Mental Health

My experience with clinics while being in a “covid class”

There’s a popular saying in vet school “those who didn’t do well in the classroom, make up for it in clinics.” I am here to tell you that is true. My peers and I have had an unorthodox vet school experience. Being nicknamed the “covid class” came with an unspoken additional need to prove ourselves in clinics. On top of that, I was never a model student. Juggling clubs, managing campus aquariums, being a student ambassador, and just trying to live a semi-normal life, I struggled academically. While some students would be upset about missing a few points for the A, I was simply grateful to even pass a class.

At the end of second year, clinics began to approach and anxiety set in. What if I made a mistake? What if I didn’t know what drug to use, or the answer to a question from the clinician? Imposter syndrome was in full effect. All of a sudden I found myself hating my past self for not putting more time and energy into going to every lecture and memorizing every slide on the PowerPoints. Before I knew it, it was day one of my first rotation: Large Animal Medicine. My first patient was an emergency dairy calf with a rare heart condition. I was asked what my differentials were for cardiac disease in a dairy cow. I had no idea—and after a brief moment of panic, I was assured it was okay.

Our whole careers leading up to this point, we are in school, doing internships, or working as veterinary technicians under experienced clinicians. All of sudden, I was in the real world as a student clinician. But I also learned I wasn’t just the student clinician. I would serve in a multitude of roles. From corresponding with angry owners to comforting patients post-surgery, I realized that though lots of my class material was applicable to situations on rotations, being hands on with real patients was invaluable.

Throughout clinics, I was able to fill in the gaps in my knowledge base regarding disease diagnosis, treatment, and client communication. But perhaps the most important thing I learned in clinics is that there are many lessons that you just can’t learn in a classroom. Sometimes you’re helping with an abuse case while waiting for legal action. Sometimes clinicians are lashing out at anesthesia but don’t know that the anesthetic team has been working almost 24 hours straight. Sometimes you’re the only Spanish speaking person in the hospital at 1 a.m. and have to translate for an emergency case on a different service. In all those experiences, I learned how to be a more resilient and compassionate human– and through this, a better doctor. And then it’s back to bed to do it all over again.

That’s what clinics are about. It’s about being willing to start each day anew.

You don’t have to know everything. You have to know where to look – and more importantly, what you’re looking for.

You have to be willing to laugh about the fact that you wrote “Shit Zhu” and not “Shih Zhu” on your discharge (oops). You have to be willing to acknowledge your mistakes, take in criticism, and apply what you’ve learned.

Most importantly, you have to realize that this journey is life long. Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the rotation, or when we graduate. Learning ends when we hang up our white coats for the last time.

For now, it’s back to the classroom for me. Having clinics in my third year has been both a blessing and a learning curve. As a hands-on learner, I felt a lot of topics come together during clinics and start to make sense. I have a newfound respect for the material being taught in the classroom as I know how it applies to the real world. And I can’t wait to put my white coat on again for round two next year.

Many thank you’s to all the doctors, technicians, and support staff at UF CVM for everything that they do.

Andrea Rodriguez (she/her) is a third year veterinary student at the University of Florida. A daughter of Colombian immigrants, she is very passionate about improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in veterinary medicine. She mentors undergraduate students from underrepresented groups, is an ambassador for the college (congregator), and participated in interviews for the DVM Class of 2026. Andrea’s interests also include equine medicine and small animal medicine. Prior to veterinary school she worked in muscular dystrophy research, completed an internship at Peterson and Smith Equine Hospital, and volunteered at several local organizations. Currently, she is leading a fundraiser for the Trevor Project to help prevent suicide in LGBTQ+ youth. She would love for you to check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/donate/1043504736514991/

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