6 Things I’ve Learned From Working at an Emergency Vet Clinic

1. Dogs will eat ANYTHING…

Sometimes I am shocked by what a dog has eaten. Sure, we get the usual socks, underwear or toys – BUT – we have also seen some fairly unusual things. In my three years at the emergency clinic I have seen dogs that ate: an entire ear of corn, a whole tennis ball (as well as many pieces of tennis balls), a glass bowl in many shards, a meat thermometer, needles, hair clips, a doorstop and more. I have also seen many toxicity cases where dogs have gotten into chocolate, raisins, marijuana, rat poison, paint, super glue, medications, gum, coffee, etc. We really do see it all. One of my all time favorites was when an owner called to tell us that she had just seen her dog eat a squirrel whole. We induced vomiting and sure enough, there was the squirrel.


2. You Really Never Know What to Expect…

As with any emergency room, you have to try and be prepared for anything that may come in. This is definitely not easy to do as sometimes we don’t even get a call ahead. A quiet ER can turn chaotic in no time and emergency surgery is never out of the question. And sometimes, though you may work at a cat and dog clinic, an emergency is an emergency and you end up helping someone else…


3. Who Knew Urine Could Be So Interesting…

Microscopy has always been a fascinating area of science to me, and the veterinary field has a lot to offer in this regard. Blood smears, fecals, skin and ear cytologies, urinalysis- so much to look at and so much to learn. This may sound pretty gross to some of you and for that I apologize – but hey, that’s medicine for you. Since I started working at this clinic, I have learned so much from looking at these samples under the microscope on a daily basis. It’s incredible how much you can learn about a patient from a urine sample; through the urine specific gravity, dipstick and sediment, you can get indications of whether your patient has certain liver or kidney diseases, diabetes, bladder stones, infections and more.


4. Sometimes Teamwork is Life or Death…

Though I have always thought of myself as a team player, nothing is more important than teamwork when an emergency comes in. Everyone has to work together in order to save a patient. Performing CPR, drawing up medications, placing an IV – sometimes these things are all being done at the same time by a group of people to save an animal. Really listening to each other and working as a team  is incredibly important in these situations.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with an amazing group of people the past three years who have taught me the importance of working together as a team and a family.


5. This Career Path Can Be Heartbreaking…

You won’t be able to save every patient, and learning how to accept that there’s nothing more you can do is an important (and difficult) part of the job. Sometimes they will go too young or have something tragic happen; other times they will get cancer or some other terrible illness. Whatever happens, it’s always hard to lose a patient. We have many patients that have been coming to the clinic for years, and it’s wonderful to see them grow up with their families – but that makes it even harder to say goodbye.


6. … But it Can Also Be Incredibly Rewarding

Sometimes, though, we pull through and do the seemingly impossible. We’ve brought back pets that were coding, performed emergency surgery on patients that would have been gone within hours and put them on the road to recovery, and we’ve treated a myriad of illnesses from pneumonia to extreme toxicities. There’s little that is more rewarding than seeing the happiness and relief in an owner’s face when they realize that, seemingly despite all odds, their pet is going to be okay.

It isn’t all emergencies and illnesses, though. We have also been able to raise and re-home abandoned kittens that were brought to us, giving them loving homes and their new owners the joy of another family member.

Overall, I wouldn’t trade the years I have had at this clinic for anything. I took this job right out of college to see if veterinary medicine was the career path I really wanted and now I have no doubt.


What has led up to this point…Part 2

The Interview Process
On December 4th, 2015 I was offered an interview for the University College Dublin Veterinary Medicine Program. I was in Italy at the time visiting my sister, and I was stunned – and excited! I must have read the letter three times over before I finally showed it to my sister; it said that the interview would take place in New York City in January. It was only about a month’s notice so I was a little nervous about how it would all work out – but there was no way I was going to turn it down. I had to make it happen.

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When my fiancé (Kelsey) and I came back from Italy, I immediately went into planning mode. I began looking into flights, but they were of course very expensive. Kelsey found out he was going to have enough time off from work to go with me, so we decided to do a road trip. The drive from Indianapolis to New York City is approximately 11.5 hours, which really isn’t that terrible when you have two drivers, but we couldn’t get enough time off of work to really take our time with the trip. My interview was scheduled for Monday morning, and we left Indiana the Saturday morning prior. We did about half of our driving Saturday, but stopped in central Pennsylvania for cheap lodging. We then used our Sunday morning to drive into the city, park our car in New Jersey and then catch the ferry into the city. It was a rainy but beautiful day and we were greeted by a rainbow as we stepped off of the ferry – a good omen!

We took a taxi to our hotel and checked in. The hotel I booked was just a minute walk from the building where my interview was to be conducted. I felt much more comfortable getting a close hotel and not relying on any vehicular transportation knowing how chaotic New York traffic can be. After settling in at our hotel, we had the rest of the evening to walk around downtown and find a place for dinner. Luckily Kelsey and I had been to New York previously and had seen a lot of the sights so we didn’t feel like we were missing out by only having a few hours out and about town. For dinner we settled on a restaurant called Foxy John’s that was listed in our hotel’s nearby attractions guide. It was just a few blocks away. We sat at the bar (which we never do) and our bartender happened to be from Ireland! He was very friendly and when we told him I was applying to UCD, he told us all about the school and mentioned that he’d been there many times to play soccer. He also wrote down a list of places we should visit during our trip to Ireland in June and gave us some names of friends of his that we should visit. He ended our dinner with a free shot of Jameson and a good luck toast for my interview. After dinner, we turned in for an early night so I could be well rested and interview-ready in the morning!

