There’s a common myth that veterinary school is harder to get into than medical school, but in reality, the percent of applicants that end up matriculating is comparable for both.
There are 30 accredited vet schools in the US, with several others overseas that offer the same accreditation. With a rough class size of about 100 students at each school and 29,805 total applicants in 2014, it’s certainly a competitive process. In addition to a strong academic resume, the average applicant has 1000-2000 hours of “veterinary experience,” which is different from “animal experience” in that it has to be under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Therefore, volunteering at shelters, showing horses, animal husbandry, etc. does not count towards veterinary hours. I know that 1000-2000 hours may seem preposterous, and believe me, I wholly agreed at the time that I decided to pursue vet school during my junior year of college, when I had accumulated a staggering 9 and 1/2 hours and felt fully ready to apply. But, alas, I knew my chances of getting in were slim to none, which brings me to Shiloh where I have spent my gap year.
My first summer working at Shiloh, I was also working on my applications. As the weeks went by, I would slowly add new skills under the “experience” section. First came restraint, then subcutaneous injections, in-house lab work, monitoring anesthesia, drawing blood, and so on. I remember the first time I answered the phone and encountered a pet owner who was understandably very upset because her dog was hurt. I quickly put her on a brief hold and ran to ask one of the doctors all of her questions. After work, I timidly added “client communication” to the list. That summer I watched the list grow with pride, but looking back now, the importance of getting experience in the field far exceeds the concrete skills that can be boiled down to a bulleted list.
Although I had an idea of it before, Shiloh is where I truly saw that working with animals means working with people. I can’t lie and say that this was an epiphany I came up with on my own, as Shiloh’s mission statement is printed in large font on the wall of the treatment area for everyone to see. “Partnering with people to provide long and healthy lives for their pets.” I see every day the importance of open, honest communication between the veterinarians, the staff, and the owners in providing the best care for the animal.
This past year has also shown me how tough this career can be. I’ve seen the delivery of difficult news and the anguish of heartbreaking goodbyes. I’ve seen notes from the doctors sent at midnight, or even 5 o’clock in the morning, because they do not really leave work when they walk out of the building. But I have also been lucky enough to be surrounded by three doctors and the rest of the staff who have families and lives outside of work, and I understand the importance of finding balance between the two.
But I think that the most important thing that I have gained this past year is confidence in myself. Not only just confidence in those concrete technical skills, but confidence that this is what I am meant to do – and the confidence that I have the ability to do it. And, of course, I have the incredible staff at Shiloh to thank for this. But I also would like to thank all of you for welcoming me in, allowing me to partake in your pets’ care, and for teaching me so much along the way.
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