By Dr Daisy A. May BVSc MRCVS, Veterinary Surgeon
Thinking about applying to vet school?
Whether as a school leaver or as a career change, you better be sure you’ve got what it takes.
To take this quiz, grab a scrap of paper and a pen and keep note: for each of the following 15 questions, you need to know whether you answered A or B.
All will be revealed at the end of the page.
Select the answer that fits YOU best.
Q1: A little old lady walks into your consult room. She has brought in her 18-year-old cat, who has a variety of health conditions. These are causing the cat considerable pain and discomfort.
You assess that the conditions are treatable to some extent, but unfortunately the lady is on a tight pension and does not have any money for treatment. She is very upset, begins to cry and explains that the cat is all she has left after her husband of 60 years died last month.
a) I am able to explain to her gently but firmly that putting the cat to sleep is the best decision in terms of his/her welfare.
b) I would not be able to advocate for putting this cat to sleep, in the circumstances.
Q2: It’s the end of a busy Friday afternoon clinic. You have dinner plans with your partner and their family for 7:30pm and were due to finish work at 6pm. It’s already 6:15pm, and you are just wrapping up for the day when an emergency arrives, a little dog who cannot breathe well.
You are the only vet in the building. You have already stayed late twice this week.
a) I cancel my dinner plans and get on with it. The patient is my priority.
b) Screw that. I can’t deal with this happening on a regular basis, it’s not fair!
Q3: I can cope with urine, diarrhea, vomit, blood and pus.
What’s more, I can cope with these things on me.
In fact, I LOVE a nice juicy abscess!
a) That’s me!
b) That’s so not me…
Q4: You are discussing treatment options for a catastrophically fractured leg in a 9 month old American bulldog puppy. The male owner becomes aggressive and calls you a “money grabbing a**hole”.
He does not have the (significant amount of) money required to treat the puppy, and states that he is going to take the dog home with no treatment or pain relief and see how she does.
a) I have the confidence and strength to stand firm, stay professional, and to escalate this situation with the relevant authorities.
b) Errr, I kinda struggle with situations involving conflict and get triggered by people shouting at me.
Q5: I am OK with the idea of earning 50% of what my counterparts in the human medical and dental fields are earning (in the UK at least), despite having been through an equally demanding training process, working just as hard, and having just as much student debt.
a) Bring it on, biatch! helping animals is what matters most to me.
b) That’s not OK, actually. I want the nice car and the big house, thanks v. much.
Q6: You recently qualified as a vet and have started working in a busy hospital, alongside a number of other vets and a large team of nurses. Many of the nurses have been qualified and practicing for 10+ years.
You prescribe a medication for a patient. However, one of the older nurses (who has been practicing nearly 20 years and is well respected within the team) decides not to give the medication you prescribed, because he believes a different medication will be better; he gives this other drug, instead.
You feel that your decision was correct, but that – to be fair – both medications have pros and cons. It was a coin toss between the two.
a) I am comfortable having a word with this nurse, and explaining that my instructions need to be followed (in fact, legally this is the case). And I can deal with the fallout, ie, potentially pissing a colleague off.
b) I would probably just let this go and keep quiet. After all, either med will do the trick.
Note: not only is b the wrong decision legally, but is also sets a precedent; the nurse will potentially continue to second-guess you down the line.
Q7: I am able to watch surgical procedures on the TV without cringing.
In fact, I can eat breakfast whilst doing so.
a) That’s me 😀
b) That’s not me! (What’s wrong with you people?)
Q8: A client has been waiting three days for a phone call with results, which are routine, and you have been exceptionally busy. When you do phone her (during your lunch break), she begins berating you for not calling her sooner.
a) I would explain the situation and not take her criticism to heart.
b) This would really piss me off actually, and I’d be prone to dwelling on it afterwards.
Q9: You qualified a month ago and are working your first on-call night shift. A very distressed owner arrives with her cat, who is unable to urinate (a serious emergency).
Along with the night nurse, you sedate the cat and attempt to pass a catheter, but you are unable to do so. Your nurse is also a recent graduate and she isn’t comfortable yet with catheterisation.
It dawns on you with a sinking heart, that you are going to need to call in the second-on-call vet, who happens to be your boss. He lives five minutes away but has a reputation for being very narky when woken up on-call.
a) I bite the bullet and call my narky boss in, without delay.
b) Desperate to avoid pissing my boss off, I keep trying, thus prolonging the sedation time for my patient (not great). Eventually I give up and perform a cystocentesis (stick a needle through the abdomen wall into the bladder, to drain the urine). This is only a very temporary solution, and comes with the risk of bursting the bladder. In essence, I have sacrificed patient care to save myself from an uncomfortable situation.
