2 Years Down, 3 To Go!

I can’t quite believe that I have successfully completed two years of the course already! Yes that does mean that I passed those dreaded end of year summer exams. Let me tell you – they don’t get any easier. In fact this year was probably worse than last year as we had done so many subjects that I, personally, find very hard to understand and remember – parasitology, endocrinology, pharmacology the list goes on.

We only had two weeks of proper teaching and lectures this term. The last three weeks were what are termed Integrated Concepts (IC) weeks. This is a relatively new idea in the curriculum but I feel a very valuable one. The idea behind IC is that, in small groups, we can research and delve a little deeper into a chosen subject area. We had to present a ten minute PowerPoint presentation on a specific subject within a larger topic. There were three different topics each week and in our Directed Learning groups we had to prioritise them and then enter out choices into a bit of a lottery to see which topic we ‘won’. Well I have to say that my group was incredibly lucky as we got our first choice every week!

Week one’s overall topic was Environmental and Genetic Birth Defects. Within this my group were asked to do a presentation on Syndactyly. Syndactyly is a genetic birth defect whereby digits of a limb are fused e.g. a cow may be born with only a single toe instead of the usual two toes on each limb. Week two’s overall topic was The Post Partum Dairy Cow – A Challenge to the Industry. For this we were asked to look at the role genetics plays in this. Week three was all about welfare (my favourite subject – ever!), we were asked to look at pet rabbit welfare. Believe it or not there is NO legislation specifically aimed at pet rabbits in the UK. That means NO licences for rabbit breeders, NO compulsory inspections for rabbit breeders and NO official education on rabbit care for pet owners.

I found this surprising and disturbing. Given that rabbits are the third most popular pets after dogs and cats and that most rabbits seen by vets in practice have problems that could be prevented by owners being educated about their rabbits’ needs, you would think the government would issue some guidelines about their care and welfare. Instead it is left to organisations such as the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund. Rabbits are not the best pets for small children and are certainly not happy simply stuck in a hutch their entire lives, please do your research thoroughly before getting your children pet rabbits. If your children are pestering you Emma’s Pet Detectives Rabbits book could be ideal to teach your children all their needs and get them thinking about whether you can afford the time, space and energy they need BEFORE you get them.

So, rant over, let’s move on to other things. I did some more farm placements at the end of this term. I went back to the same dairy farm as last year for a week except this time a friend from college came too. We had a great time. I also went to another mixed farm that had cows, sheep, pigs and chickens – crazily busy!

Although a bit depressing I feel I should tell you about two traumatic things that happened this term too. Firstly, I was out walking my dog three days before my exams started and whilst busily trying to revise cardiology my beautiful girl Kess was attacked by another dog! A chocolate Labrador of all things. This, incidentally, is exactly why I say Deed Not Breed – ANY dog can be dangerous! I am now introducing a new piece to my articles entitled – This Term’s Pet Hate! Yes you guessed it This Term’s Pet Hate is people letting their dangerous dog off the lead. If your dog can be aggressive toward other living creatures (dogs or humans) then you MUST keep it on a lead preferably muzzled but always under control. I am a firm believer that 99% of aggressive dogs can be helped with the correct guidance from a qualified professional. Please, for others’ safety and your dog’s sanity, find a dog behaviourist (member of the APBC) that can help you and your dog. It is the height of irresponsible dog ownership to know your dog can be aggressive and still let it off the lead on walks! Kess sustained an inch wide tooth puncture wound to her left skin flank, which has, thankfully all healed now without complication but the emotional damage is sometimes worse than the physical!

The second traumatic event to occur this term was when my friend’s dog Charlie went to investigate a swimming pool in someone’s garden. He walked up to the edge and assumed the cover was a continuation of the ground. Yup you’ve guessed it he fell straight in but also UNDER the cover and couldn’t push it up to get his head above the water! I have never run so fast in my entire life, I threw myself onto the ground and hanging over the edge, shoved my arms into the water and grabbed his collar and yanked him out! I have not been that scared in a long time. He went for a nice long walk after that and he was absolutely fine – luckily! Note for all – put a locked fence around outdoor swimming pools, they can be death traps.

