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How can I get veterinary experience?

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by TheKillerrAnna, May 24, 2012.

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  1. TheKillerrAnna

    TheKillerrAnna

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    I've been trying to find an answer to this for a long time now, but I haven't found the answer.

    Animal experience won't be a problem, because I'll just volunteer at the local animal shelter during the summers. It's just really frustrating me that no one ever talks about how realistic it is to expect to get vet experience with no qualifications. Is there a certain way to approach vets about it? Are there certain veterinary offices where people are allowed to do this?

    Everything I've found is "volunteer at a vet's office!" but that doesn't help at all. I found one person who mentioned just becoming a vet tech first, but I'd really like not to spend my entire life in school. So for me, that's a last-resort thing. Does anyone have any REAL advice about getting veterinary experience?
  2. cowgirla

    cowgirla Oklahoma 2014

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    Type up a nice resume and a cover letter, explaining your goal of vet school. Take it down to a vets office, talk to the vet if you can, the manager if the vet's not there. Dress nicely, be super polite (Even to the front desk staff- a lot of times people hiring ask the front desk staff what their opinion is). You might have to stop at a few places, but hopefully you'll find a vet to take you on. You might have better luck asking to shadow, rather than volunteer due to insurance reasons.

    If you have a personal vet for your pets, start there, and bring cookies ;)
  3. NStarz

    NStarz Ohio State c/o 2016

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    There's a few threads on this circulating already.

    I would put on a nice pair of slacks and a blouse (assuming you're female, sorry if I'm wrong), beef up your cover letter and resume, and go on a trip to the local vet clinics. Pick 6 or so, drop of your resume, tell the office manager/vet that you are looking to get some shadowing experience for vet school, and you should be set. Family friends may also have connections that you can utilize. My dad is on a softball team with a vet, so he made the initial connection for me and I pursued it from there. You do have to be persistent, though.

    If you local shelter has a vet or vet tech department, then that could count as vet experience as well. Other people recommend cold calling vet clinics in your area, but I think you have a better chance if you go in person (harder for them to say no). Let me know if that doesn't answer your question--not entirely sure what you're asking. :D Welcome to the forum, btw!


    EDIT: Darn! Cowgirla beat me to it :)
  4. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    A good attitude maybe?

    I just emailed a few people and someone eventually told me I could shadow them. So that's how I shadowed the first time and got my first 100 hours.

    Then I talked to my old vet in Germany about shadowing when I visit there and just got done shadowing him for 9 days and got another 30 hours there.

    You just need to ask a lot of people. Some offices just don't like it or don't want to deal with insurance in case something happens maybe?

    Dress nicely and go talk to vets personally. That's still my favorite thing to do. You might have to start with volunteering or shadowing, but eventually might get a job.

    Really, just keep trying.
  5. cowgirla

    cowgirla Oklahoma 2014

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    you had more details than I did! :laugh:
  6. NStarz

    NStarz Ohio State c/o 2016

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    Only in the pre-vet forum would we be arguing over who gets to give advice first. :smack:
  7. pigsatuga

    pigsatuga

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    I literally had no experience and got turned down by at least 20 clinics and every zoo, wildlife rehab, horse sanctuary in town (vet school college town). Finally, after a lot of calls, emails and resume drop-offs, I was allowed to volunteer at an amazing practice. I'm still there and am currently doing a summer internship. I plan on about having about 300 hours with them before I apply in October. Your local Animal Shelter may have a low cost spay and neuter that is affiliated with them. I volunteered at mine and got to watch surgery all day AND help with recovery. Trust me, just be persistent and polite and it will happen :D
  8. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    Are you in Athens? I'm trying to find a vet to volunteer for/shadow that's not at the vet school. While I love being there, I'd also like to see another practice, where people aren't always willing to spend thousands of dollars and have all the equipment available. Smaller stuff. I just wanna see another side of everything.
  9. bunnity

    bunnity Penn 2014

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    @PetPony, try a shelter or humane society's medical department. Many shelters have a low-cost outpatient clinic, as well as a surgery department and care for the shelter animals - so you get a lot of variety as well as seeing "the other side" of vet med. Plus, they usually really need the help and you have the satisfaction of helping animals that may have never seen a vet before. I did that and loved it and am still planning on being a shelter vet.
  10. CanHardlyWait

    CanHardlyWait VMRCVM c/o 2016

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    I agree with all of the ideas above. In addition:

    If you are going to be volunteering at an animal shelter, ask the vet there to shadow him/her.

