Finding Your Feet As A New Vet

There’s a lot more to get used to after you graduate from veterinary school aside from being called “doctor.” While veterinary school pushes you to think and find your voice, there’s always that safety net of someone overseeing you and essentially double checking you every step of the way. That sort of supervision is nice when you’re starting out in senior clinics, but as you near graduation, it’s imperative that the supervision lightens up, particularly for those graduates who are joining the workforce rather than pursuing an internship. For me, as well as many other students, the supervision did lighten up towards the end of clinics as clinicians had gained confidence in us and felt comfortable letting us go on our own a bit.

As I’ve been working, I’ve noticed that I’ve been adapting and gaining confidence in myself as a veterinarian. After all, you have people all around you looking to you for instruction and guidance. I’ve been working at a shelter performing high volume spay & neuter, where I am performing surgery on shelter animals as well as feral cats and owned animals. I started out with a mentality that is more appropriate for vet school – the mentality that I have to take care of everything that is given to me. Fortunately, early on, my supervisor stressed that I needed to feel comfortable doing surgery on the animals that were brought in, so if I thought an animal wasn’t a good candidate for surgery, I should say so and not do surgery. While that seems like common sense, it’s a lot to put on a new graduate. At UC Davis, a lot of animals that are in very poor condition are put under general anesthesia and sent to surgery, but I was no longer at UC Davis. While I was certain that I would know not to put animals that were outright dying on the table, it was the gray area cases where I needed to find my feet and be comfortable and confident with my decision.

While I felt comfortable performing a neuter on a 2 year old otherwise healthy terrier mix with a Grade III/VI focal murmur (so long as the owner knew the risks and was still willing to go for surgery), I drew the line at spaying an 8+ year old pomeranian with a very loud Grade IV/VI murmur that could be heard everywhere you listened on the chest. Likewise, I advised an owner to have his 4 year old bulldog’s severe pyoderma treated before undergoing surgery. I could tell that I was finding my feet, standing my ground and more than anything else, I was comfortable with my decisions. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether it is an owned animal, a shelter animal, or a feral cat, I do not want to lose any animal on my watch.