Mental Health

Why it’s important to burst the vet student’s bubble sometimes

The veterinary profession seemingly tends to attract certain kinds of people; the type-A, perfectionist achievers with a high empathetic drive to help animals and people. Often, they also have a high chance of developing imposter syndrome due to being surrounded by others with very similar drives and perfectionisms. And yet, vets seem to attract each other’s companionship more so than in other professional programs.

At my university, the other programs all study at the same campus, in the same buildings—the veterinary students are all placed together on a completely separate campus about twenty minutes away from the main buildings. Because of our closely shared spaces, the bonds we will forge with each other over the duration of the five-year program are bound to be strong.

It isn’t surprising that students spending around eight hours together every day in lectures, practicals, and study groups become close friends; we are bound to lean forward, backward, and side to side at some point to talk to one another. The veterinary student’s bubble provides a safe space to vent frustrations relating to the studies, to celebrate an excellent Aberdeen knot or Penrose drain placement, to learn and grow amongst our future colleagues who will understand better than anyone else the trials all veterinarians are almost guaranteed to have to endure. The bubble allows us to together develop the mental strength needed to survive the arduous nature of veterinary school. We are constantly studying, talking, and breathing veterinary medicine in order to understand it and be able to wield our knowledge to help animals and people; it is no wonder that we rarely venture outside of this circle, as it is, strangely enough, our comfort zone.

Though being saturated in veterinary medicine definitely has its benefits, not being able to break away every so often can eventually take its toll. It can be incredibly tough not to compare yourself to your peers when you are constantly surrounded by them; it is easy to slip into the false belief that you are not good or intelligent enough to be here. Asking questions in front of your future colleagues can seem like a daunting task when you are afraid it may be a silly and everyone else will know the answer. It is much easier to focus on everything you do not know rather than on the topics you do, so you feel as if you will never be able to learn or remember everything. Discussing nothing but lectures, upcoming exams, practicals, and the other veterinary-related tasks on our never-ending to-do lists is anxiety-inducing. Trying to sign up for externship opportunities on our holiday breaks, prepare as best as possible for future internships, figure out where our professional interests lie and what career path we want to take are mentally onerous tasks, especially during the frustrating times when we are already suffering from imposter syndrome.

Because of this constant stress swirling around us inside our closed veterinary bubble, is important to have hobbies and connections with people outside of veterinary medicine. It would only be beneficial to remember a veterinarian is not solely comprised of medicine and animals, but also of experiences, friendships, families, interests, and stories that have nothing to do with said occupation. Essentially, we are more than veterinarians—we are humans, with different ideals, belief systems, and experiences.
The veterinary student’s bubble can be a tough one to burst and it can be hard to find time outside of studying, attending class, practicing for the OSCEs, attending/preparing for externships, and keeping up to date with veterinary news (in addition to maintaining a social circle, going to the gym, and eating as healthy as a university student’s budget allows) to dedicate to finding a hobby and making new, non-veterinary friends. However, burnout can be prevented by taking mental breaks from veterinary medicine. Joining a university or non-university club, taking the time, even if it’s just twenty minutes, to read a fun book in the evening, or attending gym classes with a friend are all ways to break away and take a break, even if it is only for a short while. Some sort of equilibrium should be reached, even under the heavy pressures of academics.

Horseback riding has been my personal escape from the veterinary bubble. I ride through the main university with a group of other students that are studying philosophy, mathematics, English literature—areas that have nothing to do with veterinary medicine. When we get together to ride, we do not talk about school; we only talk about horses and riding. I have also recently discovered an enjoyment of indoor bouldering; spending an hour or two at my local climbing gym with a couple of my friends has been really helped me find that balance by stepping out of the veterinary world for a short while.

It is important to socialize with people that live outside of the veterinary bubble. Of course, we as vets will need to be able to communicate with people from all walks of life, because our future clients will be people from all walks of life. However, veterinarians inherently love to learn, and making connections with all different types of people will provide vets with a sense of learning something new with each interaction.

There are over seven billion people on this planet, all of whom have different personalities, identities, ideals, and values, who could all teach someone something new. We have to be able to make new connections with vastly different people who come from many different backgrounds, as that is truly how we learn and grow as empathetic veterinarians—and humans.

Kaitla Wildblood is a veterinary student at the University of Glasgow. She was born and raised in sunny California, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science with a minor in Equine Science from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Her professional interests lie in the exciting world of equine medicine. Outside of the veterinary bubble, she enjoys horseback riding, running, indoor bouldering, playing soccer, playing piano, and reading.”



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