Wednesday, September 15, 2010

can ya tell I'm busy?

So, we"re 4 weeks in now.  This week is our first round of exams, then one more next week.  Several courses this semester seem to rely more heavily on outside assignments for grades rather than just exams.  This has its good and bad points.  Of course, one usually does better on homework assignments, the trouble is finding the time to do them.  Oh well, it'll get done.  I do my best work about 3 minutes before something's due anyway.

So far this semester is so drastically different than last year.  The labs actually help to reinforce what we are learning, not just teaching you completely separate things, this is a nice change.  We technically are taking more hours this semester (22 I think) but it certainly feels like less.  The classes are more intense though, and staying caught up is key--I of course don't adhere to this very well, but I am really trying.  Bugs and drugs are taking over my life...parasitology and pharmacology pretty much consume my free time.  But at least I find it interesting.  And who knew a you tell maggots apart by there tracheas?  This is excellent info I am certain I will use again.  Is the sarcasm coming across?

I am also strangely enjoying working this semester.  Someday's it's super boring, but other days are spent at the farm doing physical exams, trimming feet, vaccinating, palpating, and just generally being in the sunshine.  It is a nice break from the 9-5 school all day routine.  And a lot of what I do is reinforcing what I learn in class.  Someday's I just wash glass ware and clean up after people, but other days I really love it.  Mostly, I think I like it because it's a change, I am not stuck in the building all day.  Maybe my vitamin D levels will go up this year.

I wish I had more stories to tell, but not a lot has happened yet.  That may change after I get these first exams returned, but until then I'm fine  sitting on my little ray of sunshine : )

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sharpening my pencils

Tomorrow marks the beginning of another school year, and the close of another summer--my next to last one I might add. I haven't been posting all summer because I wasn't in school and didn't feel that any comments I had would necessarily pertain to this blog. In retrospect, I think I was wrong. But, live and learn right?

I had an amazing summer. First, I took an additional elective course that was a 6 day tour of production agriculture in Texas and veterinary medicine within production agriculture. I learned so much more than I anticipated learning, and more importantly I nailed down my final career choice. I know for sure now that I want to be a production medicine vet. It is a very different aspect of medicine that, admittedly, is not for most students. I won't bore you with the details (unless you're just dying to know) about the differences in traditional practice and production medicine practice. The important part of this whole decision is that I feel like my goals are even more solidified now. Yes, not only will I graduate as a vet ( a big goal) but I know what kind of vet I want to be, I know where in this HUGE state I want to practice, I know where to start seeking externships, jobs and mentors. I know where to focus my attention. It's a little like trying to navigate roads with a paper map, versus a GPS system. I have always known where it is I want to go, now I feel like I have a direct plan for getting there and all the other roads, and potential paths are nice to know, but essentially its just scenery. I realize that the vast majority of vet students change their plan sometime during school. I haven't really changed my goal, I just solidified it--I found the niche that I didn't know existed for me.

So I will walk in to class tomorrow with a better focus, and that feels pretty amazing. Surprisingly, I am actually ready to go back to class. I had a nice relaxing summer, had some good vacations and family time, but I also learned a TON and it makes me hungry for more. The sooner I go back, the sooner I graduate, right? This year is going to be difficult, classes certainly don't get easier. I am facing pharmacology, paristology, pathology, and domestic animal nutrition. The good news is NO ANATOMY!!! Anatomy was a time vacuum and it will not be missed. While theoretically I should have extra time this semester, I have also chosen to work (only 10 hours a week) to help Husband pay some bills. I got a new truck this summer and I just didn't feel right making him pay for EVERYTHING. I will be keeping the same job I had over the summer, (I'll post a separate post about my summer later) its right on campus and is so valuable for practical hands on knowledge that I actually think it will benefit my retention rather than detract from study time. That's my hope anyway, we'll see how it goes!

