Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mental dysfunction of vet students.

Earlier this semester a professor said something that made us all laugh. "You're all a little OCD, otherwise you wouldn't be in vet school." It's funny, but it's so true. Vet students are, by and large, Type A, perfectionist, control freaks.

Case in point, my Intro to Clinics physical examination exam today. It was divided into canine, equine and ovine portions with 5 minutes per section. You went in and picked a card that had 5 tasks from the physical examination of that species on it and had to complete those tasks while describing them out loud to an instructor who could (theoretically) offer you no feedback. For instance, if you got palpation of the throacic limb as one of your tasks you'd have to describe what you're doing, why/what you're feeling for, and if you did feel any abnormalities what they could indicate. That's just one task and you've got five to complete in five minutes. It's a little nerve-wracking.

Long story short, I completely choked on the equine portion. My third objective was to palpate the pulse in a superficial artery of the head and I found my landmarks and explained why I was palpating in that location and how (palmar aspects of the distal ends of the fingers, NOT the tips!) and then I went to feel the pulse and... nothing. Couldn't find it. I spent over a minute trying three different locations on the horse to get this damn pulse and I couldn't feel a thing. Time ran out and I didn't complete my last two tasks.

So I am definitely repeating that portion, which is fine. It's why they offer make-up in the week following the exam. Not everyone passes all three sections the first time. I know this. I know it's okay. And I absolutely rocked my canine and ovine portions. I mean, I freaking nailed them. I know this because this is where the "theoretically" part about no feedback comes in. While they can't tell you if you've successfully completed a task or answer questions during the exam, both my canine and ovine instructors told me I did a wonderful job after I completed my exam. In fact, my ovine evaluator was quite enthusiastic about what a great job I'd done.

This is where that pesky, perfectionist vet student thing is so annoying. I nailed 2/3 portions of that exam with high praise. I screwed up one part, which I have an opportunity to redo and I will do fine on next time. But instead of feeling good about the parts I did well on, I mostly just feel like a complete and utter failure and horribly embarrassed about the part I did poorly on. It's totally black and white with us vet types. Either we're awesome, or we suck. There is no in between.


  1. ...because what you do is life-or-death. Good for you for being a perfectionist. My old vet that I miss like crazy always did nose-to-tail for any foster I brought in even if she'd known the dog for a year and trusted me to report anything strange. She discovered a mouth cancer teeensy tumor during an intubation for something else. That's the kind of vet we all want.

    1. Yeah, I know. I just... Ugh. It's hard when you can't reward yourself for the good without feeling a mountain of shame and remorse for the bad.

    2. After my last dog died I interlibrary loaned the textbook on veterinary ER and found that the respiratory symptoms I described to my vet at 8 a.m. were on page ONE of that book! She made a 5:00 appointment instaed of telling me to bring my dog right in. My dog died at home while I was at work and I found her when I went home for lunch. That was over a year ago and I still wish I'd insisted on bringing her in right away even though my vet probably didn't remember what was on page two either.