Claire Scott is a fourth-year student at the Royal Veterinary College. She has embarked on rotations and completed several of her required extramural studies weeks, including one spent with Veterinary Record.
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Why is EMS important?
EMS is a student's opportunity to try things out, unexamined and without pressure. Be that the tenth time that I have unsuccessfully placed a catheter, or the fourth time that I have drafted an article for a magazine. EMS is a chance to dip your toe into waters that you might swim in later, testing the temperature, as it were. Some will specialise and exit the degree course as near competent small animal vets, for example. Others (myself included) will try many experiences, most likely exiting the degree less competent clinically, but perhaps better informed about the scope of what a veterinary degree offers.
What does it teach you?
How not to act as a bystander. EMS is possible on a hangover, but isn't very rewarding. It teaches that life is interesting if you engage, and that you will only learn if you place yourself into situations where you would rather not be. Also, if you make friends with the nurses and volunteer to help them, then they will come to you when there is something interesting to do, like taking bloods.
Do you arrange placements yourself?
Yes. I felt it was important to secure the placements early because they are time consuming to organise and many book up months, even years in advance. I'm happy with my choices even though I know it will mean turning other placements down in the future.
Other students may have a more fluid approach and may be lucky to pick up last minute opportunities.
What are the challenges?
My family lives in the suburbs, and my university is in the suburbs. That means that if I want to do farm practice EMS I have to pay for accommodation on top of my student rent. Some placements have been a three-hour round trip away, which is tiring.
Some veterinary teams can be quite established and difficult to integrate into, but when you finally do, it is a really satisfying feeling.
Do you get good support from your university?
My university has given me a £100 bursary for a placement at a pig practice next month, which is a great help. It has a team to approach for advice or for building flexibility into the placement if necessary.
Have you done/are you planning any overseas EMS?
I went to Cyprus last year with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps to shadow a veterinary officer. I was lucky to have no expenses and got to see what an unusual job involved.
I don't think it is necessary to go abroad though, as there is so much experience to be gained in the UK, and many overseas programmes allow you to do more postgraduation. But it's fun to engulf yourself in a whole new experience and culture.
Have you had any EMS surprises?
Equine, I absolutely love it. It is a pleasure to work with clients whose animal is their favourite hobby.
What's been your best EMS experience so far?
A placement in which I boarded a plane from Australia to accompany 20 Arabian horses being imported into the UK. It was very exciting and a great atmosphere being part of a team that was committed to the safe arrival of a precious cargo.
Any embarrassing EMS moments?
Silly things – spilling a big vat of disinfectant, and thinking that a puppy's penis was an abdominal hernia, but nothing catastrophic!
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