Ever wondered what it’s like being a vet student? Well here’s a sneak peak into life on rotations at one of the UK vets schools! So sit back and have a laugh at our expense! 

The previous six weeks gave rise to my last ever set of small animal rotations (so technically having now completed them, I have all the knowledge I need to become a small animal vet….. yikes!!!!). If you don’t know what rotations are, I have given a bit of an explanation in my previous post, check it out here…… https://thejetsetvet.com/smallies-rotations-getting-thrown-deep-end/  Anyway, It was the block of rotations I’d been dreading the most as small animal is definitely my weakest subject; I just find it a hell of a lot more complicated than dealing with farm animals or horses….So I guess despite being a mere 5ft 2, I ironically feel much more at home with large animals! The one thing I was looking forward to, however, was spending time with my rotation group once more. It seemed like forever since I worked with this gang, when we all stepped into our first lot of rotations last year, like rabbits caught in head lights and had got through the time with laughter and a lot of “peer support” (they love using that word at uni so I thought I’d throw it in for good measure!). We’d formed a fast friendship and had gotten to know each other, probably a little too well over the previous six weeks of smallies fun and I couldn’t wait to be back working with this motley crew once more.

Our entire small animal rotation gang
Copyright to Emma Holmberg

We had all sensibly spent the weekend in Edinburgh at the annual ‘Association of Veterinary Students Sports Weekend’ which I’m sure in the distant past was taken incredibly seriously as a sporting competition between vet schools…… But now the sports seem to be more of a token gesture and the event centres much more around the social aspect of the occasion….. And the fancy dress, of course! After a 6-hour bus journey back to Liverpool following a weekend of partying dressed as superheroes and sleeping crookedly on someone’s floor, it’s safe to say we weren’t exactly feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed to begin our first rotation!

Luckily our first week was imaging, so we had ex Liverpool student Pip to look after us. Pip had been a buddy for our year group, so we did a lot of reminiscing about “the good old days” and she was eager to be filled in about the weekend’s frivolities. On top of that, she was an incredibly patient teacher and it helped that she was very easy on the eye, so the boys hung onto her every word…. It’s safe to say the lads learnt a lot on imaging thanks to the feminine wiles of Pip! Imaging is an essential day-one skill for any vet and helps us diagnose a plethora of problems in our patients. However, despite its great usefulness in day-to-day veterinary life, it’s actually quite a difficult skill to grasp. The image consists roughly (I’m simplifying and exaggerating a fair bit here…) of bone which appears white, gas which shows up black and a sludgy mixture of greys which make up everything else and it is our job to decipher this and decide if what we are seeing is normal…Not always an easy task! It definitely is a question of getting your eye in and the more radiographs you see the easier it gets (so I’m told). The radiographers are crazy amazing at analysing radiographs and will flippantly point out an obscure grey sausage and comment that it’s something significant while we all stood around squinting and tilting our heads to either side in vain trying to pick out this “abnormality” for ourselves. Thankfully as the week progressed and we had more practice we did seem to gain some clarity when it came to reading radiographs! The other key learning outcome for this week was to appropriately position our patients for the radiographs to be taken, which is surprisingly harder than it looks! It would seem like an easy task to position an animal for a radiograph but as we discovered it is quite a fine art to get everything straight, get rid of body parts you don’t’ want while still including all the bits that you do, whilst trying not to blast the patient too many times with an x-ray beam. I always consider that to an outsider the positioning process may alarmingly look like some weird form of bondage; there is a lot of rope suspension used to pin the legs of a sedated patient akimbo and one such position, used to assess canine hips has been affectionately christened the Karma Sutra – I’ll leave that one to your imagination…

Week 2 of rotations was soft tissue surgery, this is a week I’d been dreading as I’d heard horror stories about severe grilling’s by clinicians on nearly impossible tasks such as naming ’15 complications associated with a total ear canal ablation surgery’ and other equally mind-numbing questions. However, we appeared to get off fairly lightly (thank god!) and the week flew by without much of a hitch. And yet, despite this, we still managed to make tits of ourselves quite regularly…. On one occasion one of the lads in my group made a bit of a faux pas, much to the delight of one of the clinicians who had a good giggle about this for days. We had a dog come in with paraphimosis which is essentially when the penis is permanently extruded (I advise you do not google this for fear of what you might find!). Whilst commenting on this obviously very MALE orientated problem, one of the boys said, “oh so is it a male or a female?” I think some basic anatomy may need to be reviewed here… I had my own tactless moment when it came to this same patient when I did the initial clinical exam; I feel the term “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” is very apt in this situation… I had completely forgotten that I would need to thoroughly examine the genital area of this particular patient and had no gloves about my person in which to protect myself with. Not wanting to waste time or look inefficient I just gritted my teeth and dove right in to examine this rather disgusting penis. It was only after the examination was over and I had gone to wash my hands that I noticed the box of gloves at the back of the consult room….. I HAD JUST TOUCHED A GROSS PENIS WITH MY BARE HANDS FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER!!!!