So I'm spending today cleaning house, doing laundry, cooking, gardening, and sharpening my pencils, so that I feel ready to start fresh tomorrow. I am not nearly as nervous as last year, in fact not nervous at all, which makes me a little nervous. I feel like I know the ropes, know the system, and I have great friends...I am so ready for second year. Typing that makes me laugh, I have said that before, like the time I went skiing. I looked up the mountain and the lift and thought how hard can this be? I arrived at the top of the mountain, looked down, fell and then promptly asked if my lift ticket was good for a two-way trip. (It was!) I realize that saying I am ready to start, and being so happy that first year is over will last until about October when I am knee deep in hemonchus contortis, and cardiac glycosides, and I will want to throw in the towel and sell Amway for a living. But, a healthy dose of optimism never hurt anyone, right?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

FInal Freakout

I just went back and read my very first post, about how scared and anxious I was to actually be starting school. It is a feeling I remember quite well, something some friends and I were commenting on the other day. Joe asked us all if we had any idea at the start of all this, that vet school would really be this hard and draining and tiring and frustrating and endless. No, we all replied. But, I also chimed in that I never thought I could have so much fun over such menial things, make such incredible friends, that my marriage would actually be better off (not that it was rocky to begin with) and mostly that I could actually make it through first year. I suppose I should save all this reminiscing of first year until it's actually over though, I'll wait 'till next week when I am FINALLY DONE WITH FIRST YEAR!!! Until then though, I am up to my eyeballs in finals.

I am trying to stay more on top of studying this semester than last, remembering to run and sleep and eat well. So far so good, but finals don't start until next week. We have already taken a few "finals" in one hour classes and a few labs--more out of the way is better. And I learned a few things, especially from my physical exam final. The assignment was to choose a species (canine, feline, bovine or equine) and preform a complete physical exam with proper history taking, note taking and communication. Dress, professionalism, efficiency, knowledge of the subject and physical exam skills were the criteria on which we were being graded. It is difficult to actually study for something like this, I mean where exactly do you start? I thought about just walking up to random ranchers and asking if they could take some time out of their day to chute a cow and let me poke and prod her, but I didn't actually go that route. Instead I went the same ol' route I use for studying for every other class, I memorized. Our professors HATE that we memorize things, they want us to integrate the information, utilize it in our day to day lives. But the cold hard truth is that when you are never allowed to see live animals it's a little hard to "integrate" clinical signs for Equine Protazoal Myelitis. So, we memorize. Turns out that was NOT a good idea with the physical exam final. I was so focused on making sure I didn't miss palpating any lymph nodes, that I checked the udder, got an ear tag, worked in a systematic fashion...that I completely forgot to ask big bold blaring things that were staring me right in the face.

Here's the situation: dairy cow (Holstein), 3 months fresh (that means she calved 3 months ago) now has watery diarrhea. So I asked, what ration is she on? Is her milk production down? Is she vaccinated? Is she eating? Is she lame? How's her urination habits? (For you cow people out there this seems like a ridiculous question, and it is, but our small animal professor FORCED us to ask this--she said we would fail if we didn't). Questions that I forgot to ask that should have been FIRST on my list: Are any other cows/calves affected? When was the last time she was dewormed? (seriously, probably the most important question.) What's her water intake? Is this a closed herd? I also keenly forgot to check her hydration status. IDIOT. So, lesson learned--don't memorize for the real world. I was so focused on making it through my memorized list, I missed the entire disease and diagnosis because I memorized some stupid list. And I know better. I actually did pretty well on the exam- grade wise. The clinician was impressed with my physical exam skill, but he did mention that the diagnosis was basically staring me in the face and I just shoved it out of the way to find the pre-scapular lymph node. Damn.

So, as I prepare for finals I will try to practice what I preach and not memorize. But, there is just so much information and not any good way to integrate it right now. So, I think I'll just try to manually shove it in and pray some of it stays there until 4th year. Here's to finals!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Power of Prayer