Q10: I am comfortable with the idea of making life or death decisions, often unsupervised, and can deal mentally and emotionally with the consequences if I get something wrong.
a) It’s tough but I’ll manage.
b) That’s not for me; I’ll consider other animal-related career paths.
Q11: You are overly tired after a night on-call during which you only got called out once, but struggled to get back to sleep afterwards. It’s approaching lunchtime, and you’re starting the final procedure of the morning.
Oh no! You accidentally just gave a 10 times overdose of sedative to your patient! Realizing your mistake within minutes, you hastily give a drug to reverse the sedation. The dog is likely to suffer no lasting ill effects, so long as it receives careful medical management for the next several hours. But what a bloody nightmare.
a) I would be able to admit my mistake to the other vets and nurses on the team and request help managing the case. I also also – gulp – would be prepared to phone the owner and explain what has happened.
b) I would be tempted to keep an eye on the dog myself throughout the afternoon, and send it home without telling anyone about my mistake. After all, it’s embarrassing, and the dog is going to be fine.
Note: dosing errors are rare but they do happen, especially with newer graduates who aren’t yet familiar with ballpark “normal” amounts for different sized patients, and especially when sleep deprived. Thankfully, working on-call night alongside daytime shifts is becoming less common practice.
Nobody will disqualify you for making a mistake, especially with no lasting harm. But try and cover something up, and you absolutely will risk disqualification if found out.
Q12: True or false: ‘I am good with people, and would be perfectly happy to spend all day (every day) being surrounded by people, and having constant demands placed upon me by clients, nurses and vet techs’.
a) What? I want a job that’s focused on animals, not people. (Note: consider instead working for a zoo or wildlife center, or becoming a groomer, dog walker or daycare owner)
b) Of course. I completely understand that being a vet is a highly people-focused and client-facing career choice.
Q13: An elderly dog is brought in by the entire family for euthanasia. You gently explain the procedure, and a consent form is signed by the sad but accepting owners. You take the dog through to prep, so that a nurse can help you place a catheter to administer the pentobarbital.
Unfortunately, due to being in heart failure, the dog has severe oedema (fluid swelling) in all four of it’s legs, making it impossible for you to place a catheter or get access to a vein. You try every leg without success, and then – once the poor dog has received more needlepricks than a pin cushion – you finally admit defeat.
The owners at this point have been waiting nearly 20 minutes, sad and expectant, in the consult room for you to return.
a) I explain the situation to the owners, and that in this circumstance unfortunately we will need to sedate the dog (which may well be fatal) and inject the euthanasia drug directly into the heart or abdominal cavity.
b) This sounds like too much for me to deal with to be perfectly honest…I’ll start a cattery business instead thanks!
Q14: I can physically and mentally handle prolonged stretches of hard work and intellectual engagement, such as may be required during a full morning of surgical procedures, or a 5-hour stint of back-to-back consultations…Without getting too knackered, too hangry, or too overwhelmed.
a) Of course, duh! I pride myself on my stamina.
b) That sounds like it could get draining very quickly…I might not be able to sustain it over the years.
Q15: A mother and her young daughter – maybe 9 years old – arrive in your consult room. They have brought “Elsa”, a very fluffy rabbit, who (the adorable smiley, blonde-haired girl tells you) has not been moving much this morning, and “smells funny”.
Upon examining Elsa you quickly realize the seriousness of the situation; she has severe fly around her anus. Essentially, under all that fluff, she is being eaten alive by tiny maggots. Oh sh*t.
You suggest to the mother that perhaps you guys should have a word in private, but she merrily retorts that Elsa is her daughter’s rabbit, and that she would like her daughter to stay even if it’s not good news. Otherwise, how will she learn anything?
a) I am comfortable breaking this kid’s heart, in the best interests of my patient.
b) Holy crap, get me out of this career path!
If you picked A for all of the above, then you will make a phenomenal vet.
If you picked B for one or more questions, then you may need to consider a different career path.
OR consider a non-clinical veterinary role such as in research, academia or pathology. It’s actually a pretty widely applicable degree programme, with a lot of very transferrable skills that employers highly value.
Any questions, feel free to drop a comment, or visit my Contact page and shoot me an email directly.
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