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Through the Black Hole How to Survive Vet School
A lot of kids want to be veterinarians, but it’s not until they get a little older that they realize the job isn’t just hugging puppies and kittens. Throughout the school year, we’ll sometimes have high school kids come in to shadow the clinic and see what happens behind the scenes. Once, we had a girl come in who was torn between becoming a veterinarian or going to nursing school. She didn’t stick around for the full day before deciding nursing school was the right call for her. I don’t blame her. There’s a lot of stressful, sad things about the job. That said, every profession has its unique challenges, and there’s no way I could do anything else. It’s partly because I love being a veterinarian and partly because I worked really hard to get here. Vet school is no joke. In vet school, the sheer volume of the material can be overwhelming. It’s a full-time job, and you’re either in class or studying 50 hours a week. The second year of vet school is the hardest part. During the first year, you’re running on excitement and adrenaline; in your third year, you get to learn more interesting, relevant material; and during your fourth year, you’re in the home stretch. But that second year is a black hole. It was during the fall finals of my second year that I came close to quitting. During the last week of the semester, I had two finals a day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. By Tuesday afternoon, I had taken four finals with four more to go. The biggest test was still looming ahead of me, which was a massive math test on Friday. I had hundreds of pages worth of notes to get through before the text, but after eight hours, I’d only covered two pages. The next morning, I felt so overwhelmed, I called the dean and made an appointment to drop out.
To this day, I’m thankful the dean talked me
off the ledge. She reminded me how much I wanted to be a veterinarian and taught me a studying trick to get over
the hump. I set a timer, studied for five minutes, watched TV for 55 minutes, and then studied for another five minutes. After a couple rounds of that, I snapped out of it and realized I only had six hours left to study, and then I was back to my normal self. Since I’m a veterinarian today, you’ve probably guessed that I passed the test and went on to graduate from vet school. I’d never experienced that kind of stress before, and I wasn’t alone. A lot of my friends in vet school came close to dropping out — though I don’t think any of them made an appointment with the dean. It was a tough road, but I’m so glad I stuck with it. When kids ask me if they should become a veterinarian, I warn them of the challenges, both in vet school and on the job; they need to be positive this is what they want to do because it’s not easy. But if their heart is set on it and they have what it takes, then I encourage them to go for it. Being a vet is worth the effort, and I’m thankful every day that I didn’t quit during my second year.
—Dr. Derrick Nelson
Treating Your Pets Like Family
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