As many of you know over 4 years ago now I made the decision to go to vet school. I am now in year 2 (having dropped back a year due to COVID taking away childcare) and I am absolutely loving it!
This has naturally caused a bit of a decline with my blogging (apologies!) but I thought I'd break the quiet spell with a blog about some of the things I didn't know about vet school until I arrived there!
Firstly (and this is probably obviously to many, but it wasn't to me!) vet school is hard - really hard! Each day, 5 days a week, for 11 weeks a semester, 2 semesters a year, it feels like being under an information siege that you need to retain, assimilate and put into context with other information that is being bombarded at you, whilst also needing to read and keep up with your own independent learning at the same time. It is intense! I strongly feel the reason vet schools have such high entry requirements is not that the content itself is difficult, but that the volume is incredible - so students have to be capable of keeping up with it all! I think there has been a real tendency to dumb down professionals such as vets in recent years, as information becomes more and more freely available and people do their own research. This research is invaluable because it is wonderful for owners to be informed on their pet's health and wellbeing, but equally it is worth remembering that researching something on google is very different to being taught content through a degree. It is just not the same thing.
Also, along the way I have seen several friends on the course drop out, drop back or take time off and I know that some of them have had a hard time with disappointed family or friends. But the reality is that vet school is hard and a huge commitment. Until you are on the course, you have no idea what it is like and if you are not enjoying it - it's a long time and a lot of work if you've realised it's not for you! It's also not unusual for exams to be failed and need resitting, possibly repeating a year - this is not a bad thing, it's just a reminder that the course itself is hard and standards are high!
Secondly I have frequently heard repeated, that 'vet schools do not teach much about nutrition'. This is just not true. Being able to assess and advise on nutrition is what is known as a 'Day One Competency' of all new graduating veterinary surgeons with the RCVS. So vet schools very much teach students about nutrition! At Surrey we actually have nutrition wound through the entire curriculum, repeatedly for each body system and for animal husbandry. It does amuse me that there are often reports that vets only study it for one module (one module is normally 150 hours of study, so not insignificant besides!) and that vets are only trained in nutrition by feed companies - in fact if this were the case then qualifying vets would not meet the standard of the Veterinary College on graduation!
Lastly (and these are just a few of the preconceptions I have had, I will write more as I have time) I was not aware until I joined that the rates of suicide in the veterinary profession are disproportionately high. There are a lot of issues here, it is a complex problem, but I cannot help but think that the general public attitude towards vet is quite poor. Vets are often accused of 'being in it for the money' or of 'not caring about pets' for various reasons, but mostly because they have to charge for treatments - they are not a charity and cannot use there time, equipment and skills for free without either running at a loss, not having a salary or burning out. I have met a lot of people on the course in my year and others, we have lots of differences, but one common goal, we love animals and want to help them. However veterinary help is an expensive job so each consultation fee goes towards paying:
- The vet surgeon's salary
- The salary of the receptionist who scheduled the appointments/calls clients with updates
- The telephone line
- The building rent/mortgage and the business rates
- The salaries of the nurses
- The cost of storing medication in the premises, ready to be prescribed when needed.
- Professional memberships and CPD which have to be updated regularly
- A student loan that for tuition alone will be around £46,250 for current graduates, let alone maintenance loan on top.
- Electricity, water, heating.
- Equipment such as kennels and cages, operating table, scalpels etc etc
- Gas for anaesthetics.
- Pet food for clients staying in overnight
I remember looking up the NHS cost figures for a human C section - this was ballpark £1000, vet surgeries only charge a fraction of that for a canine c section, but they still have most of the same costs! So when the surgery charges what seems like an extortionate amount for a single visit, please remember that you are not just paying for 15 minutes of the vets time, you are paying for all of the things above too - and for them to be ready in the event of your pet having a life threatening emergency! So please be kind to your vet - this is their job that they are passionate about and have trained exceptionally hard for and they deserve to be paid for that without accusations of 'money grabbing'.
So there you have it - my first blog in a year! I am hoping to write all about vet school as I know so many would find it interesting - many more posts to follow!