    Or volunteer for a summer at a shelter and use that experience to build your resume then apply for jobs as a kennel worker or vet/tech assistant. That's basically what I did, except I volunteered at a zoo for 2 years, worked at a petting zoo one summer and used that experience to get an assistant position. I then used the assistant experience to get a tech job at an ER (I live in a state that doesn't mandate LVT's).

    Basically, you have to think long term and be prepared to do some nasty work (ex: shoveling bear poo). Good luck:)
  11. PppermintTwist

    PppermintTwist

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    Be persistent, but polite and friendly.
    I'd go in person too, vs just a call if you are able to, if not a formal email/letter, or call and leave a message asking to speak to the hiring manager, etc.

    Getting licensed to be a vet tech gives you a back up plan, but it is very different than being a veterinarian so if its not the career you want then look for other ways to get experience.

    Everyone gave very good advice. Dont give up!
  12. Fly Racing

    Fly Racing

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    All of my shadowing (except the local shelter with a low cost clinic) has come from me being a client or being friends with the client. I even had one vet offer to write me a recommendation letter after spending the day with a friend at the hospital with her colicing horse! I never even mentioned I was pre-vet (because at the time I wasnt!) My point is, get out there and be around vets! Ask GOOD, higher level questions and be yourself, yet professional. I have had 4 separate shadowing gigs (2 equine, 2 small) just by telling the vet at the end of the appointment that "I'm a pre-vet student at xx university, applying to vet school xx year and I wondering if you offer any opportunities for shadowing." I may even mention that I was really impressed or fascinated by something specific they did that day and would love to learn more from them! I have always had a positive and sometimes really positive response from the vet.

    For example, just yesterday, I asked a friend if I could tag along with her to her appointment for her horse for a hoof injury. I had no intentions of asking to shadow, but I was so impressed with how much client teaching (and at a higher level too) he did, that I asked. He said no problem and that I should call in weekly so they can let me know which days something interesting is scheduled for, so I dont miss it!
  13. SocialStigma

    SocialStigma OVC c/o 2015

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    Be persistent. Everyone has pretty much said what I wanted to say already but just to give you my own personal tale:

    I have no pets, ergo, no vet. Started off going to 10 vets near my home. Went in to each one to drop off a cover letter and resume while wearing a nice blouse and khakis. Most of them said they already had enough volunteers/weren't looking. Some said they would pass on my info to the hospital manager/put me on a waiting list. Finally, got to one clinic and realized I knew the receptionist on duty (she was the founder of a nonprofit feral cat rescue in my area that I volunteered with, had absolutely no idea she also worked at that vet clinic). She put in a good word for me and voila - first vet experience.

    Landed my second volunteering gig by pure luck. I had been volunteering at the above clinic for 2 years already and trying to branch out to another. Looked up all the clinics in my area again and realized a new clinic had opened. Went over and turned in my cover letter and resume, got asked for an interview the following day, and got the position. They had literally no staff aside from the 3 vets and 1 vet tech so they were very grateful for the extra help, I just got lucky that I approached them at the right time (literally 2 weeks after they opened their doors).
  14. pigsatuga

    pigsatuga

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    I assume you were asking me :)
    And yes, I am in Athens! If you are interested in shelter medicine or just want some low-cost action, check out Dr. Light in Watkinsville at the AAHS Spay and Neuter Clinic. It's really easy to become a volunteer online and you get to observe surgery and help recover the animals. The techs there are really great too and they always need help. As for other clinics, I'm not really sure. The Cat and Dog Clinic is a small, family owned place and they seem really nice, but I have no idea if they are accepting volunteers. You just have to ask around. If you want large animal, food animal or equine, well, you really will have to cast your net pretty far. I drive 1 hour each way to volunteer 3 times a week at a rural clinic just for the mixed practice experience (but it's worth it!!). :D
  15. TheKillerrAnna