The next morning I got ready and headed out to the interview site. I got there 15 minutes early and was able to sit and talk with one of the UCD vet school administrators; she was very friendly and answered any questions I had about the school. When it was time for the interview she led me to a room with two professors from the university. The interview had its casual moments and more intense times: they were very thorough and I really felt like they were trying to get a good feel of who I was and what kind of experiences I had had. The interview lasted about 30 minutes and afterward the administrator told me I should hear back in approximately 2 weeks. I felt so relieved once it was over… except for the fact that Kelsey and I had the 11.5 hour trip back home to make that night so that we could get back to our jobs the next day.


Overall, the trip was exciting and a little stressful but it was well worth it as the next day, while I was at work, I received an e-mail informing me that UCD would be making me a formal offer for a seat in the Class of 2020.


What has led up to this point…

The Application Process
Last year, I wasn’t even sure if I would be applying to vet school. It had been my original plan to apply in 2015 but after a carjacking in January and an apartment fire in March (not even kidding), getting my application together seemed impossible. Honestly, a lot of things seemed impossible. I was lucky to have a lot of support getting back on my feet after the unfortunate events that had transpired earlier in the year. By July I had made the decision that, YES, I was going to apply.
Applying is a lot of work. There’s a lot to get together; references, transcripts, essays, parents’ information, etc. Though the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service) makes things a little easier by having certain aspects of your application all in one place for all of the schools you may be applying to, most of the schools require supplemental applications as well. These supplemental applications are sometimes no big deal and just have a few extra questions, but a lot of them require extra essay responses, verifying all of your prereqs again (VMCAS has you input your entire transcript one class at a time), listing all previous work history and what each job taught you, etc. One school even required its applicants to write a full-blown research paper. As if that all isn’t enough, almost all of the schools require a supplemental application fee which is on top of the fee you pay for each school through the VMCAS. So applying is also expensive.
I would recommend having a bit of a savings before deciding to apply. I believe each school through VMCAS averages out to $115 per application. So if you are applying to multiple schools, this can add up quickly. One other expensive aspect of applying is taking the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) which most schools require. The GRE cost $200 when I took it last summer. Right after you finish the test you may send your scores to up to 4 schools so I would suggest having a list ready when you go. Beyond those 4 schools, for any other schools you choose to send your scores to, you must pay an additional fee per school. Again, this can add up quickly depending on how many you apply to.

This will shock some people, but I did not apply to my in-state school (Purdue). I did’t have a prerequisite they require: Animal Nutrition. This course was not offered at the undergraduate school I attended and though Purdue does offer it as an online course, after the carjacking and fire at the beginning of the year I had neither the time nor money to take the course in 2015. I told myself that if I didn’t get into a school this year, I could always look into taking that course and applying to Purdue the next year. To be honest, I really wasn’t that bummed about not going to my in-state school. Sure, no one can argue with in-state tuition – but I felt ready for a change. Indiana is not a bad place, but some pretty bad things have recently happened to me here and events like that kind of give you the “let’s move on” itch. So I applied to some out-of-state schools and the two accredited Caribbean schools. I remember looking through the list of accredited schools in the last couple of days before the application deadline and seeing University College Dublin on the list. I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Ireland. I thought, what the heck, I’ll just see what else they require for their supplemental application. The only extra requirement was another essay. It was supposed to be another personal statement that was to differ from the one I had already written in my VMCAS application. Part of it had to explain how I considered myself to be diverse. This wasn’t too terrible of a request since a few of the other schools had already touched on the diversity question and since I had always been so interested in going to Ireland, I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to write an essay that expressed my passion for travel, animals and Ireland specifically. And so I wrote one more essay and paid one more fee – on a whim.

Why create this blog?

There were a number of reasons I decided to put this journey into a blog:

1. To possibly help others in a similar situation
As I started looking into applying for veterinary school and everything it entailed, I felt overwhelmed. It helped to find people in similar situations on forums and blogs, and many of my questions – from the application process to the nature of interviews – were answered that way. Moving to a different country is a terrifying and exhilarating idea to me. Perhaps in this blog I will be able to answer some of the questions that come with such a huge change.

2. So that friends and family could follow me on this adventure if they so chose
It’s not always easy to keep up with someone in a different country. It’s also not always going to be possible for me to call everyone at home and tell them everything they may want to know about what’s going on here. Hopefully this blog can keep my loved ones up to date in-between calls and visits, and whenever they feel like checking in.

3. To have an outlet (if time allows) from studying/school
I’m cautiously optimistic in hoping that I will have some time for creative outlets such as keeping up this blog. I know, I know. I will be studying… a lot. BUT, people have to have a little fun, too! And I’ll be in IRELAND so I kind of need to get out there a little and explore and of course, write and post pictures about it on here for you!

4. For something to look back on when it’s all over
Of course I’ll have my memories but this blog could serve as a sort of scrapbook/diary of my thoughts, feelings and adventures throughout my stay in Ireland and my path through veterinary school.

So stay tuned, folks! Somehow, this is all really happening.