“It only gets worse after you graduate,” a practicing veterinarian once told me. “You have real patients to take care of with real legal consequences if you screw up – things were way simpler in vet school.”
I was a first-year veterinary student just trying to survive anatomy at the time, and this piece of unsolicited “advice” hit me pretty hard. I was already struggling to find balance in the chaos of classes, labs, volunteer hours, study sessions, and extracurriculars. My personal well-being had taken the backseat – I gained almost 40 pounds, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was constantly stressed.
No matter what I did, I couldn’t help but feel like I was falling behind in every aspect of my life. I had thought that things would be easier when I finished school – and now I was being told that they would only get worse. I fought to maintain a positive attitude, but the idea of taking on even more after graduation terrified me.
Despite my fears, I somehow made it through my first year of vet school. It wasn’t a pretty process, but I did it. That summer, I realized that my second year had to be different – I simply couldn’t relive my first-year experience. I vowed to take better care of myself. Vet school was important, but not at the cost of my physical and emotional health.
I purchased several fitness DVDs to help motivate me to exercise regularly. At the beginning of every workout, the instructor introduced a new concept to think about when we reached a point where we felt like giving up – and one concept was incredibly relevant to my veterinary school experience. As I sweated my way to the end of the exercise, I kept repeating the phrase “it doesn’t get easier… you get better.” In one defining moment, I realized that the “advice” I had been given before was only a half-truth.
The veterinarian I had talked to certainly didn’t lie about the way things were. Vet school doesn’t get any easier – and neither does practicing medicine in the “real world.” But he didn’t factor personal growth into the equation. I made it through my first year and I am SO much stronger, wiser, and better than the person I was upon entering vet school.
I made it through my second year and I was even more proud of the person I had become. And now, as I prepare to enter into my clinical years, I know that I will only continue to improve. Veterinary medicine doesn’t get easier – but I am confident that who I will be tomorrow can handle it.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
About the Author
Riley Newson is a DVM/MPH student University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and part of the Class of 2019. She is also a Banfield Student Ambassador.