Friday, February 3, 2012

I Thought I Selected "LARGE" Animal

I'm going to try not to let this turn into a bitter late night rant, but I make no guarantees...

Almost three years ago, I was accepted into veterinary school.  This was the result of several years of planning and sacrifice on my part, some blind luck, and the support of some very good people.  I knew it was going to be a long road.  Now, as a 3rd year student, I am trying very hard not to become an angry burnout.  In my application and interview, I passionately stated the reasons why I wanted to be a large animal veterinarian.  I think that this may have helped garner my acceptance, as this was around the time that the great "large animal veterinarian shortage" controversy was in full swing.  More evidence has come to light since then, and I am in the camp that believes that the "shortage" is not due to a lack of qualified young veterinarians, but more a sign of the times in which we live.  Rural areas are being encroached on and hobby farmers are replacing true ranching businesses.  A rural large animal veterinarian has to work long and hard to survive.  Most of my classmates want an 8-5 job, weekends off, and minimal emergency duty.  Few of them are comfortable around livestock.  I've accepted the fact that I'm in the minority.  I've worked in the industry long enough to know that I can do the work and that this is where I want to make my life.

Going into vet school, I was aware that a significant amount of the curriculum would be oriented around small animal medicine.  I wasn't thrilled about it, but I figured I could suck it up and go along until I could finally declare my large animal track and spend the majority of my time focused on what interests me.  This semester, which is my last semester in the classroom, more than half of my courseload is still focused on small animals.  My small animal track classmates have no specified large animal courses that they have to take now.  Our fourth year schedules came out today and I snuck a peek at what some of my small animal focused classmates had...they have two rotations, that is, four weeks, of large animal rotations.  I have four rotations (eight weeks) of small animal specific clinic work, and two more rotations that will be more than half small animal focus.  My two weeks of mandatory emergency duty?  Entirely in the small animal clinic.  I realize that the vet school is not a customer service oriented organization, but I'm dropping over $15K every year for an education, and they refuse to teach me what I need to learn.  Additionally, our anemic amount of externship time will barely allow me to visit even just the clinics I'm considering applying for internship with, and this includes spending all my break and vacation time working.  The CVM is actually hindering my education and career options.  Why do they even have a large animal track option when it's really a mixed animal track?  It's no wonder that it's nearly impossible to keep a large animal veterinarian in a rural community.  Expanding class sizes and flooding the market with small and mixed animal veterinarians is not the solution.