A Fortnight at the Vets

Edit: I wasn’t really sure how detailed to be with various things in this post. I haven’t given the full, gory descriptions of a lot of things, but if you’re not good with blood and gore, and you’re really easily upset when hearing about animals dying/ suffering, it’s probably best not to read the first 3 paragraphs of this post.


I have to say that I did really enjoy work experience, though my anxiety did get in the way at times. On the first morning I was there, I was extremely anxious and I was shaking a bit. I was so anxious for the first 3 days that I hardly slept the night before. It was a lot better after that though. I don’t have any medical knowledge so (unlike the vet student that was also there) there wasn’t really much I could do. I did get to give a couple of injections, and raised a vein while a vet gave an injection. A lot the time there was spent watching operations. It was a bit gory at times but I have quite a good shut off valve for that stuff. It was mostly just neutering and dental work that we watched, and we also watched one of the vets repair a cat’s broken humerus (which he got quite frustrated and stressed with – the vet nurse had to keep mopping his brow). The cat did really well and made a full recovery.

I imagine that one of the most difficult parts of being a vet nurse would be having to assist in euthanising animals. There were a few dogs that needed to be euthanised while I was there. Though I didn’t see any of it, it’s still quite upsetting knowing that I had been petting them just an hour ago, and thinking about how upset the owners of the dog must be. I end up imagining how upset I’d be if that was my dog. I suppose it’s probably the best thing for the animal, but it’s upsetting none the less. There were also 3 RTA (i.e. an animal hit by a vehicle) incidents while I was there. I’m not sure why, but they always seemed to be on Fridays. The one that probably upset me the most was when a cat was brought in. The vet nurse who was cleaning it up said that she reckoned it would have died instantly, which I suppose was the only blessing. I just felt awful imagining having to phone the owners and tell them that their beloved pet had been killed, and imagining how I’d feel if it was my pet. Very sad.

The 2 other RTA incidents thankfully had happier endings. We had a Jack Russel who had a car tyre run over its abdomen. It was x-rayed and given an ultrasound, and quite miraculously, everything was fine apart from the bruising. It was quite a chubby dog, so maybe the extra fat was what saved it? But probably the most memorable case of the whole fortnight was when we had the emergency case of a male farm Collie who had been ran over by a tractor. One of his front legs was very, very badly broken indeed. He must’ve been in so much pain, but hopefully the morphine helped. They thought that he’d have to be euthanised at first, but after some x-rays, they decided that amputation would be the best option. It was a horrible case, but at least he got to live. The amputation certainly wasn’t pretty to watch, but they did manage it successfully without him losing too much blood. He recovered and went home a couple of days later.

The majority of my time there was spent cleaning – the lab areas, prep room, theatre, corridors, etc. I quite liked cleaning the kennels though, strange as that might seem. I also helped to hold animals during blood tests/ injections, took a few of the dogs outside to do their business, and observed x-rays being taken. There were 2 cats boarding at the vets, and I got to let them out into the x-ray room each afternoon, for exercise. If it was a really slow/ uneventful day, I’d spend a good part of the afternoon just brushing, petting, and playing with the cats. Most of the vet nurses tended to do this if there was nothing better to do as well. Getting paid to play with cats for most the afternoon – not bad.

My SA did hold me back a little bit while I was there but not overly so. The people there might have thought that I was a bit odd – though nothing compared to one of the vets there, who would talk to the animals in a strange voice, ask them strange questions, and tell one of the vet nurses what kind of accent and voice she thought a certain animal would have if it could talk – but probably just very shy. I had a lot of socially awkward moments while I was there – What’s new? – but managed a bit of small talk without any major mishaps. One of the most awkward things was when people would be friendly and say “Hello Gemma, how are you today?” and all I could (awkwardly) say was “all right”, and then, sometimes, “You?”, not really knowing what else to say. However, I managed to get a lot more friendly around people there during my last few days and like I was part of the team. The playful heckling that went on between the members of staff always made me laugh. I also managed to ask 3 of the vet nurses there what the best and worse parts of their jobs are – they unanimously agreed that having to clean up poo/vomit/bodily fluids is the worst part.

I thought I’d bring in sweets for everyone on my last day but, for some strange reason, I was ridiculously anxious about doing so. What if they don’t like the sweets? What if they think I’m really weird? And it just went on and on like that, worrying about what kind of awful response I might get. It’s almost like I expected them to say: “How DARE you bring us all sweets? Have you no decency!?! You’re never coming back!!” It seems so stupid to me now that I got into such a state worrying about what they might think about me bringing sweets in, but I was so convinced that they’d think badly of me at the time, as weird as that is. I’m always like that when I get a gift for someone outside of my family to express my thanks. I’m not entirely sure why, but I irrationally worry that giving them a gift will make me look bad in some way. Anyway…everyone liked the sweets and thanked me for them. When it was time for me to leave, everyone said goodbye to me and said that it had been nice to meet me. I left with a smile on my face. It’s kind of sad to think that I felt a greater sense of belonging there after 2 weeks than I ever have in all the time I’ve been at uni. Still…I’m really, really glad that I got work experience there and would love to do so again next year.

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2 Responses to A Fortnight at the Vets

  1. Blue says:

    I laughed out loud at the part about the vet who talks to animals. That’s really cute. 🙂

    I don’t know how you managed to deal with seeing all of that suffering, but kudos! I’m glad you had such a great time as well. Maybe this is what you’re meant to do?

    • Gemma says:

      Oh, I forgot to mention that that particular vet would also start meowing at random moments. One day she started when they were doing blood tests on a cat and the vet nurse joined in as well. It was like a game of meow tennis. Also, when she had consults, she’d say something to the animal/ ask it a question, then answer herself in a different voice as if the animal was responding or objecting to something that she’d said. This resulted in a lot of weird looks from the owners. She was quite strange, but it was quite entertaining.

      Thank you. I definitely do want to work with animals but I’m still not entirely sure on exactly which job I’d like to do.

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