One of the biggest career decisions you will make in this field is whether or not to pursue an internship after graduation. I wrote an article that explored my own thoughts on veterinary internships that I figured I would share it with you before it is published by The Vet Gazette.
I’m a few weeks from beginning 4th year clinical rotations at this point and despite moments of serious consideration and contemplation over the past three years, I decided that I will not be pursuing a veterinary internship. Clearly, at this point, I cannot predict whether, as a new graduate, I will feel competent enough to go out on my own and practice good quality medicine (but, then again, we will only be partially through our clinical year when we have to make the decision of whether to apply for an internship).
Do I believe that an internship can be valuable? Absolutely! However, I believe it is an individual decision to be made on a case by case basis. For example, my decision to not pursue an internship after graduation is largely influenced by other life factors, including age.
Though I am not the oldest person in my class, I have taken a rather circuitous path to become a veterinarian that has been extremely rewarding in the lessons it has taught me, yet it’s also cost me something far more valuable–time. There was a point in veterinary school when I considered myself to have all the time in the world and I wanted to pursue an internship and a four year residency when I graduate. It wasn’t until I considered how old I would be when I finally started my career that I realized that I may need to re-evaluate.
And re-evaluate is exactly what I did!
I recalled the long, arduous road that I traveled to get to where I am. Most importantly, I recalled what ultimately prompted me to leave my previous career and risk everything for a shot at a dream. It was an animal shelter. The Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA turned my world upside down…or should I say right side up? Once I was able to remember that my ultimate goal in pursuing a career as a shelter veterinarian was to make a dramatic and appreciable impact on the shelter community and the animals within them, I knew that an internship was not necessary to achieving those goals.
Furthermore, my values and the direction I want my life to take once I graduate confirmed my decision to pass on the opportunity for a veterinary internship. While years ago it was not even a consideration, now that I have found a partner whom I love, I cannot wait to start our lives together and build our family to include children of the non-four-legged variety. Given the demanding long hours and paltry salary of interns, not to mention the location limitations for my partner’s job search, it is more desirable for me to find a job with a good mentor than an internship.
In the end, as I communicated earlier, the choice to pursue a veterinary internship is a choice that must be made by each of us individually. Surely there are benefits that are desirable for many people, however, just because an internship is desirable for one person doesn’t mean it will be desirable for each and every person. This is perhaps the most important thing to consider. When I came to vet school straight from an animal shelter with no experience in private practice, everyone seemed to have an interest in an internship and many students were interested in residencies as well. I felt compelled to join the bandwagon, convinced that I must have missed some crucial piece of information as to why internships and residencies were so desirable. It turns out that my desire to join the bandwagon is what caused me to lose sight of my ultimate goal, which is the reason I am here in the first place.
If you have yet to decide what route is best for you, the one piece of advice I would give you is to write down where you want to be 5 years from graduation both with respect to your career and personal life. With those goals in mind, determine whether your goals warrant an internship, whether your personal life goals are compatible with an internship and what potential challenges you foresee if you choose to go that route. As you make your way through vet school, keep checking in with those goals. As long as you are able to carefully and methodically evaluate your goals and weigh your options, you will make the right decision. I promise.