These programs are intense and demanding, and you should expect to work hard. Hours can be long, but learning opportunities abound, as long as you are willing to face the challenges associated with the position. Keep reading, to learn tips to maximize your veterinary internship experience.
1. Research extensively to find the right program
When choosing a veterinary internship, ensure you are applying for or matching with a suitable position. If possible, visit the practice to assess the environment and determine if the setting is conducive for learning. Consider the following:
- Type of practice — Do you learn better in a large practice with many interns, or would you prefer a smaller practice that employs only one or two interns?
- Veterinarians who work at the practice — Is their demeanor and teaching style compatible with your learning style? Are you comfortable asking questions and expressing your opinion?
- Residency program — If you are interested in participating in a residency program after your internship, ensure the practice has specialists in your specific interest area.
- Location — Choose a practice in an acceptable location. You won’t have excess free time to travel long distances, so if visiting family and friends is important, you should choose a practice that is geographically convenient to where they live.
- Cost of living — Another point of consideration is the price of living in the area. , and you will need to be able to afford housing, preferably close to the practice.
#2: Embrace the educational opportunities
Graduating from veterinary school does not mean you know everything, and an internship provides a place that offers guidance, as well as the chance to hone your skills under the supervision of experienced mentors. View each new case as a chance to learn and gain experience diagnosing and treating patients. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand why a particular test was ordered, or why a specific treatment protocol was chosen. As an intern, your job is to learn and gain experience, which requires your active participation. In addition, be prepared to study when you’re not at the clinic. Your research and studying days didn’t end when you received your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and extensively reviewing the information will help you learn much more. As a veterinarian, you will be learning for the rest of your career, and your internship will help prepare you to see every new experience as an educational opportunity.
#3: Step outside your comfort zone
While graduating from veterinary school does not mean you know everything, the accomplishment does signify that you have certain skills, and have earned the title of veterinarian. This means that you are perfectly capable of handling challenging tasks. As an intern, do not sit quietly by, watching everyone else perform their job. An internship should challenge you on multiple levels, and you must step outside your comfort zone to learn new procedures and techniques. The beauty of an internship is your ability to perform technically challenging procedures, with the support of experienced veterinarians willing to guide you and offer assistance.
#4: Listen to your technicians and nurses
Many veterinary technicians and nurses have been practicing for years, and they have extensive knowledge and experience. Underestimating the importance of their advice and disrespecting their counsel will make your year difficult. These individuals are extremely intelligent, and know the clinic dynamics. Make friends with the veterinary technicians and nurses, and ensure you take their advice to heart. In addition, use them as an expert resource, asking questions when you need guidance.
#5: Make yourself stand out
An internship program is only one year long, and you will need to find a residency or a position at a veterinary practice after completing the year. Finding your next placement will be easier if you make yourself stand out to ensure your superiors not only realize your worth, but also will be inspired to provide a glowing recommendation. Tips to make yourself noteworthy include:
- Being the hardest worker — Arrive early and stay late. Ensure you are working harder than anyone else in the room.
- Being willing to do menial jobs — The current staffing shortages in the veterinary field have led to menial tasks being neglected. If a cage needs cleaning or a dog needs walking, perform the task without letting your ego get in the way. Be a team player and help when needed.
- Being prepared — Be prepared for the day’s cases. Study the night before to ensure you know the material, and can answer questions about potential diagnostics and treatment options.
- Being respectful — Always show respect to the senior veterinarians, residents, fellow interns, veterinary technicians, office staff, clients, and pet patients.
#6: Prepare for the residency match early
The Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program (VIRMP) starts accepting applications in October, and the competition can be fierce. If you are interested in a residency position, and you have a particular field of interest, request that rotation early in your internship, to ensure you want to dedicate your life to that specialty. This will also help you make connections with clinicians in the field, so they can provide recommendations when needed.
A veterinary internship is a daunting prospect, but the position will provide invaluable experience and connections as you proceed in your career. The year may be tough, but the training will help you develop the skills you need to become a proficient veterinarian.