Congratulations! You made it through four hard, epically hard, years of veterinary school. You crammed, pulled all-nighters, learned many new skills, passed your boards, and survived job interviews. And here you are, ready to spread your wings and wear the title of Veterinarian.
Here are some pointers from a veteran to you newbies:
Savor the Ride
You’ve done so much work toward getting your veterinary degree. In the final weeks before you graduate and begin working, take a walk down memory lane. It’s hard to enjoy veterinary school while you are in it. Say goodbye to your favorite clinicians and technicians, enjoy time with your classmates. You never get this time back. And believe it or not, you will develop sentimental feelings. If not now, they will show up a few years out. Perhaps the hard labor of veterinary school equates to child birth – an oxytocin surge allows you to forget the pain and remember the fun!
Find the Right Job
Some practice owners don’t want to mentor. Mentorship is critical for a new graduate. But, it’s not enough that someone is willing to teach you. You need to make sure that new employer’s ideals and ethics jive with your own. One mistake I made was taking a position where it was routine to keep patients overnight without care. I compromised my ideals because I was an insecure new grad and regretted it multiple times during my tenure there. Have you considered what type of salary, hours, on-call, and tech support you’ll have? Will you have a good quality of life there?
Take Time Off
Unless you are scraping by financially and need to start work immediately following graduation, do yourself favor and take some time off after graduation. You have the rest of your life to work and once you are in a contract taking a large lump of time off for yourself won’t happen. Travel, take a staycation, reconnect with loved ones – you will never regret it.
Know It’s Normal to Want to Run
You’ll pull up to your new practice on that first day of work and, more than likely, have emotions ranging from nausea to panic. Suddenly transforming from the student to the expert is scary. You’re not alone. We all did it and understand. But don’t run. You need to pay off those student loans.
Put them on direct debit and forget them. If you are lucky enough have extra cash laying around, pay those loans down sooner. But realize that car payments, mortgages, child expenses, and the unexpected will make that hard to do. Don’t stress over them and never, ever, look at the total balance.
Ok, just kidding about that last part. Kind of.
Don’t Expect Perfection…Ever.
The learning curve for a new grad is steep. So many veterinary students and veterinarians have Type A personalities: We expect perfection in ourselves and are very hard on ourselves when we don’t achieve it. You are going to ask a lot of questions, forget the dosing for amoxicillin, and bury your nose in the 5 minute Vet consult during your lunch. You will misdiagnose patients. You will offend clients. People will say mean things to you and about you. This is part of the professional pill that’s toughest to swallow.
You will never be perfect, no matter how many years in practice. Start your career off knowing that to err is veterinarian. Welcome to the best profession in the world!