    TheKillerrAnna

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    Thanks for all the advice! I have a rabbit of my own but he's unfortunately never seen a vet because my mom could never afford to bring him. However, I'll be taking him to one this summer and that could be a vet I ask to shadow. I've heard the vets there are really good from my aunt, who has brought every cat she's had there. My grandmother also takes her cats and dog to this vet that sees many different kinds of animals because there are a lot of farms where she lives. So I could get larger animal experience from shadowing him.

    I didn't think shadowing was a regular thing (as in, multiple times with the same vet) or I wouldn't have been so worried about veterinary experience. I thought the only thing that counted for vet experience was basically doing a vet tech's job.
  16. orca2011

    orca2011 PennWe c/o 2016!!! Gold Donor

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    Nope. Shadowing 100% counts as vet experience. A few people on this forum have mentioned how all their vet experience hours were from shadowing and they got into vet school. As long as you take the opportunity to learn from it and are able to show that in your PS, interviews, etc, you should be fine. I honestly lucked out and landed an internship with my local humane society's clinic, which eventually led to a job as a veterinary assistant but before then all my vet experience was from shadowing. I honestly feel like I learned a bit more that way since I could take it in and not worry about what task I had to do next.
  17. Bismarck

    Bismarck Cornell c/o 2016

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    I'll just add that if you do shadow piecemeal, try to develop at least one in-depth experience where you can obtain a strong letter of recommendation from a veterinarian (DVM or equivalent) as you will need at least one (preferably two IMO) to satisfy most schools' evaluation requirements.
  18. hopefulinva

    hopefulinva VMRCVM DVM/MPH c/o 2016

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    It's a huge Catch-22 because in this economy, most places don't like to hire without prior experience, but how can you possibly have prior experience if you haven't been hired? And being a student generally lands you seasonal work, which many clinics are unwilling to do. (Go figure.)

    I'm sure this thread has set you straight, but volunteering at a vet's office is indeed REAL advice - and in fact can be better advice, since as a trainee assistant your main jobs will include taking out the trash, cleaning out the kitty boxes, and keeping the kennel sparkling, while a shadow gets to observe surgeries and lay on the questions.
  19. TheKillerrAnna

    TheKillerrAnna

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    I'll try to start getting experience as soon as I start as an undergrad, that way if it's hard at first, I still have time.

    One more question, though. (If anyone's still looking at this thread) What should you do if you end up shadowing a bad vet? As in, my aunt said that she had seen one vet that would demand money up front or he would euthanize your pet. I know it's not uncommon for vets to want the money immediately, but it seems quite extreme to choose euthanasia before treatment. She said her cat needed emergency medical care and she was out of town for two days, and rather than waiting two days for payment, he refused to take her cat unless it was to euthanize him. It just seems so wrong to me, and I really don't think I could stomach shadowing a vet like that.

    If I ended up with someone unbearably bad, should I make up some excuse for why I have to stop shadowing? Should I say something to them about it? I'm sure that guy isn't the only bad vet out there, and I want to know what to do if I'm in that situation.
  20. Spinach Dip

    Spinach Dip Delicious with nachos

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    :thumbup::thumbup:



    On topic:

    I found it really helped to find other pre-vet students in my area. Through networking, I was able to find more places willing to take on volunteers. (You'd be amazed how many animal rescues and private practices around here don't even have a website!)

