We are sharpened and refined as we go through trials in life. After 10 years as a veterinarian, I can say that my year as an intern was my most difficult, yet and resulted in the greatest growth. Many studies have shown that while veterinary internships have demanding schedules, are emotionally exhausting, and can cause burnout in some participants; veterinarians who completed an internship would do it all over again.
During my internship, I worked up to 80 hours a week. I had several emotional and physical breakdowns, still I was challenged to BE a veterinarian. At the end, I left confident. I was comfortable dealing with clients and ready to tackle my first job as a solo equine ambulatory practitioner.
As a student in veterinary medicine it is never too early to consider where your career will take you. In the United States it is recommended (but not required) to do an internship unless you want to pursue a specialty. Wanting to be an Equine Ambulatory Veterinarian, I always knew an internship was my first step after graduation to equip myself to work out in the field alone one day.
Entering a veterinary internship at an equine hospital that provided both specialty and ambulatory services was the best fit for me. I visited at least eighteen practices as a student. I spoke to numerous clinicians and practicing equine veterinarians about what each program was able to offer. I prioritized location, practice culture, and amount of hands on experience I would receive when making my final choice.
The location of your internship will depend on many factors. Some young veterinarians may be confined to a certain area based on a spouse’s job, cost of living, or housing options. Staying close to a good support network is very important for some new graduates and should be prioritized if possible. As an alternative, new veterinarians who have the desire to travel and explore the States can use an internship as an opportunity to discover new places. There are multiple positions available in every State and each offers a unique encounter.
Culture, as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”. Overall, I had a positive view of my team. However, there were occasional incidents of drama and conflict. These issues allowed me to hone my skills for how to deal with clients. This is one of the most important tools for the Veterinarian to have in their tool box.
Over the span of a year I participated in equine emergencies, surgeries, internal medicine cases, vaccinations, and lots of reproductive work from insemination to foaling. At the beginning we were always paired with one of the senior veterinarians, and then were eventually turned loose to see emergencies alone. It was terrifying, empowering, and exciting. I spoke with many classmates who NEVER were able to act as the primary veterinarian on any cases. Some liked that format, but it would have been frustrating for me personally.
Ultimately, I would agree with the veterinarians who responded to the AVMA 2012 Internship Survey. Of those surveyed 84% responded that they would complete an internship again if given the chance. I also started an informal online poll in a Veterinary Medicine closed Facebook group. Of the 311 respondents, approximately 70% did a small animal specific internship and 30% participated in a large animal focused one (Figure1).
The Top Ten words used to describe the veterinary internships can be seen below (Figure 2). They were 70% positive in nature and 30% negative. The overwhelming consensus was that it was a positive experience. Multiple times the comments stated how difficult the year was. One vet even said, “It was straight HELL”. They went on to say, “However, it made me the person I am today”.
There has been a global push over the past few years to place standards on working hours and the support that Veterinary Interns receive. This is an important step to assure that all new grads have a fulfilling experience that results in growth and excellence, not exhaustion and a distaste for this profession. The value of an internship lies in the experience it can offer the young veterinarian. Choosing the right one can give a strong foundation that will result in a long, rewarding career as a veterinarian.