Here at Leo’s Pet Care veterinary clinic in Indianapolis, we are proud to be an externship host hospital for both of our local Veterinary Technician colleges, Harrison College and the International Business College of Indianapolis. We also host pre-veterinary students in between semesters, and teach veterinary hopefuls, who are unsure what role they yet want to play in the profession.
All of these people, nearly without exception, come into our practice, and within one or two days here, pass out.
Like, “stop what you’re doing, please, let the dog go, and sit down before you hit the floor.”
Why does this happen, and how can we make your experience better?
It happens to all of us
I have a theory.
My theory is that someone volunteering at a new clinic for the first time, is mostly pretending they’ve got their act together.
Nobody likes to look foolish, and it’s far more socially acceptable to “fake it til you make it” than it is to acknowledge and embrace your ignorance. So most new volunteers here will walk around like it’s totally normal to get covered in fur and ear cleaner and anal glands, totally normal to be surrounded by Eau de Diarrhea, totally normal to hug and restrain big hot furry fluffy panting struggling animals, totally normal to see needles sticking into veins and pulling blood out, and hear anxious pets have things done to them, that they’d rather not have done to them.
Well, quit pretending. We know you’re freaking out inside. We’ve already blogged about the Top 10 Reasons Why You Probably Don’t Want To Be a Vet Tech, but if you haven’t read that yet, please do so prior to volunteering, so you understand what you’re really signing up for.
We know veterinary medicine isn’t for the faint of heart, and we know you’re probably in over your proverbial head. That’s OK, we’ve all been there.
Even doctors faint
I passed out once.
During veterinary school, we were doing a wet lab where the teacher was feeding a nasogastric tube up through a cow’s nose and down into her stomach. The whole room was filled with cows standing on concrete floors, and when they peed their gallons and gallons of urine on the floor, the scent filled the room and overwhelmed my delicate senses. Plus, the cow getting tubed didn’t like it, and we students were all standing there without anywhere to sit down…
Anyways, suffice it to say I ended up on the floor.
Then there was my classmate, who halfway through the semester of anatomy lab, engulfed by the lovely scent of formaldehyde and cadavers, somehow managed to cut her own finger with the dissection scalpel. One sight of her own blood, and BOOM – on the floor.
She went on to become a well respected veterinary internal medicine specialist. And me? Still in the profession, and loving it.
I should make a special note here, about things you need to tell your potential volunteer supervisor.
If you have a medical condition that requires you to eat at certain times, or take medications at certain times, or stop activity during certain circumstances, or that might randomly flare up during your volunteer experience, please make that information known to your supervisor before there is an episode, not after, so we are aware of what to watch for and can accommodate you.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Your momma always told you to eat your Wheaties, and prior to a stressful day at your local veterinary clinic is no exception.
I know, you’re on a diet, or whatever, but please put some healthy whole grains and some protein into you before you come to my clinic.
Blood sugar fluctuations can most certainly contribute to feelings of weakness during times of stress, and carrying around a belly full of goodness will help stave off your body’s fight or flight reaction.
In fact, bring a granola bar and excuse yourself to fuel up halfway through the morning. Keep that blood sugar up! Don’t be embarrassed, eating a little snack is totally acceptable.
Ask a question, be ignorant once. Fail to ask, remain ignorant forever
The most important characteristic of a successful student is the ability to admit ignorance and ask for help. Nobody expects you to come into a veterinary practice fresh off the street knowing what you’re doing.
The ones we invite back, cheerfully admit their own knowledge gaps and enthusiastically learn.
The ones we don’t invite back, pretend to know it all.
If you have an interest in volunteering at a veterinary clinic, please do make the approach, but prepare your body, and your mind, for the roller coaster ahead. It may be the most difficult, most rewarding decision of your life.
And for the love of Pete, please eat something.