Classroom to Clinic: The Thrill of Competence

Switching rotations can be jarring, but it also brings a dawning realization to this veterinary student
Alexa Ortiz
Alexa Ortiz. Photo: Jake Belcher
March 2, 2017

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In this series, students from Cummings School’s Class of 2017 tell us about the excitement, anxiety and pride of beginning their clinical rotations.

The most annoying thing about clinics is that right when you finally feel confident in your work, you have to switch rotations. The first time that happened for me, I’d just gotten through an anesthesia rotation. When it began, I was panicking whenever I was left alone in the operating room, and by the time it ended, I was calmly and independently adjusting ventilator settings during long, complex surgeries, knowing that if I made a bad decision, the patient could die.

And then suddenly I wasn’t using those skills anymore, because I was starting a large animal medicine rotation. My life revolved around adorable neonatal babies, all-night on-call shifts, rectal palpations, nose tubes, horses with abdominal upset, and eight pig patients. There was also a vast amount of material to review—for example, drugs: the properties of each one, its uses, its contraindications, its mechanism of action, the diseases it treats.

But what you discover with these jarring changes is that you can deal with them. You learn to relax, to trust your abilities and your judgment. You find yourself remembering forgotten details from lectures and PowerPoint slides. And you answer questions you didn’t think you could answer—as I did one day during rounds in large animal medicine.

The doctor, who had been grilling us about medications, asked about the antibiotic enrofloxacin and noted that we had little to say about it. He was just beginning to scold us when I interrupted him mid-sentence. I did know about enrofloxacin! I had just given it to a patient the week before. I had looked up all kinds of information about it, and what was most exciting, I remembered that information.

Someday, the expertise I’m accumulating will be second nature. I’ll barely recall the fears that plagued me as I started clinics. For the moment, however, competence is a real thrill.

Other stories in the series:

Classroom to Clinic: Turkey Surprise,” by Adam Shoelson, V17. 

Classroom to Clinic: Happiness Upon Happiness,” by Nancy Boren, V17.

Classroom to Clinic: A Patient of One’s Own,” by Gabi Villanueva, V17.  

Classroom to Clinic: My First Appointment,” by Jessica Mintz, V17