Shadowing Professionals in Veterinary Medicine: Reflection

Dr. Byers has scrubbed in and prepped for surgery

Veterinary Technicians are preparing to take an X-Ray of a cat’s injured leg.

1.) This summer, I spent six weeks shadowing professionals in veterinary medicine at Grady Veterinary Hospital for about 20 hours each week. I primarily shadowed two veterinarians, Dr. Byers and Dr. Jurgens, who taught me about proper bedside manner, reading x-rays, surgery, and so much more. Grady Vet is an emergency clinic, so every day was unique and fast-paced, which made my experience this summer that much more valuable.

2.) Prior to my shadowing experience at Grady Veterinary Hospital, I was very nervous to work in small animal emergency medicine because my friends and family told me how difficult it would be, and how I may not be cut out for facing so much trauma on a daily basis. However, my summer shadowing taught me the exact opposite. Even on days when Dr. Byers and Dr. Jurgens would seem to face setback after setback, there was always a silver lining. I learned to soak in the successes and distance myself slightly from the failures. I also saw on a daily basis how much families love their pets, which further proved to me that I want to do this important job in the future.

3.) At the beginning of my six weeks shadowing, I knew I was passionate about pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, however I had not ever experienced the trials and tribulations that the job brings first hand. I was initially skeptical about whether or not small animal emergency medicine would be a field I would enjoy because of the constant high stakes and problems with cost of treatment when interacting with clients. However, during my six weeks I was shocked to find how much I absolutely loved emergency medicine, because it constantly presented new challenges, was fast paced, and never stagnant. At times, witnessing the delivery of bad news, or having a patient take a turn for the worse was incredibly heartbreaking, but I found that successes balance out the low points.

I often inquired Dr. Byers and Dr. Jurgens about what made them choose to work in emergency medicine, and how they prevent the hard times from outweighing the good times. They both told me that although every life that is lost still takes a toll, they have to absorb the good that they do for animals and their families more than the times they’re unable to succeed. Dr. Byers even teared up after several euthanasias she had to do this summer, so it was clear that she was always attached to all of her patients. Despite these moments, it was also evident that she was still eager and excited to come to work every day and truly loves her job because she was always so excited to meet patients and work to treat any problems they were facing.

I was also very concerned that working in this field of veterinary medicine would be difficult because animals are often abused, however my outlook completely changed this summer because working with companion animals showed me how much people love their pets and treat them as family. In fact, one of my saddest moments this summer was also one of the happiest. Dr. Jurgens had to euthanize a dog named Penny who had a splenic mass, and while I observed the euthanasia, the entire family was petting her the whole time and telling Penny how much they would always love her and that she had lived a great life. Although my heart was broken for that family, it showed me how valuable the work I may do someday as a veterinarian is. Moments like these completely transformed how I viewed the hardships that emergency medicine presents, and instilled a deep love and respect for the field and people who work in it.

4.) In all aspects of my life, I tend to struggle with focusing on the positives rather than the negatives. My six weeks at Grady Vet provided me with invaluable experience I hope to use in my future career as a veterinarian, and showed me that I love emergency medicine more than I could have imagined. However, even more than that, my shadowing experience showed me how to cherish every victory and soak them in, and then let those dampen the effects of failures or setbacks. I plan to use this to my advantage for the rest of my life, and look at the world with a new positive lens.

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