So come September I will be a THIRD year vet student – I can’t believe it! The RVC’s course is split in two with the first two years being called the preclinical years and based in London, the last three years are the clinical years and are based in Potter’s Bar in Hertfordshire. So it’s a big change from September as we will effectively be going to a ‘new’ college. We’ll all have to learn the campus layout and all the new staff! However, these issues are outweighed by the fact that we will finally feel like proper vet students as we will be going off to vet practices to ‘see practice’ or as it’s officially called Extra Mural Studies or EMS. This is the part of the course I have been looking forward to since day one, I have always learnt better through doing and seeing than reading and so I should ‘come into my own’, as they say, for the next three years. I still stand by what I said last year though; that each year just gets harder and harder and I am hoping I don’t find it too hard to work whilst I have everything crossed!

Anyhoo, until next time take care of yourselves and your animals.

Another Day, Another College.

At the end of my first term as a third year I can honestly say that – I LOVE being at the Hawkshead Campus. It is like studying at a whole different college. We even get to see daylight sometimes when moving between buildings around the campus. Camden was nice but Hawkshead is great. And I have to say that the teaching experience is so different – though some of the Camden staff have been spotted occasionally. The staff that are teaching us now are all practising clinicians and it really shows in their teaching styles and abilities, they really know exactly what we need to know to be successful (and useful) when working in vet practices and they are so enthusiastic when teaching us. It’s all so, well relevant is the most apt word!

I always knew I would love it when we finally got to the clinical years but I could not stop smiling and almost bursting out of my seat for every single lecture for the entire first week. As far as I was concerned they couldn’t have pitched it better, because we started by learning the logical approach to clinical-based problem solving – now I know that sound like a mouthful but it simply means using your common sense and anatomical and physiological knowledge to work out what the possible problems are that a sick animal may be suffering from – instead of the old school teaching of learning list after list of differential diagnoses. This relates back to something I talked about in a previous article about being allowed into an elite world with a secret language but the great thing is ANYONE can learn the language – because it really is common sense! To a student the idea of being able to actually diagnose what is wrong with a sick animal is the Holy Grail and almost impossible but with this approach it is enlightening to say the least.

episode-9-1aAnyway back to the course. We had an introductory talk about EMS (Extramural Studies) or ‘seeing practice’ as it is often called. This is what I consider to be the most important part of our learning experience, where we go out to actually work alongside practising vets and vet nurses and see and practise all the practical skills we will have to have learnt by the time we graduate. It’s basically how and where we learn to be vets. I cannot believe that there are discussions at present about whether EMS should be optional instead of mandatory as it is currently!

I have already booked some ten weeks of placements at a variety of vet practices from purely small furries to large farm animal practices and I have to say I can’t wait to get stuck in at Easter. In order to prepare us for the many many new practical skills we will be learning, we get classes in the Clinical Skills Centre (CSC) which is staffed by half a dozen of the most wonderful ladies you could possibly want to teach you. They are so friendly, welcoming and patient that I fail to see how anyone could not love attending their timetabled classes in the CSC. So far we have been introduced to things such as blood sampling, gloving and gowning, draping a patient and even how to wash your hands – properly!episode-13-2b

We also had to hand in our 4000 word Research Project in December and although I was fully intending to have done it over the summer I of course didn’t finish it by my goal of September but I did hand it in a good week before the deadline and have to say that I was very proud of the final article. This would be a good point at which to mention the lovely ladies who work in Registry. They handle our every concern on administrative matters of the course; they’re always ready with a smile and a sweet to calm you down when you’re in a panic over something or other. So hi ladies!

Well I think that’s all for now, so until next term take of yourselves and your animals.