If you've been following this blog throughout this semester, then you know it's been a rough one. They tell us the hardest one we'll ever have and for that I am eternally grateful--because of course, only 3 more weeks and its over! I have had it particularly rough this semester, with the italians here, exam after exam after exam, and strawberry jam guy mucking up my semester (more on him later). A few weeks ago I finally got to the point that I believed I was literally at my wits end (and if you know me at all, you know I only use the word literally--literally not just for emphasis). The week after spring break we had our neuro midterm and anatomy "horse final" on the same week, back to back days. These were potentially, excluding finals, the biggest exams of the semester. I started studying well into spring break for both, it was just an insurmountable amount of material. The day of the neuro midterm came, Thursday, and I felt decent about the exam I had taken. It is always such a crap shoot. The whole point is to entice you to study ALL the material, of course you'll only be tested on about 1/8th of it, but in the end you learned it ALL, I guess that's the important part. The hard part about these exams is that you are required to recall, regurgitate, incorporate and draw conclusions about difficult concepts in 70 seconds. Lab exams are NEVER just ID the organ/foramen/artery/ganglia--you must actually infer something about said structure. Take for example: "The lower motor neurons passing through this foramen have cellbodies in which brain localization areas?" The orbital fissure was tagged. Not only do you need to know that A. this is the orbital fissure, you must also know what nerves exit the braincase here, which ones carry ONLY lower motor neuron fibers, and where the cellbodies for said neurons originate in the brain. If given time, I could have deduced the correct answer, but that's a LOT to piece together in 70 seconds. I ended up doing perfectly fine on the midterm (high "B" I'll take it!!) but it was the aftermath that really taught me the lesson.

I went home that night utterly spent. I had been studying 5-6 hours a day plus still going to all classes, I was only getting about 4-5 hours of sleep a night (of course I usually only get 5-6) and I was just sure that I couldn't study any more/harder/longer/with any more success. I had literally done all I could do and I knew it was still not good enough. So, I did what most people would do...I called my Mama. I somehow managed not to cry, I'm pretty sure I was just beyond tears at that point. I told here I wasn't sure I could do this, and that I was seriously questioning my career choice. ( I was, I kept thinking, I am paying for this? I could have a normal job right now, a normal WELL PAYING JOB!) I asked her if she would please call her prayer circle. I felt really odd asking this request. After all, its only school, not cancer or a car accident or a sick child, but the truth is I NEEDED HELP! I was at the end of my pool of strength and I only know of one other source. I knew I needed a few more hours of focused study (that I wasn't sure my brain could take) sleep, a willingness to do well on the test, and an attitude change.

Mom came through, she called several people, some of whom I don't even know and remarkably they gladly began praying for me--I cannot begin to express what a humbling experience that is. To have people you haven't seen in ages or perhaps have never met to spend their time doing the most personal thing one person can do for another is beyond my scope of humanity. Those people began to call others I don't even know and before I knew it Mom called back and assured me that "the wheels of prayer were rolling for me."

I got home that night with a "magically" (holy magic) induced focus, I was able to successfully study and actually retain the information. But, the most tangible effect of the prayers being said for me didn't "take effect" until the next day. I woke up (from a very restful sleep) with a changed heart, I knew that the test would be difficult and long but that I was mentally prepared for the battle. I knew that I had done EVERYTHING in my power to prepare and even illicited some divine powers as well. I did well on the exam, but the grade is not the point. I don't believe that God gives you the answers to exams, and he didn't. What He did do, was restore my focus, allow me to really rest, and change my attitude to see that I really could accomplish this. I was calm during the exam, even when I knew I didn't know the answers, I was focused and able to easily recall the information that I did know. These exams are 4+ hours long so focus and stamina are CRITICAL in exam strategy. He gave me that. The prayers have changed my entire semester (Mom tells me they are continuing to pray). I am no longer on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I can sleep again, and I find time to study and time to relax a little easier now. It was as if I was trying to find my way through a dark tunnel with only pieces of a map. Now, though I may still only have pieces of the map, I have a light that is helping to guide me, not get me there on a fast track--but light my path and make it so much easier.

I didn't get the best Anatomy grade I have ever gotten. But, not the worst either. I did get a renewed sense of goal, and a very well learned lesson. Vet school is a test of more than just knowledge. It will test your marriage, your friendships, your goals, and at times even your self worth. I count myself among the lucky, I have a faith that helps me to see beyond the worldly and put things in a higher perspective. I learned my lesson that week, that it is difficult but worth it to humble yourself enough to ask for prayers, to ask for help from the only real source of it. I also learned that humbling and asking probably should have been the FIRST thing I did.

