How do you do what you do?

    January 25, 2013
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    The joy of a new foal
    The joy of a new foal

    Dr. Ashley Craig

    The other day a young horsewoman was asking about the cases I had seen in my time at Hagyard. I discussed the medical problems I had dealt with in my short time as a Field intern at Hagyard. At the end of the discussion, she looked at me with heavy eyes and asked- “Have you had to euthanize any patients?” Inside, I cringed. Euthanasia is not an outcome that veterinarians like to talk about. No one goes into veterinary medicine because they like to see patients have a negative outcome, but I couldn’t lie to this young lady so I answered honestly- “Yes”. She immediately followed up with, “I don’t know how you can do it.”

    While her statement is one I have heard before, for some reason this time, it made me think a little harder. Thank goodness driving around farm to farm gives me a lot of time to think and reflect. As I reflected on the euthanasia cases I have witnessed in my time working at farms, as a vet tech, at veterinary school, and now at Hagyard, I formed my answer to the young woman’s statement. I can emotionally handle the death of an animal because I see it as the final gift we can give to our sick and dying animals. I don’t know of anyone that enters into the discussion of euthanasia lightly. As a veterinarian, we took an oath to help with the “protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering…” After we do all that can be done for the animal and the animal is still suffering and will eventually die, we can give them a final gift- the relief from suffering.

    Another reason why I can handle the death of a patient is because I am surrounded by so much life. Being in the field, I am often called out to handle preventative medicine such as vaccinations or teeth floating (dental care for horses). Not every horse I see is sick; at times it is the exact opposite! The joy of watching a new foal bounce around their mother, the anticipation of a yearling walking in the sales ring, the excitement of a racehorse or a show horse performing, or even the contentment of a pasture horse grazing in a lush field of bluegrass is what drives me. These magnificent creatures need veterinarians to help prevent and treat medical problems.

    So how do I handle the lows of death? Because I get to see the highs of life and I know that in everything I do, I am doing it for the benefit of the animal.

    Advice for Veterinary Students

    November 28, 2012

    Dr. Ashley Craig
    So this entry really is focused more towards the veterinary students who are thinking of doing an equine internship. If you are a practitioner, please feel free to leave comments on advice or suggestions you have for veterinary students. If you are an owner, trainer, horse lover or just an avid reader of the Hagyard Intern Blog- I hope this entry doesn’t bore you too much!!!

    As a first year veterinary student, a senior veterinary student gave me some great advice; it was this advice that led me down the path to an amazing internship at Hagyard. The student suggested that I do externships every summer of veterinary school. For some, this might seem like over kill, but for me it worked. The summer after my first year, I only completed one externship, but I started doing research and made my game plan for my future. Each summer, Christmas break, and spring break, I spent my time at different veterinary clinics completing externships. In the end, I was able to choose the internship that was the best fit for me when multiple internships were offered.

    So how did I decide where to go and which clinic was the best fit for me? Here is how I went about it.

    1. Look for clinics that focus on your area of interest. If you don’t know what area of equine medicine interests you, look at clinics with well-rounded internships.
    2. Environment- With this one, I am not talking about the weather or surroundings but more about the people. Do you like the practitioners? Do you like the staff? In 10 years, can you envision yourself being a practitioner at that clinic and being happy? Your work environment is important to consider when choosing an internship. Look at how the current interns are treated- this is a great view of how you will be treated in the internship.
    3. Mentorship- this has been a big buzzword in the past several years especially in the small animal world but it isn’t over-hyped. Mentorship is important to your career and future. Does the internship provide adequate mentorship or do they just turn you loose on day one? Are your mentors truly available to you at any time? How much supervision do you need or want in your internship?
    4. Location- Yes, you can do anything for a year but if you are unhappy with your location it makes for a difficult year. If you can’t stand the cold- don’t look in Colorado!
    5. Values- If your ethics do not align with the ethics of the practitioners, that clinic is probably not a good fit for you. In the same instance, if you are focused on good business practices, the clinic you do an internship at should also have good business practices.
    6. The right clinic for Suzie Shoes might not be the right clinic for Joe Smith, so don’t judge a clinic by someone else’s experience, rumors or preconceived ideas.

    Ultimately, I personally suggest visiting multiple clinics of different size and styles to find what works best for you. What you have in your head that you want as a first year student isn’t always what fits you best.

    So how about when you get there. The following are my tips on how to get the most out of an externship.

    During the externship:
    1. Be yourself. Even the world’s best actors or actresses can’t keep up the act for a year. If you present yourself in a normal fashion, the practice can see if you are a good fit for them as well.
    2. Learn as much as possible- Do this by listening, reading up on cases at night, following up with the practitioners, and asking questions at the appropriate time (aka not in front of the client, or while the practitioner is on the phone).
    3. Carry a small notebook to write down details about cases, tips the practitioner gives or the 50 things you will learn each day.
    4. If you are asked a question and truly don’t know the answer- be honest.
    5. Manners go a long way. Be nice to everyone- including technicians, barn staff, owners, etc. Ask the technicians if there is anything you can do to help such as carrying buckets or equipment, but don’t step on their toes.
    6. Don’t sit in the car texting, checking emails, or even talking on the phone. It demonstrates to most people a lack of respect.
    7. Take pictures of the cases (as long as you have the practitioner’s permission) so you can remember and share them with classmates later. BUT DON’T post them on Facebook!!! As a rule of thumb, keep everything off Facebook, even if you don’t think it could be traced back to a clinic or horse, it is best not to put it there.
    8. Pack a lunch. During the busy season, you never know when you are going to get a chance to eat or stop for lunch. If you have snacks or even a sandwich packed, it makes life easier and you can handle the long days like a pro =)
    9. Don’t expect to get to do much technically, but be prepared to if you get the opportunity!

    And in the end, have fun and learn as much as you can. Even if the clinic doesn’t end up being the right one for you- as long as you have learned a lot, it is a beneficial experience. Enjoy your time as an extern and make friends with your fellow externs- you never know who will be your intern-mate in the future!