Student teaching. Our gift to the future.
Tim Kai Ngor
My three weeks at Whyalla Veterinary Clinic (WVC) was undoubtedly one of the best small animal clinical placements I’ve undertaken. Not only was it a great learning experience, during which all of my learning objectives were achieved; it was also a placement I thoroughly enjoyed.
After reading reviews written by previous students, I was fascinated and intrigued by the amazing time they experienced at WVC – getting a taste of working like a real vet before graduation! Prior to coming to WVC, I was a bit worried about not being able to meet the expectations and achieve what previous students have accomplished. Three weeks later, as I write my own review, I can say that I have gained much more confidence in my own abilities, and dare I say competence, in many aspects of general practice, particularly that of surgery – I feel I am one step closer to being a real vet!
Everyone at WVC is extremely friendly, very experienced, patient and willing to teach. Despite being so supportive and encouraging, a lot of confidence was also placed on me and I was not expected to simply follow given instructions to do things but to make informed decisions based on my own judgment. Despite being a true country practice, WVC is fully computerised and has modern facilities, including an in-house idexx machine, an intensive care unit and a fantastic microscope for diagnostic cytology etc. With the closest specialist centre being a good 4-hour drive away to Adelaide, access to referral services is limited and a wide variety of cases is often worked up and treated here. I also found that most if not all clients here were willing to proceed with the best option offered for their pet and hence cases were often worked up thoroughly with the diagnostic end-point reached and the patient treated accordingly, which is always great.
As many past students have mentioned ad nauseum, “tissue time” is surely guaranteed at WVC. From the first week, I was allowed and trusted to perform desexings on my own. Andrew, Charna and Miranda placed enormous confidence in my surgical abilities but were always there to offer a hand if any problems were encountered, which included tearing an ovarian pedicle during my first spey! Apart from desexings on an almost daily basis, I also got to remove dew claws, perform a lumpectomy, dental extractions, fight wound stitch ups etc. I have become much more confident in desexings and suturing and I will not forget the handy tips that Andrew, Charna and Miranda have told me. In addition to honing on my surgical skills, my active involvement in all aspects of general practice, including consultations, anaesthesia, wound management etc really helped me improve my clinical abilities. Of course, I will not forget about learning the dose rates of common drugs that Andrew has emphasised over and over again – as he said, if we know the common things by heart now, we will not only be able to be respected as a new graduate but we will also be able to work out more complicated things from the get-go. I can confidently say that I’m now much more familiar with dose rates of many of the commonly used drugs!
If you want an early glimpse into the life of being a vet before graduation, WVC is the place to go to. Here, everyone gives you free rein to take charge and make decisions as a true trainee vet. However, this accompanies working long hours and after-hours (very rarely do you get to leave work before 6 pm), which include weekly trips to a branch clinic in Roxby downs, a small town 4 hours away from Whyalla, which is interesting but can also be very tiring. Days spent there are often extremely busy as the vet (and the ‘student vet’) only attends the clinic once a week – I still remember the day during which I worked for 13 hours without sitting down and eventually got a sore back at the end of the day from neutering puppies for the rehoming program! It was definitely hard work at WVC, but in the end it was truly worth it for all the hands-on experience I got. All the cappuccinos and teas that I got offered on a daily basis definitely helped me get through the long days! I would highly recommend this practice to any final-year vet student who is looking to gain invaluable hands-on experience in order hone their clinical and surgical skills to become competent new graduates.
I am particularly fascinated by Andrew’s commitment and various contributions to the society. Apart from being a knowledgeable and well-respected veterinarian in the area, he also commits a lot of time and money to managing the rehoming scheme for strays in conjunction with the RSPCA and various local pounds; in running/organising very hands-on clinical placements for veterinary students – something he wish he had as a student; and also in taking active steps in caring for and protecting the environment (such as carbon offsetting). Andrew also has a great sense of humour and is a very supportive teacher and mentor with a wealth of knowledge and lots of handy advice/tips for the novice. His infinite enthusiasm and energy is simply amazing – I only wish I could maintain a similar level of passion for the job and various other respects when I become a qualified vet in the not-too-distant future!
I take this opportunity to thank everyone at WVC and RDVC – Lena, Carol, Karen, Sharon, Tash, Carol-Ann, Amelia, Kristy, Erika, Jess & Keira – thanks for being so welcoming and helping me settle in so quickly since day one, for the huge support and the immense patience, especially when I was doing terribly long stitch-ups; and the amazing cappuccinos you’ve made for me – you have all really made a difference. I also thank Charna and Miranda for being so supportive and trusting in my abilities, being receptive to all my questions and for allaying my fears/worries which have really made me comfortable especially in surgery and more confident in my own abilities. I am amazed at both of your composure in face of any cases/patients encountered, surgical abilities and veterinary knowledge and only wish I can achieve that level of competence after only a year out! I cannot express more gratitude for the contribution you’ve all made to my veterinary education and for making this placement such an enjoyable one. It was great fun and an absolute pleasure working with all of you.
Last but not least, I would like to thank Sandi for providing such a warm cosy home and brilliant meals every night. Coming home after a long and tiring day to a delicious warm meal was just fantastic and was something I looked forward to everyday. For the lucky ones who have successfully booked a place at WVC - always listen to Sandi’s advice because she has had so many students in the past and knows everything relating to our work schedule! As she said, always have some snacks on hand because you never know when you will get time, if any, to have a bite on busy days!
I still remember how delighted I was when I received Andrew’s e-mail confirming my placement and all the excitement leading up to the placement, which I’ve now completed – happy times really fly. I once again thank Andrew for this opportunity and will not forget my wonderful time at WVC!
" I can say that I have gained much more confidence in my own abilities, and dare I say competence, in many aspects of general practice, particularly that of surgery – I feel I am one step closer to being a real vet! " Tim Kai Ngor.