For three years I have waded through lecture upon lecture upon lecture – taking notes, reading around topics, writing summaries, trying to wrap my head around clinical skills and build up muscles I have never used before. Now, entering my final year and starting rotations, I finally realize how much that work has paid off.
Fourth-year (3rd GEP) final exams were at the end of March, just before Spring break. We wore onesies to celebrate our last day of lectures and took a class photo on Zoom – I was a snow leopard. Once I came back from break, the last few weeks of fourth-year were dedicated to Final Year Prep (FYP), some final communications skills, clinical skills, and general preparation courses to get us ready for rotations. FYP ended at the end of May, and we started rotations in June.
On the first day of rotations, I arrived on campus early so that I could pick up a Noah Compendium, some masks, and my FINAL YEAR JACKET! I have finally made it and I have the jacket to prove it. Going from lectures to rotations was a startling shock. I went from online courses every day with practicals maybe once a week, to now being on campus all day every day. At first, I felt liberated. Final Year rotations are set up in blocks of four weeks (General Practice, Equine, Companion Animal Medicine, Companion Animal Surgery, NOAh [Neurology, Opthalmology, and Large Animal Anesthesia], and Farm Animal Medicine). There is a seventh block of free choice as well. Each block has 4 weeks of different rotations. Normally these would finish just before Winter Break and you would have exams in January. However, we are pushed back about 2 weeks, so our exams will be in February instead. Ahead of starting the year, you are given a copy of the rotation schedules and get to pick which group schedule you would like to follow.
I started on General Practice, which included consultation days, a surgery day, and an exotics consultation day. A busy week to be sure, but general practice is what I really want to go into. Being in that position again was thrilling. I finally felt like I was putting together the information I had learned over the years and practicing it. I started to feel like I was actually becoming a vet.
The next week, I started Emergency and Critical Care (ECC). At this point, the long days were starting to wear on me, and I was starting to realize how much information I had not retained over the years. I felt like I was constantly trying to keep up with the cases but falling slowly behind. ECC was just a bit overwhelming for me. We had learned so much information, but I could not recall everything. I knew I needed to make a change in the way I was preparing for my days on clinic because I wanted to get as much out of this time as I possibly could. This is my time to practice being a vet while having the support of qualified clinicians to support me and back me up.
I started my Equine block next – 2 weeks in clinics and 2 weeks online. This was a bit daunting as I still was not used to working all day. Day clinics were confusing and difficult to adapt to, but I eventually figured out the pattern and where everything was so that I could make it a point to see the appointments/procedures that I really wanted to see. Final Year students before me had advised that you really need to take your learning into your own hands. I did not quite understand what they meant at first, but I have since realized what I need to do to make that work. I must take any opportunities I can to focus my learning and keep working on it. I started taking the time during each rotation to learn about as many cases as I could and decide which ones were the most interesting. For those cases, I would try my best to speak up and say I wanted to follow them and would ask where I needed to go and when. I found this difficult at first but eventually figured out some tricks – speak up, make sure your group knows your interests, and share (take learning opportunities where you can, but do not take them from others). Taking the time before a rotation to look at some of the cases coming in helps me think about what I need to learn and what I am comfortable with, then I try to take the cases that I need to still learn from. Additionally, I realized that I can also ask about supplementing my learning. I had a dental practical one afternoon and realized that I do not yet know enough about dentals in general practice. I spoke to the clinician, and we set up a couple of days to work together during my free choice block.
Final year has really been amazing so far. I have enjoyed learning how to be a vet on a daily basis. The transition was a crazy adventure but absolutely worth it. I feel like all these years of school and lectures are finally coming together for me. I still have a lot to work on and a lot to do, but I am excited to be in this final year. Next up is the NAVLE (North American Veterinary Licensing Exam), Final Exams, and Selective Rotations.