The Chinook students were asked to write reflective pieces about their experiences as veterinarians in the North. Some of these pieces will be published, as blog posts, some without the names of the author. This one was written after the 2014 trip, by a student exploring her strengths and weaknesses.
Chinook was such a whirlwind experience and so early in my 4th year that it was an assault to my veterinary senses – both positive and negative. The latter part of the trip in Rigolet solidified that I love general practice work, but also made me realize how weak I feel surgically.
I like talking to people about their animals – and what a bonus because that’s what the rest of my career is going to consist of, however, I think I may have gotten a little too carried away with that during Rigolet. The Chinook Project may have not been the best time for me to foster my communication skills and learn the entire back story and parentage of one patient given we had fifty medical patients to see and thirty surgeries to perform in two days. I tried anyway.
I loved performing anesthesia, but I did not love surgery – there is no future in that specialization for me; there are plenty of people FAR more passionate and naturally inclined. I have this inexplicable fear that I am going to stab the aorta even if I’m nowhere near it, but place cardiopulmonary depressive drugs in my hand, and I am a happy lady. I found this an odd contradiction.
One of my most memorable surgical experiences occurred when I was spaying a dog and felt like I had completely botched the initial incisions. When I doubt myself, it becomes this vicious cycle of insecurity and I HAD doubted myself. Gross mistakes make me feel that I have utterly failed myself and the patient. So as I stood there berating myself holding my scalpel blade and forceps, I looked over in desperation at one of my professors. She gave me this exasperated look and said something to the effect of, “Am I going to be there and come solve your problem every time you do something wrong?” It was the verbal slap in the face I needed to get out of the hole of self-pity I was digging for myself. With a little assistance from another mentor (I did need some guidance on the proper way to fix my – what I considered egregious – mess), I pulled myself together. That surgery gave me some perspective. As a general practitioner, I will do basic surgeries and in the future, I’m going to have more “OH *&^%” moments. But I may not have someone to come in and rescue me and I won’t have the option to stop, give up, and cry in a corner. Someone is going to have to suture that animal up and it’s going to be me.
I wish our trip to Rigolet could have been extended. I absolutely loved the people and patients. It would have been amazing to get to know them better. They helped me realize I want to foster strong trusting relationships with my future clients. The surgical aspects of the trip made me learn that self-doubt is a vicious enemy. The fear can be paralyzing. Instead, I need to accept that suture lines may be ugly and tissue glue was made for a reason.