“Vetting” the Field, Part 2

In Part One, I talked about my experience in human clinical research. In addition, I got to work with several vets (in the capacity of shadowing, for the most part) so that I could get a realistic view of large and small animal work and the differences the two practices present. Some of my classmates had thousands of hours of veterinary experience from working in practices; I only had a few hundred, but I had the opportunity to hear the doctor’s reasoning about why they thought the animal had [X] disease and they were going to proceed with [Y] treatment because I was shadowing instead of working as an assistant. Admissions committees want to see that an applicant has put thought and gained real life experience in the field of veterinary medicine so s/he know what s/he is getting into down the road. Veterinary medicine is less glamorous than often portrayed!

Lincoln Memorial University Veterinary Technology Program

The recovery room at LMU’s Spring 2013 Spay Day.

As an entering freshman to LMU, I started out in the Veterinary Technology (Vet Tech) program because I thought it was a natural fit for a pre-vet student. I took seventeen hours of classes in the program, including Animal Anatomy & Physiology, Large Animal Medicine, Small Animal Medicine, Large Animal Nutrition, Small Animal Nutrition, and Animal Behavior. These classes were interesting and fun, and I was exposed to real-world cases from vets and vet techs who had been in the field for a long time. In addition to the classes, I helped out with puppy wagons (where we vaccinated animals from the local animal shelters), and spay days (where members of the community could bring their dog or cat to get spayed or neutered and vaccinated at reduced cost). On spay days, I helped mostly with recovery and drawing up vaccinations. I learned how important it is to keep a recovering animal warm until their body temperature is normal; during surgery, core body temperature drops due to the anesthesia and the position of the animal (depending on the surgery).

The most important thing I took away from my time in LMU’s vet tech program was the importance of quality, educated techs in a veterinary practice. In East Tennessee, most techs are people that the clinic hired off the street and trained to assist the vet without any formal education on why they would use certain drugs or draw blood from certain areas. A good tech can ease the stress on the vet and allow them to do their job more efficiently because they won’t have to be drawing blood or calculating fluid dosages. I’m so grateful that I got to work along side these techs in training!

Large Animal: Mountain Empire Large Animal Hospital

Shadowing at Mountain Empire opened me up to the life of a mixed ambulatory/stationary practice. My first day consisted of solely ambulatory appointments for routine exams, vaccinations, and health papers for traveling horses. The vet shared that this was the hardest part of practice-traveling sometimes one hundred plus miles on the road and having dead time of travel between appointments that take away from actual appointments. However, ambulatory medicine is necessary for large herd or for people who may not have easy access to trailers.

One of the most interesting cases that we saw was a pony that had been kicked in the jaw and had a broken tooth that had abscessed. The right side of his face had a large, softball size mass that was warm to the touch. After examining his mouth, the vet determined that the broken pieces needed to be removed so that the mass could drain. After sedating the pony and putting him in a mouth speculum, the vet used what looked like a giant pair of pliers in order to grab the tooth and remove it. I remember that once the tooth was removed, there was an awful stench as the abscess was able to drain. The vet gave him Excede, an antibiotic shot that lasts for four days, with a second shot given on the fourth day. He explained that because the pony’s mouth hurt he may not be as easy to administer oral medications to, so the long-lasting antibiotic would be helpful. I’m very appreciative of my time at Mountain Empire and all of the veterinarians who took time to explain their reasoning behind procedures and treatments.

Small Animal: Indian Ridge Animal Hospital

Indian Ridge was a whole different world than Mountain Empire. Previously, I didn’t have much experience with small animal medicine besides just taking care of our personal dogs, who never seem to get sick or require more than routine veterinary care. I got to see several interesting, untypical cases during my time shadowing, as well as unique surgeries and dental procedures. One thing that really stuck out to me was how the veterinary technicians were really assistants–they held the animal while the vet drew blood or performed a procedure instead of working with another tech to accomplish the task so the doctor could do other things.

I learned a lot about proper dental care and the importance of routine dental cleanings. The vet used an ultrasonic tool in order to remove plaque build up on the tooth and around the gums. She showed me what a healthy tooth looked like versus a decaying tooth or a tooth that needed to be pulled. When she talked to the owners afterwards, she stressed using Greenies or similar bones to help maintain dental health. This vet also taught me about excellent table-side manner with clients. Sometimes, just asking the right questions in the right tone would open up doors that were previously closed. I certainly hope that I can be as compassionate as she is!

The most important thing I learned through my veterinary experiences is that the particular experience doesn’t really matter–what I got out of the experience was what counted. If I had 1000s of hours of experience but still didn’t know how to be compassionate, caring, or good with clients, that experience was wasted. LMU looks for people who will be good veterinarians, not just good students. We will only be in school for four years…we will be in practice for decades.


Posted on July 16, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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