Despite a hectic weekend, a neuro midterm this morning, and a hellish 2 weeks filled with pop quizzes, midterms, a final, and my project proposal due, I reluctantly spent the evening doing my shift at Equine Nursing. I only say reluctantly because there are many other things that I would have rather spent my precious time doing this evening, but, as you can tell from the title, I no longer feel that way.
Let me explain what Equine Nursing entails. At UC Davis, first and second years do shifts in each of the following areas: equine, food animal, exotics/wildlife (CAPE), and small animal. You do each of these twice, once in your first year, and again in your second year. They are meant to give you exposure into the various facets of veterinary medicine and help you decide which track you want to pursue in 3rd year and 4th year so that you can focus your electives on that track.
Equine nursing was the last of my nursing sessions. With the exception of food animal, I had a lot of fun on all of my nursing sessions rounds, but not as much fun as I had tonight. Before tonight I had minimal horse experience; I’ve ridden a bit in the past but nothing significant and I did work with some horses when I volunteered with VIDA in Costa Rica & Nicaragua providing free veterinary care to animals that would not otherwise received care. Suffice it to say that I am very unfamiliar with horses and, in many ways, intimidated by them given their sheer size and strength. After today, while I still respect the horse for being larger and more powerful than I am, I feel much more comfortable working with them – – and that has a lot to do with the environment in which this learning and exposure took place.
Lisa is the RVT at B Barn at UC Davis that takes us first and second year students and shows us “the ropes” so to speak. Although the second year I was working with and I both came in smiling and with a good attitude (despite both being small animal focused students), Lisa set the mood for the evening, with jokes and comments that had us all laughing and smiling non-stop. After a brief tour, and showing us where some stuff is located, she gets us started on treatments. We started with a horse that required a physical exam, catheter removal, and 2 flakes of grass hay. The second year I was with tackled this and we went through how to conduct a physical exam on a horse in a fun way that didn’t involve being told exactly what to do and how to do it. We were asked to think about our answers to Lisa’s questions, and even re-think our answers at times, and consequently, we gained a vast amount of really valuable information that was all derived from our own thought processes (along with a few sporadic hints from Lisa).
The second treatment was mine – a warmblood with a laceration on his left front limb. I was to perform a physical exam, check his bandage covering his wound, inject some antibiotics IV through a catheter, flush the catheter, remove the catheter, and then give a large quantity of another antibiotic IM in multiple locations. Seeing the orders written down, I immediately felt myself get intimidated, but them I stopped myself and said don’t worry, it’ll be okay, keep a good attitude! The physical exam went well – in fact, that was the first time I went through a physical exam that I didn’t feel scared or rushed. I took my time, was confident in my findings, and Lisa verified even my abnormal findings.
When the antibiotics didn’t flow easily into the IV catheter, I did not panic. I stuck with it and worked through the problem. Upon removing the catheter, we saw the problem. The catheter had been warped right at the beginning, like a flattened crooked straw, preventing fluid from flowing easily through its lumen. The IM injection was something I had done a few times before in Nicaragua, but I had no idea whether my technique in Central America would be appropriate in the UC Davis clinic. Apparently it was. Although we used a different muscle, the slap-slap-slap-POKE technique that I was taught in Nicaragua fit the bill at UC Davis as well. Lisa assured me that if I needed to take 5 minutes of slapping to get up the nerve to poke the horse, then I should take it. She wanted me to be comfortable. Although when I was thinking about it, I was nervous, certain I’d end up stabbing myself with the needle instead of the horse (as when you are doing IM injections, you are holding just the needle – the syringe is separated and in your other hand – – the idea being that if you stab the horse with the needle and he/she has an negative response, then you can back off wait for the horse to calm down before attaching your syringe and injecting your antibiotics. Despite my preliminary fear, once I had that needle in my hand, muscle memory took over and I immediately knew when I was doing. Clearly, my body remembered what I had done, just over a year ago, in Nicaragua, and after my three pre-poke slaps, the needle was securely in. After injecting in one area, I pulled out and moved to another area to reinject, and continued until the syringe was empty. Lisa was impressed with my confidence and ability – – and I must say, so was I!
Needless to say, I left with a bounce in my step, saying to myself: maybe I should track Small Animals & Equine. Who knows, maybe I will! Only time will tell!
- Enter with a clean slate and a smile upon your face. Always come into any new experience with a good attitude and a smile on your face. It says a lot about how you’re feeling and will set the mood for the experience both in your mind as well as in the minds of those who will be working with you.
- Laugh! Laughter helps any stressful situation and can make strangers feel more at ease with one another.
- Don’t take yourself so seriously. Keep a light-hearted, fun attitude. You must be able to laugh at yourself, otherwise you will be miserable and feel like an utter failure when you attempt to do something new or outside your comfort zone.