I have just wrapped up my first half of final year with a module in small animal soft tissue and orthopedic surgery, and two weeks working in the intensive care unit (ICU). This has been a particularly busy module, which was slightly unfortunate this time of year as I didn’t get a chance to do any Christmas shopping! Instead I will have to join the crowds tomorrow in the last-minute gift buying….
Surgery is obviously an important skill for veterinarians as I will likely be doing regular small surgeries, such as spays, neuters, mass removals, etc. More complicated and lengthy surgeries are not expected to be in my repertoire when I qualify and they don’t really appeal to me, at least not at this point in my training. So, while the surgeries I observed over the two weeks were interesting and impressive, they were often a bit over my head and I’m confident I don’t want to pursue extra training in surgery! More and more, internal medicine really appeals to me.
The last two weeks, I’ve been in the ICU. For the first seven days I was there during the day shift, which meant I saw a lot of the cases that were admitted and got to watch the initial work-up for the presenting problem. During that time I met a very sweet dog that was severely ill, and she became the patient I spent the most time with. Her case was very challenging, and she was eventually put to sleep, which was unfortunate but absolutely the best decision, as the owners only had her best interests in mind. I’m glad I got to spend the week with her, and I know I tried my hardest to keep her comfortable during that time.
The final 7 days of ICU were the night shift, and included looking after the entire hospital in the evening and early morning. Working with emergency medicine means alternating between periods of boredom and excitement, and also only rare snippets of sleep! The wards were particularly busy on Wednesday and Thursday and the ICU was crowded, with cases needing constant monitoring, so my group was very sleep-deprived by Friday, and happy that a lot of the day cases were sent home for the weekend. Emergency medicine isn’t my calling but it’s important to know what to do in cases of acute emergencies, which are inevitable in practice, so I hope I learned something useful.
By the weekend, things had quieted down and I got a chance to spend some quality time with the patients. When you’re busy you are focusing on doing what needs to be done, like treatments and making sure the dogs get a chance to go outside and their beds are clean. But when you have a bit of time, you get the chance to crawl into the kennel and scratch ears and give kisses and belly rubs. It’s nice for the patients, as they can relax a bit in their kennels, and nice for the poor tired students, who can relax a bit as well!