QuoteI spent a couple of weeks at a mixed practice on extramural studies. It was a placement of firsts – first experience at a very “young” practice (lots of newish graduates), first clinical farm experience and first surgery experience.

It gave me an insight into the difference between older, more experienced vets and new grads – from the way they approach consultations and cases to the time/skill difference in surgical procedures. Obviously, a lot of this comes with experience, but it was reassuring to know I’m not quite as lost as I thought I was (and it also helped me recognise areas to work on).

I did work experience at farm practices before uni, but hadn’t been to one as a proper student. It entailed the bread and butter of farm practice – being shoulder deep in a cow’s rectum.

My younger brother found it particularly fascinating, always asking me when I got home each night how many cows I’d seen. Appealing as it sounds, I found reproductive physiology and pharmacology began making a lot more sense.

One day we were called out to castrate 34 calves, which turned out to be a day of avoiding hailstones while the vet cut, twisted, pulled and I injected. Nearing the end of the never-ending stream of beef calves, the vet invited me to have a go. A few minutes later, covered in blood, cow poo and sweat (it required a surprising amount of elbow grease), I had performed my first surgical procedure.

The following day I found myself being told to scrub up, then was guided through a cat castrate. It was a bit surreal, because the vet started off with “cats are a bit like calves…” I couldn’t help wondering how many students castrated a calf before a cat…

Cat's testicle
“I couldn’t help wondering how many students castrated a calf before a cat…” Image ©iStock.com/rarinlee

A few days later, the same vet supervised my second unassisted castrate. I had a real sense of achievement, having been able to perform the procedure without being told what to do. I know it’s a simple surgery and may seem like peanuts to a qualified vet, but it was quite a step for me – and everyone has to start somewhere.

I also scrubbed in on an exploratory laparotomy on a ferret, which was unusual to say the least, especially when the huge mass we were investigating in the abdomen turned out to be fluid filled and exploded slightly after a needle was stuck in. Since it was attached to the uterus, the vet decided to spay the ferret, which sparked the conversation of why ferrets aren’t often spayed and the resulting hormonal changes involving the adrenals.

Overall, I had a tiring couple of weeks, but felt the vets were eager to get me involved and my clinical skills certainly progressed further than I expected.

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