My New “Job” As a Vet Student

My New “Job” As a Vet Student

Have you ever entered a situation thinking you knew exactly how to handle it? You’d trained hard, practiced every day, and every decision you’d made was in service of achieving your goal. Then, once you make it, you start to think maybe you’re not quite as prepared as you though? That’s how I felt during my first semester of veterinary school.

Workplace to workload

I worked part-time at a small animal hospital for three years during undergrad and then switched to full-time during my gap year before vet school. I was in love with working. I loved getting up early and putting in a hard day’s work. I loved my coworkers and the relationships that I could form with clients while also being hands-on and in the thick of it all. When I got accepted to Tuft’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine I felt ready to start the life of a student anew. After all, I thought, how much harder could it be than the demanding world of a small animal hospital? Little did I know how challenging life as a veterinary student could be.

The first days of school were exhilarating and went by quickly. During the first few weeks, classes started to pile up on each other, September became crowded with tests, and by the time October rolled around I was in full-fledged panic mode. Exams had come and left a wreckage of average scores and deflated confidence, my stress was increasing because I had little time to exercise or relax, and no relief was on the horizon. How was this happening? I had just left a workplace that demanded excellent time management skills, flexibility, on-your-feet thinking and fast-paced scheduling. Why wasn’t I able to apply those same valuable skills to veterinary school? I felt like all the hard work, all the practice, and all the training had failed me.

Where to go from here?

As the semester progressed self-doubt began to creep into every nook and cranny of my day. There were times that I thought I didn’t belong amongst the ranks of my peers. Maybe I had spent too much time out of school? Maybe the classes were just too hard for me? How was I ever going to be as successful at school as I was at my old job? The turnaround point came after Thanksgiving break. I had seen my family, stuffed myself with turkey, taken a copious amount of naps and was feeling reluctant to return to the real world of school. The night before I left to go back to school I had a very important epiphany: I was throwing myself a pity party. Sure, I was no longer doing the same tasks I did as a vet tech, but the skills I had learned on the job were still there, waiting to be put to good use. It was up to me to use them.

Conscious decision-making

Upon returning to school a new round of final exams loomed in the near future, but this time I was ready for the challenge. A new determination overtook me and I made a conscious effort to apply my workforce skill set to my new job as a student. I used my time management and organizational skills to help me schedule out my day and allow time for stress-relief while also keeping my workload balanced. As I applied all the skills I had learned from the workplace the days became manageable, and eventually even enjoyable, simply because I had taken the time to realize that I was capable of succeeding in my new life. The key to this change was the conscious, deliberate decision I made (and still make) every day to approach my job as a student of veterinary medicine with the same passion and dedication as I had in the workforce.

Transitioning from the workplace back to school comes with its challenges, but for me the benefits of that year I spent working far outweighed the initial struggle of re-entering student life. My advice to people in the same situation is to take a step back and remember that you were chosen for a seat in the lecture hall because you deserve to be there. Believing that you can succeed is the first step.