Q&A: How to Find a Vet to Shadow & Learning NOT to Cry

Hi Sharon,

I have just begun my search for a vet to shadow. So far I have visited one nearby hospital and plan on visiting several others. How do/did you go about finding a vet to shadow? Every time I go to hospitals or clinics, the vets are all super busy and constantly running around. And, how do you ask a vet you’re interested in shadowing him/her? I’ve heard it’s difficult to find a vet to shadow.

My other questions have to do with crying. I have been working on my tendency to cry when others around me cry. I have always been a sensitive person, and I know I will need to work on that if I will be handling patients being told the bad news. How do you handle these kinds of situations? Were you always able to keep your composure in situations where an owner found out he/she would have to put his/her pet to sleep?

Thank you,




Hi DM –

You and I have both heard that it’s difficult to find a vet to shadow. (Ironically it gets easier once you are in vet school.) My advice would be to do one of the following:

  • Consider volunteering at your local animal shelter and getting some hands on experience so that you are more marketable to a practice. If you already have lots of experience, then you should be better able to sell yourself!
  • If you are trying to shadow a private practice vet, consider starting with the vet you go to for your pets. Take your pet in and chat with the doctor about how you’re interested in vet school and were looking for places to start getting some experience, shadowing or otherwise and see what they have to say. They might offer then and there to have you come back in and shadow them or they may know of a few colleagues who do such things and wouldn’t mind having you around. It’s all about connections!
  • Depending on whether you are looking for a job, you may consider applying to work at practices (general or emergency) doing whatever they have available that you are qualified for. In vet practices, even receptionists should be capable of helping out with restraining animals, etc if need be, and if you have an interest in becoming a vet, you can make that known and a vet may take you under his/her wing.

As for crying, I know it may sound like a weakness that you cry when others cry, but that’s not a weakness in this profession. We love animals more than most people so it’s not unreasonable for us to be brought to tears when others are also crying over their pet. Do not convince yourself that this has to change if you want to be a vet because that’s not the case. I have a shelter background and have been around for countless euthanasias so I’ve got a tough skin but when an owner is present, I cry. I even cried when an owner came into the shelter and found her tiny Chihuahua that had gotten loose while she was on vacation and was injured but safe and sound in the shelter’s clinic. She was so happy and relieved to have her baby back and I just welled up in tears. (Even recalling that moment has me welling up in tears! Sheesh!) In all seriousness, though, you are human and vets tend to have a level of empathy that is unmatched by human physicians. Don’t lose that!

Hope that helps!

Life In Vet School & Tips On Getting In