Why I treat veterinary students with respect…

It seems like that would be a common sense. Treating other people with respect. But unfortunately not everyone feels the same way.


I am taken back to my first final year rotation at Vet School, when I was very excited but also nervous to be attending a local specialist hospital. I was not what you would consider a green veterinary student. At that stage I had been a qualified veterinary nurse for 4 years, I had spent every Saturday and three out of four Sundays working at a local veterinary practice. I had also been a locum veterinary nurse at an after hours hospital so I was no stranger to how a veterinary practice worked. I should have fitted straight in but alas that was not meant to be.


You would think with over 10 years passing that the details of my rotation might be a bit fuzzy. Unfortunately they are crystal clear. I was yelled at, I was belittled and I was made to feel ashamed that I didn't know all of the answers. I spent hour upon hour reading textbooks in the lunch room as I was told. They didn't have time for me and didn't create an environment where I was able to learn and free to learn through experience. This was the just the tip of the iceberg. I discovered how verbal abuse can quickly lead to sexual harassment when said person is confronted about their verbal abuse.


Whilst my veterinary knowledge made ZERO improvement during that time, I did learn a lot. I face most experiences with "what can I learn from this?". I learnt that they were foolish to not consider that today's veterinary student is tomorrow referring veterinarian. I learnt how NOT to treat veterinary students. And I learnt that outward perception is not always consistent with the reality behind closed doors.


Now, just as I've managed to remember all of these details. I've also managed to avoid referring (on the whole) to these veterinarians. They basically kissed goodbye our referral relationship before it began.


I am thankful for everything that I learned during this time. I am thankful that when I work with vet students I make a commitment to make them feel welcome, let them feel free to learn and free to make mistakes (with supervision). I make my expectations of them clear and I understand that they don't know everything (and neither do I).


I am committed to sharing my journey with them and talk freely about the challenges that I faced in the hope that if they face similar challenges they are comforted to know that others have too experienced these challenges. I hope that just as a bad experience has stuck with me, so will their good experiences.


how i teach veterinary students


So, the long and the short of it is today's veterinary students are tomorrow's veterinarians - and I might be working beside them, referring to them, employing them or they might be employing me. It's a small industry, so if common courtesy isn't reason enough to treat each other with respect, then surely the fact that we all know each other is!


veterinary students 8


2 Responses

  1. 100% agree. Just because “it’s always been this way” doesn’t mean we have to continue doing it.

  2. Excellent advice Dr Belinda! I wish all the vets who choose to behave in an appalling way towards students would read this post. I wonder if the situation has improved over the years or if vet students are still being subjected to such abhorrent behaviour? It really begs the question what sort of person would treat another in that way,especially as they’re dealing with students who are there to learn. Power can do interesting things to people – ahh well, there’s always karma (referrals? I don’t think so!)

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