Paws for Thought

Hurray it’s the Easter hols at long last! The past two weeks have been rather interesting but seen as social media is plagued by the C word, I thought it was a good time to write a post for my blog. So, rest assured Covid-warriors, this is a virus free blog post! No Corona here, just the ins and outs of my second semester at vet school from the Christmas hols (how long ago they seem) to the pre-lockdown days. Grab a cuppa (or something stronger) and your 17th biscuit of the day and enjoy reading something other than the C news.

Over the Christmas hols I completed a week of EMS at my local mixed animal vet practice. The practice was having a new extension built including a new theatre! Once I’d navigated the new rooms, I was able to practice the clinical skills I’d learnt in first semester; radiography, IV fluid drips, bandaging, urine tests, blood tests, and asepsis (that’s right we’re taught how wash our hands). During our professional skills seminars we learn how to take a patient’s history, so I set out to practice this skill for my assessment (little did I know it would be cancelled… oops, no more C word!). My lecturers were right, the small talk as a vet student is easy:
“Hi I’m a vet student.”
“Oh really, my grandson is a vet student! What vet school do you go to?
“I’m at Liverpool.” *points to badge or polo shirt logo*
“I always wanted to be a vet. It’s 7 years isn’t it, to be a vet?”
“Well actually it’s 5 if you don’t count A-Levels.”
… And so on and so forth.
The end of a consult is nearly always the same too. Something along the lines of; “Well good luck with your studies!”, which I’m not sick of hearing yet… maybe by 5th year.

My first patient discharge was ‘dis’-appointing to say the least. I really thought I’d nailed the bandage care. It was all there on the discharge notes I had printed off. All I had to do was verbalise the notes, hand them over and fetch “Fluffy” (or Scruffy or something). I made sure to discuss the bandage in detail; what to expect, what to look for, how the anaesthetic drugs would take a while to wear off properly etc. The owner was nodding along as I reassured her, thanking me countless times for the amazing job we (probably not me) do as vets. I told her to call if she had any worries, they teach us this at vet school, they call it “the safety net”. Later that day the owner had called three times about Fluffy; Why was he so quiet?, Why was he licking the bandage?, Why wasn’t he running upstairs and playing with her friend’s dogs?… I looked totally incompetent, but at least I know why they call it “the safety net” now, because you can end up getting caught out and tangled from the vet questioning your discharge technique. Which reminds me of an acronym we have been banned from using in refence to owners; PBTO – Pet Brighter Than Owner.

I attended numerous farm visits too. From scanning Kerry Hill ewes for lambs to placing an IV catheter (under supervision) in the jugular of a cow with metabolic acidosis. The herd had broken into the pig feed and quite literally engorged themselves like pigs. Their rumen cannot cope with the high energy feed and they require a lot of fluid to balance the level of acid created in their gut. The farmers don’t usual partake in small talk, I think they fear it will be added to the call-out fee. That said, some offer you a guided tour, free eggs and a cuppa. Although it does always make me wonder if they’re trying to get their dog vaccines knocked off the bill, that they’d conveniently forgotten were due. The vet once told me, you won’t meet anyone tighter than a Yorkshire farmer, you can do them a job for free and they’ll still ask you for a favour.

I had been pleased with my feedback form from my week at the vets and I had hoped to mirror my success in my January mock exams. Four exams; two written, one SPOT (stations with objects and questions) and one OSPE that was divided into clinical skills (thankfully I had lambing) and a quiz over a dissected forelimb. We finished on the last Friday of January and we were into semester 2 by the Monday. We had our winter formal the week after exams. As I’ve said before, the vets have a social for every occasion, and finishing exams is most definitely a cause for celebration. Poor Izzy wasn’t very well so Eve and I made it our mission to drink her share too, which somehow ended in me doing laps of the bus depo on a city bike!

I was glad to be back at first aid learning the skills I need to become an advanced first aider. We had a talk from the uni’s BSL society, who taught us some sign language which I must say was not completely farfetched from charades. I discovered the vets have their own CU too. Everyone is so lovely and each week we meet up to discuss what we have struggled with or need guidance on and then we pray together. I had been to the Everyman theatre to see Animal Farm, where an elderly couple wished me well with my studies following an awkward conversation where I thought they were asking me about my knowledge of animal farming, oops. Eve and I had a huge fan girl moment when we attended a talk by the Yorkshire Vet; Peter Wright. Not to be confused with another famous Yorkshire Peter… and no I don’t mean you Uncle Peter. By the end of the talk, we’d had our books signed and picture taken, whilst Izzy was still trying to figure out where Yorkshire was… bloody Southerners!

Just as I was beginning the first series of Grey’s Anatomy and wondering whether I would make it as a surgeon, we received our exam results. We had been told that if you gained more than 50% on any exam, you had revised far more than you had needed to. As 50% is all you need to move on to second year, and it is by no means easy to get half marks. So, I was more than satisfied with my grades that had bordered 70%, relieved was an understatement. We had another drawing task to complete after exams; a schematic drawing of the equine gastrointestinal tract. I was rather pleased with mine but seen as it hasn’t been marked yet I won’t dare to jinx it. Whilst I’m on with grades I may as well mention that I scored 90% on my epidemiology assessment too, not bad for an essay on Lyme disease, the most ticks I’ve ever seen (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Season 4 of Grey’s Anatomy accompanied my final weeks of uni. I helped out at the applicant day, where prospective students meet staff and current students to decide which uni to make their first choice. It’s a bit like a backwards Hunger Games, the unis are the districts and the students are the tributes, except the tributes choose their district and the unis are the ones fighting. We gave a presentation where I discussed life in Liverpool and have I got a lot to say about Liverpool! But essentially, we were paid to host a quiz which was very similar to my SPOT exam, so I made use of the additional revision. Before we suddenly left uni, we had a week of bacteria practicals where we cultivated our hand bacteria on agar plates, somewhat forewarning, but thankfully I have very clean hands.

Which brings us back to reality. I hope you managed to forget about the C word for a while, I know I did writing this, looking back on my happy memories of second semester and life before the lockdown. With a lot more to come if my exams go as planned. It wasn’t quite how I’d imagined finishing my first year but hey ho, least it wasn’t my actual first! Stay home, stay safe, and (I don’t know who needs to hear this) shut the fridge!

Big loves (from a respectable 2m distance) Evie xx

P.S For a bit of fun, email me (ealsellars@hotmail.co.uk) a picture of what your pets/ furry co-workers have been up to during the lockdown and I will give you (and them) a shout-out on my next blog!

Revising with my best pal

Presents from my not so ‘best’ pals

Before things went from 0 to 100 (laps)
Peter Wright aka The Yorkshire Vet
Tesco’s finest
Clinical skills’ finest
Not my finest…

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