If you can stay for three weeks, the last week is the best. You have gained their trust and have shown them what you can do, and by week three you are all a bunch of friends working together and having fun doing what you love.
- When looking for a placement, decide what you want to get out it before you book. If you are looking for places that do mostly equine reproduction, then this narrows down the areas and the time frame that you are looking for. If you want to get experience with large animals try to book during peak times when they are seeing the most calls. You need to decide what it is you are looking for, then try to find places to suite that. Now if you don’t really know or just want to get experience in general, you can look for placements with a wider lens. This is mostly what I do, because I just want to get a feel for every aspect of vet med so I can decide what I do and don’t like. I try to focus a lot on exotics and wildlife, because I have zero experience in that field and I want to know more. So I search these out, but I’m not specific about where in the world or being too specific about what type of animal or experience I get. This has its own pros and cons.
- If you can go back to the same places again, you get to do more. This goes back to number 1, but the more they know you and trust you, the more they let you try. I like to “haunt” the same places because I get more experience. This then helps when you are looking for jobs after graduation. I try to get experience in places where I think I might want to work one day.
- All experience is good experience. What do I mean by this? Even a terrible placement where you feel like you don’t get to do anything or get involved is a good experience. It doesn’t always feel that way at the time, but it’s about attitude. For example, I have had placements where I stand and watch for 2 weeks and never get to do anything. Even though I didn’t do much, I still learned a lot. I learned good and bad ways to talk to clients, practised my blood smear technique, paid attention to what sutures they used in surgery and what stitches they used, etc. There are so many things that you can learn even when the experience isn’t what you hoped. You can always learn ways that you don’t want to do things and try to be better. It’s hard to know what is great, if you don’t ever see something that is subpar.
There are so many places that you can look to find placements. Most universities (like Edinburgh) have a database full of places where students have gone before and that you can look back at. Or you just start looking on the world wide web for things that fit into your categories. This is how I found this Christmas internship.
I have spent the last few weeks in Hawaii at a sea life park and aquarium. I found this internship on my own by looking for opportunities to work with marine mammals. I literally typed in marine mammal veterinary into Google and then started cold contacting places to see what they had to offer. I knew I was coming back to the States anyway for Christmas, so wanted to be in the somewhere in the US. I found this place in Hawaii and applied. Now, there is a lot of controversy on captive marine mammals which I won’t get into, but I love discussing so if you have questions feel free to comment here or contact me on social media. This placement has been a great learning experience and I have seen more here than I ever thought I would. I have learned some things good and bad about this area of veterinary medicine and I am glad to have the experiences (even the bad ones) so I can form my own decisions about the controversies we see in social media. I also have learned things I never would have known without hands on experience and for that I am grateful. Also, who doesn’t love a nice trip to a place where you can head to the beach after work? Or where your dress code is shorts and sandals all year round?