Psalms 119:105 "Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

This much closer

This semester is drawing to a close, well ok maybe I'm forcing the issue slightly because I am so damned ready for it to be over. Only 4 more weeks now, not including finals of course. I really feel like it is downhill from here now. Only one exam a week (and a quiz in neuro every week but who's counting). I knocked out a whole lot of "extra" stuff last week. My husbandry rotation, this time with the horse, not as fun as the ostrich--so much more dull. I also got my palpation exam over with last week in large animal anatomy. I did fairly well. I could've done better. But, with only 7% of my grade on the line for this little palpation exam, I just didn't believe it was worth beating my head against the wall for. I got a high B, and I am pleased enough with that. This week only virology. We finally finished up with mycology and bacteriology (shoot me) and now we move on to our final professor of the semester (number 13 I kid you not, for just the one class). Dr. Virology is a no-bullshit kind of guy. He likes things a certain way and is incredibly OCD about his lecture time and course content. I really appreciate the organization, and the down to business attitude. He has rubbed a few people the wrong way, but in general they were the people that needed a little roughing up to begin with. I am looking forward to his exam (did I just say that?!?) he has presented the material in a very organized way, all I have to do is learn it. I know that sounds simple but many of the professors expect you to sort through their discombobled notes, unorganized lecture style, 7 different "supplemental" texts and a hieroglyphic code known only to long lost pygmy tribes to come up with the material that needs to be studied.

We had our second exam in Public Hell (that's public health, remember strawberry jam guy?) on Friday. I feel more confident about this one, there were no anchovie questions, but he did throw in a question about the different regulatory agencies for shell eggs versus egg products--seriously this is how our government operates, we have two different agencies for different types of "eggs".

In non vet school related life (my life is starting to re-emerge again, yay!!) I started the seedlings for my garden today. I am still, with husband's help, working on preparing the soil and fencing for my large garden patch in the backyard. I will hopefully (fingers crossed) be able to devote about 30 minutes a night to garden maintenance and all should be well when its time to transplant my little seedlings. Also, I potentially have a J-O-B for the summer, no more about that though, I don't want to jinx it until I'm sure.

I'll be holed up studying virology the next few nights, and then moving on to Physiology for next Monday. Maybe, with the Grace of God, I'll be able to see the sunshine a few days this week. Afterall, it is springtime in Texas, the bluebonnets are up, the sun is shining and my vitamin D levels could really use the boost!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

breaking into spring

This is my last official day of spring break. Though I still have the weekend. I spent this week catching up with my Mom who came to visit. Spending time with my hubby, drinking for St. Patty's day, planting flowers and most of all NOT STUDYING! (though I really must get on that we have 2 tests next week, I believe I'll spend all of this weekend hitting the books) It has been absolutely amazing not having stress, feeling like a normal person with a normal life, getting some sun (I'm pretty sure my vitamin D deficiency is in it's chronic stages) and generally just relaxing.

Yesterday, my friend and I had plans to head down to the Houston livestock show and rodeo and shadow the on site vet who just happens to be one of our clinicians. Dr. Rodeo was so perfectly nice and accommodating. We still can't do much, because we have so little clinical knowledge, but we did get to put some of the pieces together with some of the things we have learned this year (what bacteria causes foot rot, what's the withdrawl time for banamine, how long bovine gestation is, ect). One of the major things about yesterday was that we spent a lot of time around actual clients. We do get to see a lot of cases even in our first year of class, but we never, never, never get to deal with the clients. I learned yesterday that I think that is where my education may fall short, the relationship with the client is about 85% of my job. We will get to interact with clients our 4th year in clinics, and in summers on externships if we choose, but not until then. I suppose I understand why, I can see how we could really screw that up--we just don't know enough yet. I was astounded yesterday when our first case was a heifer that was supposedly calving. She wasn't you could tell by looking at her, but the young man that owned her was just sure she was in distress and would plop out a calf at any minute. We kept trying to reassure him that all was well, and she would deliver in her own time, but he insisted on never leaving her side (he even slept on a bale of hay in her pen the previous night and woke up every hour to check on her). As we walked away I asked Dr. Rodeo why he was so worked up about something that was really not that big of a deal. "He doesn't know what you know, as the Dr. it's your job to teach him."

