As veterinary students (and probably later as vets), we have a very distorted view of “normal”.
Exam season (for Glasgow) is now over, but during revision, the social media stakes noticeably increase. While many of my non-veterinary friends share photos of their piles of notes captioned “T-minus 2 weeks”, “Revision hell” or the like, in return they get photos of me gloved and gowned up or an “animal” (cuddly toy of some description) draped up (in tea towels) ready for “surgery”.
This isn’t just me playing vet for their entertainment – these skills were assessed in our practical exams – but my friends still find it bizarre it counts as revision.
The student halls I lived in during my first year had a high proportion of veterinary students, as they were sited very close to the vet school. Being in catered halls, we all ate dinner together, and soon there were a few “vet tables”. If we’d all come in from anatomy practicals, with no second thoughts about discussing the intricate details over dinner, it was no surprise no one else regularly ate with us.
Even when you restrain from comparing the consistency of some body fluid or other to the pasta sauce you’re eating while out with friends, you’ll probably notice something in your hair that could easily be either blood or poo. If your friends notice, they’ll either laugh or be disgusted, but to you it’s just a normal occurrence after a day on a veterinary placement.
Every so often, a comment snaps you back into the non-veterinary world and makes you realise we really are quite strange.
While back home and studying, my five-year-old brother (in order to evade bedtime) decided to “help” me revise and was fascinated by a picture of a dissected lizard, which in his opinion was “a turtle with it’s shell taken off so you can see its insides”.
Thankfully, he wasn’t too bothered by it, but I was slightly concerned about giving him nightmares.
It’s easy to take the weird and wonderful world of veterinary life for granted, especially when you’re surrounded by like-minded people during term time. My family think I’m insane when I tell them I was watching postmortem videos at 3am on the day of my pathology exam.
Aside from the gore, there is also the stress element. Every round of exams, various friends or family members ask how I’m doing. When I reply “terrible”, “convinced I’m going to fail”, “will get no sleep during exam week”, their response is “you always say that, and you’re always fine. Just get an early night”.
When I relay this to my vet friends, the response is “what’s an early night?”