There were many reasons why I wanted to be involved in the Chinook Project — the primary reason being the positive impact the Project has on the northern communities it visits. By providing free veterinary care to community animals, Chinook not only improves the health of these animals, but also the well-being of the people who love and care for them. This is an incredible contribution that words cannot describe.
A second reason for participating in this project is the unique learning opportunity it provides for 4th year veterinary students. With graduation just around the corner, it is important for students to have diverse but practical experiences that will help develop the skills necessary to become a successful veterinarian, working in general practice.
Senior clinicians I have spoken with have emphasized the importance of actively engaging in your education and of finding a veterinary clinic that provides mentorship to new graduates entering the workforce. I took this advice seriously and worked hard during my time at the Atlantic Veterinary College. The Chinook Project was an essential part of this.
In the days before our departure, I meticulously reviewed the material provided during our training sessions, which discussed anesthesia protocols, surgical techniques, as well as vaccination and deworming protocols. I was fairly comfortable with what was expected of me, except that I was nervous to perform surgeries, as it had been 7 months since my last ovariohysterectomy. I had reviewed the procedure many times, and I knew the steps required to remove the ovaries and uterus; however, on the first clinic day I couldn’t hide the slight shaking of my hands. I’m sure Dr. Pollard noticed, but she was amazing, providing guidance when needed and was very encouraging.
During each surgery, I grew more confident with my skills. By the third clinic day, two students were paired for each ovariohysterectomy, instead of the having one student work with one veterinarian; it remained this way for the rest of our stay. I greatly enjoyed the transition from working closely with my instructor to working closely with my classmates. It increased my independence, yet it was helpful to have another student present to share ideas with and to assist during the surgery. I found this reassuring as my classmate and I would often agree on technique (i.e. what type of ligatures to place) and on how to proceed next. They were very kind and supportive. In addition, we sometimes shared the surgery, each breaking down a suspensory ligament, ligating the ovarian pedicle, and removing the uterine horn. This ensured we both received the most out of the experience.
On the last day of clinics, Dr. Pollard mentioned that I looked more comfortable performing surgeries, and this was definitely true. I was relaxed and my hands were steady; I was having fun!
I’m pleased I’ve reached this level of comfort while performing surgeries during my fourth year of school. I feel many veterinarians do not achieve this until after graduation, and perhaps some never do. I believe this confidence and comfort will translate to other aspects of veterinary medicine as well. When I reflect upon this learning experience and how I progressed during it, it reminds me of a painting I saw at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum. The painting, created by artist Elizabeth Gordon, is of an Inuit woman and reads: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” I just have to believe in myself, and anything is possible.
Nicolle Davis, AVC 2017, traveled to Iqaluit in 2016 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Nicolle’s pieces.
Many thanks to Elizabeth Gordon for her kind permission to use her artwork in this post.