Transition Into Clinical Practice

MiniVet Guide Interview
May 24, 2016
SAVMA Student Symposium USA
July 6, 2016

At the Animal Emergency Service, we have dozens of students every year coming through for practical rotations. Here are some of my tips to help your transition into practical placements.

Top Tips

  • Have a MiniVet Guide! This will give you a framework on which to approach any case that you see. Don’t be caught out not having a clue when asked by your supervisor what your take on a case is.
  • Have your own stethescope, pen, scissors and name badge. You don’t want to look like a pre-clinical student now do you? You’re not playing dress up anymore. For all intent and purposes, you are a clinician and will be expected to conduct yourself as one.
  • Look professional - contact the clinic before a rotation to ask if there is any special dress requirement. Please don’t rock up on the Monday morning looking like you spent the night in the bush.
  • Don’t be tardy - confirm your start and finish times, and be punctual (this means arriving 10 mins early as a general rule)
  • Attitude - be positive and genuinely interested! The more you see the more you learn! You may not like going out to a horse consult, but see it as an opportunity to observe soft skills like client communication in action!
  • Help the nurses.A good vet values and respects their nurses! Nurses have a lot of knowledge and skills to impart to young vets so always get stuck in to lend a helping hand. If you are too precious to clean poop and pee, you are too precious to be a clinician. Who knows, you might pick up great tips on important skills like catheter placement from the true masters- nurses!
  • Take some initiative - look ahead at what needs to be done, eg. Go and prepare medications that the vet is going to dispense, or prepare and look at cytology slides, even if you don't know what you are looking at.
  • Be mindful and always ask if you can do something if it is relating to the treatment and management of pets. Don’t overstep your boundaries, cavalier attitudes can be dangerous to yourself and the patients. And please don’t be one of those students who offers their opinion during consult without invitation to. It makes you look bad and is disrespectful to both the consulting vet and client.
  • Clean the consult room between the consults, your supervisor and nurses will be impressed by your initiative.
  • Bring food if you can- biscuits/cake are always a winner. It might help you get a better mark (just kidding!)
  • Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. The fact that a clinic has volunteered to take you on as a practical placement student means the vets are keen to teach the next generation of vets! Your supervising vet doesn’t know what you don’t know or understand, so ask and ye shall receive. I find that successful practices with great vets and nurses tend to be the ones that volunteer to take on the students for practical placements. They see it as a way to give back to the veterinary community. In return, your enthusiasm and fresh ideas from vet school can invigorate the most jaded of vets!
  • If none of the above inspires you to want to impress, just know many practical placement students have gone on to be offered jobs at the practices where they were placed in, some even before graduation! You have the opportunity to avoid joining the mass stampede and intense competition for new graduate jobs!

I wish you all the best of luck for the rest of your year of practical placements, and don’t forget to take care of yourself in your downtime by pursuing your interests and hobbies outside of veterinary science. Start practicing work-life balance from now, it is so important!