Ontario Agriculture

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Each summer DVM students from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph delve into hands-on, practical experience at veterinary clinics across Ontario and additional locales during their Externship Veterinary Course. Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), students must complete an eight-week Externship Course between third and fourth year in a rural veterinary practice that works with food animals and/or equine, as well as companion animals. These Externship blog posts are an opportunity to tag along with students during their externship. Here student veterinarian Shannon talks about the importance of problem solving when things don’t go according to plan. Check out all the student blogs here. 

I’ve been very fortunate to have excellent veterinary mentorship during my weeks at Milverton-Wellesley. When I’m on farm service, I get to perform almost every procedure we do on our cattle calls, and this has been a huge boost to my competency and confidence. This is all due to excellent teachers who are ever so patient, and of course wonderful farmers who are willing to let me learn on their animals.

When I do a procedure, I have a plan in my mind for how it should go. If I’m going to give calcium intravenously for the treatment of milk fever, I think “occlude the jugular vein, look for the vein to pop up, feel the vein, take the cap off my needle, stick it in, watch for blood so I know I’m in the vein, and attach the IV line to let the calcium to flow in slowly over 5 minutes.” Our ideal plan is one that goes smoothly and quickly, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t always go that way. Needles slide out of veins and you have to take it out and redirect it, some cows have smaller veins that are hard to visualize, sometimes cows are obstinate and hard to restrain… the list goes on!

It’s very easy as a student to be hard on yourself when things don’t go perfectly. I often get frustrated with myself if I struggle with something that I’ve done several times before. Your inner voice can be your harshest critic. But it is helpful to remember that this is the very best time for you to experience what happens when things don’t go according to plan!

First, you learn that things don’t always go perfectly, even for the most seasoned veterinarian. This helps you to stop being so hard on yourself! The other great thing is that right now you are completely supervised by a veterinarian – so if you need help or advice, someone is right there to coach you through a sticky spot. This is incredibly valuable, because you learn lots of strategies for how to help yourself should you ever need to in the future! When I learn one of these helpful pieces of advice I write it down in my notebook under the heading “TIPS” so I can refer back to these if I ever need to.

I don’t think the best veterinarian is one that does everything perfectly every time. Maybe I used to think that and aspire to that. But animals are unpredictable and so is medicine… no two cases are alike just like no two animals are alike. The best veterinarian is one that can think on their feet and improvise to solve a problem to achieve the best outcome when a wrench is thrown into their plan. I think that is something worthy of aspiring to! 

Photo: "Speaking of improvising, we needed a place to hang our fluids from for this sick cow, and a quick thinking farmer improvised with a ladder!" 

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