Dr. Rodeo had another conversation with a client that got rather heated. He owned a sow that was having an allergic reaction to something and was developing hives. She explained that the sow was going to slaughter tomorrow and therefore couldn't be treated with anything. The client was not satisfied with that and continued to argue and push her. She didn't budge. I watched wandering the whole time what I would've done in that situation. The rules are cut and dry, and giving that sow something could've cost her her license. But, dealing with that situation is not something they've taught us how to do, at least not yet.

I actually used to be really great with clients, back before I really knew what I was doing. Now, I've been taught to focus on the medicine and the animal so much that it's hard to see past that. I was told that sometimes vet school will make you loose your common sense. I hadn't really noticed it was true until yesterday (though I'm sure my husband would say differently). I really need to find an externship this summer where I can be back in the real world. It'd be nice to be able to talk to people again.

Would you like my card???

This semester is almost over, almost almost, only 6 weeks left. Can you tell I'm sOooooooo ready for it to be done. Only 1 more anatomy test, only 1 more physiology test, one more micro, then finals (but I'll deal with those later, lets just focus on the big stuff). First, an update on the public health exam (the one with the strawberry jam question) he had to curve the class close to 30 points to bring the grades to passing. I felt slightly bad about this at first, until I reasoned that we are all very intelligent, we all studied and why do I care about freaking strawberry jam anyway. I ended up with a high "B" on that exam--I'll take it.

Back in February there were elections for a few open positions in the vet school. One of them sounded interesting to me so I ran. I was actually really really excited for this position...the description made it seem right up my alley. The position was the junior delegate for the Texas Veterinary Medical Association. I would be responsible for going to conventions, organizing student committees, organizing meetings, and be the liaison between the organization and the student body. I would work as an assistant to the senior delegate, and as a two year elected position, next year I would become the senior delegate. It didn't sound like too much work, and I got to be involved in a professional organization, not just a student organization, so I ran. And I won, apparently by a landslide but that really doesn't matter, just that I won.

The position actually turned out to be so much better than it was originally pitched to us. I sit on the student executive committee ( the head committee that oversee's all student clubs, functions and regulations). I get paid to go to the two annual conferences each year, I sit on the board of directors for one of the largest state VMA's, and I have business cards. (This is the coolest part to me, I am such a dork for LOVING the fact that I get business cards, but I don't care).

The weekend just before spring break was the annual conference held this year in College Station. I knew I was to attend but I had no idea what was in store for me. I spent the weekend sitting on committees, in board of directors meetings, in continuing education courses, and basically rubbing elbows with the big-wigs and practitioners in my profession. As I type this it actually sounds really boring, but the truth is, it was such a completely perfect weekend. It reminded me just how lucky I am to be following this dream, and how grateful I am to have gotten into vet school. The whole convention was at a major hotel that catered everything. We had all of our meals catered, our coffee refilled as we sat in meetings, basically full service. I'm sure to most people this seems so normal, and perhaps it is. But, there was a time, not so long ago that I was on the other side of the table--I was the one pouring coffee and clearing dirty plates, desperately wishing that I was something bigger, better, and more meaningful. I have never once questioned that quitting the restaurant was the right choice, but sitting there actually having a small piece of my dream realized was a really major moment for me. I am eternally grateful for the road the Lord leads me down.

Beyond just getting to feel like I was a part of something, I had a really great time at the conference. Practitioners wanted to talk to me, wanted to hear about my experience in school, they shared their wisdom and advice for getting through it, they offered me externships, and then, then--they asked for my card! (I know here I go with the dorky card stuff again) I felt beyond "adult" to be able to whip one out and hand it over. The cards make me feel like I've arrived, and in some ways I have. More than just getting asked for my card, and getting externship offers, I actually had several job offers. I'm just a first year, and I told them that, but it didn't seem to phase them. It was nice to know that just being involved, and acting professional goes such a long way. I'm not so scared of finding a job now, a little scared that I'll actually have to find one sooner than I think, but at least at ease that I already have a few standing offers.

It was an incredible weekend. We were expected to be at all of the evening social functions, and we drank for free. And as much as I loved that all my drinks were paid for (because I'm so cool I'm on the board of directors) I loved it even more that I was not the one pouring the drinks.