As we get closer to the end of the semester, it is possible that many are thinking about their summer experiences. Hayley used her summer to work as a veterinary assistant in Iowa City, where she gained on-the-job experience in a field she hopes to find a career in! Read below to learn more about what Hayley did throughout last summer and what she learned from her memorable (both good and bad) interactions with all animals!
This past summer, from May to August, I worked full-time as a veterinary assistant for a small animal practice in Iowa City called Veterinary Associates. As a veterinary assistant, my responsibilities were widely varied and included reception, processing samples for in-house and laboratory diagnostic tests, monitoring surgery patients, filling prescriptions, restraining patients for exams, and animal care tasks like venipuncture, placing IV catheters, nail trims, and grooming.
One of the best things about my experience was, of course, the animals. Every animal that comes to see us is an individual and presents a different challenge in learning how best to interact with them to minimize fear and create a positive experience, while also keeping everyone in the room safe. I had a brush with occupational injuries toward the beginning of the summer, when I suffered a nasty cat bite and spent three hours in the emergency room. You can see a photo of it below. A few x-rays and a round of antibiotics later, I was doing much better. In all fairness to the cat, we were expressing its impacted anal glands at the time, which I suppose would make anyone grumpy. It’s not always possible, but being able to predict your patient’s next move is important to preventing these kinds of injuries, and it’s something that I got better at with every shift.
Our clinic moved facilities about halfway through the summer. The city acquired our building via eminent domain for an ambitious road construction project due to begin in the next year. In one weekend, we packed up 34 years of equipment, furniture, decorations, and memories and moved them across town. A couple nights of packing and a lot of pizza brought my coworkers and I closer than ever. Differences set aside, we bonded over the stress of such a rushed move and the new tasks we were being asked to perform, including frosting the windows in the new building and assembling furniture from boxes. I learned the importance of strong professional relationships for morale and smooth operations. Having a functional team is important in any business, but in veterinary practice it can mean the difference between the life or death of an animal. Having a healthy relationship with your coworkers means being able to check each other, criticize and praise each other when due, and focus on providing the best possible care to the patients and their owners. Turbulent times can build these relationships, as we experienced in the process of moving. At the same time, however, the stress of change can also erode our patience and cause conflict, which became more apparent as we adjusted to our new space and increased workload. Knowing how to handle those conflicts and remain professional while doing so became very important for me as I navigated my changing work environment.
The most important part of my experience for my professional development was the opportunity to work with different veterinarians and observe the ways that they interacted with the clients, patients, and cases. I worked with five different veterinarians over the summer, each one with differing preferences and ways of practicing medicine. Being able to shadow these doctors so closely allowed me to form an idea of what kind of veterinarian I want to be. Connections with the clients and their pets are very important to me, much more important than keeping a schedule and fitting as many appointments as possible into a day. The comfort and happiness of the animal is more important to me than pursuing aggressive or expensive treatment, even if it means less money for the practice. Treating each case as an individual and doing my best for the animal is more important than my own comfort and complacency. Clients are being vulnerable in trusting you to care for their beloved pet. They are inviting you into their family, and I hope I remember to never take that for granted.
Hayley Peters is a third-year student at the University of Iowa, studying biology on a pre-veterinary track. She has hopes of attending veterinary school at Iowa State University on a mixed animal track and would like to practice large and small animal medicine in the future. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, volunteering, and crafts. She is a Presidential Scholar and Peer Mentor for Honors at Iowa. Hayley lives in North Liberty, IA with her family and her cat, Finnegan, whom she likes to dress in cute clothes despite his protests.
Edited by: Delaney McDowell, Honors Student Admin