Our third week was internal medicine, this was a week I was convinced would be challenging, as like it says on the tin it covers basically anything that could go wrong with our patients internally, which is a lot! It was on this week we discovered the internal medicine team’s obsession with poo; in every consult, they wanted to know shape, colour, consistency, frequency. These sorts of discussions bring out two very different types of owner…. The ones who jump at the chance to discuss their animals’ daily motions and private parts, who have charts and photos that they pull out to show you….. and the ones that you practically need a translator for as they stutter and mumble their way through the interrogation whilst turning the same colour as a fire engine. You also hear some very imaginative names for various genitalia. Amusingly, most people opted for just a noise when describing a vagina to name a few: Fru-Fru, hoo-ha and just hmmmmm with a gesture, were quite common. However, props have to go to the one guy who managed to raise everyone’s eyebrows in the consult room when he opted to just go for full-blown “cock” when describing his dog’s itchy genitals. Not knowing what chippets of delight the general public will come out with is one of the things I love most about spending time in a consult room!
The next week was oncology which was largely spent chasing after Kat, one of the residents with her crazy long legs as she strode up and down the hospital. She was incredibly knowledgeable and thanks to her, we all felt like we had a greater grasp on Oncology, but god did that woman live life in the fast lane! As a small person, it felt like I’d practically ran a marathon each day trying to keep up with her. In keeping with this theme was the fact that a large proportion of the dogs I seemed to see this rotation block weighed more than I did and on one rather memorable occasion I was launched down the corridor by an Irish Wolf Hound which weighed almost twice my weight with the helpless clinician racing after us to try and aid as my anchor. This naturally occurred in front of almost the entire student body who were sat in our congregation area and all the clients still sat in the waiting room. I think after this experience I may need to start hitting the gym in order to save myself the embarrassment when tackling these more weighty patients!
By our fifth week, we were well into December and the small animal hospital had begun to embrace the festive spirit. The animals were coming in donned in Christmas jumpers, the trimmings were up and down in the kennels the nurses boogied to Mariah Carey and Wham as they cleaned. It was our week on dermatology which although had been christened a lazy week by others, our team found to be a busy service and one which was not to be under-estimated. There are so many animals which come into general practice with itchy or sore skin and it’s, in my opinion, one of the worst managed and underestimated conditions by many vets. After our week with the derm team, hunting for fleas, cleaning ears and sticking Sellotape to dogs (which is a legitimate way of sampling, we weren’t just trying to get ahead with our Christmas wrapping) we felt a lot more prepared to deal with these issues when we graduate. The end of this week was marked by the annual Leahurst Christmas party and despite the blistering cold and threats of snow we all dressed up ready to let our hair down (no offence Chris) and have a boogie to celebrate our last ever infamous Leahurst party.

My rotation group at the vet Christmas party
Copyright to LUVS

Our sixth and final week was definitely the one we were all fearing, Cardiology. It was reputed to be the hardest week and with motivation low due to the Christmas holidays being in almost touching distance, we were worried we’d be able to pull it out the bag. Luckily for us, we had the addition of Robin, a European exchange student from Switzerland who was joining us for his last week in the UK. Like most of the exchange students, he was a bit of a brain box and helped us disguise our flusterment over ECG traces that looked more like a three-year old’s drawing rather than a useful diagnostic tool. To our pleasure and surprise our cardiology week was really enjoyable despite a few ferocious cats and getting covered in ultrasound jelly and dog hair and the week was topped off by Ed’s home-made mince pies! As It was our final week the hospital had an unusual giddy feeling and the filming for sketches had begun. Sketches are a two-part evening of fun where the students make fun of clinicians and their time on rotations which is then followed by an opportunity for the clinicians to get their own back and poke fun at all the stupid things students do on rotations. While the hospital workload had slowed and the clinicians were feeling in good spirits, the students took full advantage of this fact and with phones at the ready began filming well-rehearsed, and innovative scenes to feature in the event.
I would be lying if I said I would miss the Small Animal Teaching hospital with the early morning in-patient checks, standing outside in the cold trying to coax a stubborn dog to wee, being dragged down corridors, attacked by vicious cats, constantly quizzed until your brain feels like mush and spending an inordinate amount of time running up and down the hospital looking for the ever-elusive clinicians. However, the students and staff of the Hospital, and in particular my rotation group with their constant good will, helpfulness and wicked sense of humour, really made my time on small animal rotations, not only bearable but also both a fun and memorable experience!

Having some fun on our last day with my rotation group
Copyright to Katie Burden

If after reading this you think vet school might be your cup of tea, check out this website for more info about all UK vet schools and some of the other crazy stuff we get up to: http://www.avsukireland.co.uk/getting-into-vet-school/ 

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