    In short: be persistent, and remember that your vet hours are not the only thing that matters! Your grades and GRE are more important (for most schools anyway...).
  21. cowgirla

    cowgirla Oklahoma 2014

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    All I can say is keep an open mind. There's more than one side to every story, and money/financial worries are a HUGE part of vet med. Many times it does come down to euthanasia when an owner can't pay - it's part of the job, unfortunately. Nearly all clients will say that "Oh, I'll have the money, I promise," and ask for payment plans, but the truth of the matter is, its a scarily small percentage that actually follow through and pay up.

    If you're hungry, do you expect the restaurant around the corner to give you a free meal? If you rip a pair of jeans, should the store give you a new pair, even if you can't pay?

    Also rememember that vet med is a very small world- I'd be careful of telling vets that they are wrong/bad/mean/ you dont like the way they practice, etc, because you never know who they know, and how that could affect you in the future. Be professional, don't burn any bridges at this stage of the game!
  22. OwlandPussycat

    OwlandPussycat UC Davis c/o 2016!

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    While this may not work for everyone, I was able to get all of my veterinary hours by working at animal hospitals. It may vary by state, but in California you don't need to be an RVT to do technician work (although some skills are off-limits). I started working as an assistant with no experience, and worked my way up to the technician level while going to school. This allowed me to earn money while I was getting my hours (double whammy!), and gave me TONS of experience.
    I know in some hospitals, employees are hired specifically to do kennel/cleaning duty, and it can be difficult to break into "veterinary" experience. I started working at a smaller hospital where the techs did all of those things, and the entry level position entailed assisting the technicians.
    The money isn't great, but I really value the fact that I have been able to be so intimately involved with the hospitals I've worked at. On the other hand, I've never actually "shadowed" a doctor, so I can't really weigh the pros and cons.
  23. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    I think it's important to see both sides. One where people can spend a ton of money, and one where they really can't. You never know which one you're gonna work with.

    Thank you! I'll definitely look into that! I should be getting a car (and license....) this summer, which is really expanding the possibilities. I wish Athens Transit would go to more places outside of Athens. :laugh:

    That's why I want to shadow my current vet at the LA VTH a ton this summer and then keep coming over the years whenever I get the chance, so she can really get to know me and be comfortable abut writing a LOR. I absolutely love her. I think she's a wonderful vet. :)
  24. sunshinevet

    sunshinevet

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    Cowgirla gave some good advice regarding this, and I just want to reinforce it. Go in with a very open mind. If you've not had much to do with veterinary medicine before, be careful about determining what is a "good" vet and what is a "bad" vet before you've seen such things. We can't work for free - and most people won't pay their bills. With no guarrentee of payment, a vet can't(shouldn't) treat an animal - however they are obliged to relieve suffering - which in this case the vet obviously felt strongly about. Yes it seems very unfair and mean and bad - but until you have been on the recieving end of people constantly saying "i have no money" "i wont pay that bill" "your charges are ridiculous" and popping out to "have a smoke" and abandoning their animal at your clinic, you won't fully understand the issue at hand. And these aren't uncommon things - a combination of those happen every night at the emergency clinic where I work - and in emergency medicine, most animals are acutely suffering and need either treatment or euth. Add onto that most vet clinics are scraping by to make a profit and vets are poorly paid, and you can understand why we need money upfront.

    I would also make sure you don't share this story with vets you shadow. If a work experience kid came in and told me that, I would tell them outright that they did not understand the issues at hand in veterinary medicine. So go in with a very open mind - learn as much as you can, and try to see both sides of the story :)
  25. PppermintTwist

    PppermintTwist

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    If you find yourself working for a veterinarian who you feel is unethical than politely find a "reason" that you can no longer shadow/work there. Always be careful not to burn bridges and try not to bad mouth old employees at your new job.

    In the case of your aunts cat. I work at an emergency hospital and we require 50% down if the patient spends the night, or full payment (checks count ) This practice comes from vet hospitals being burned by offering payment plans. If the vet hospital gives too much away they will have to close their doors. Im sure your aunt would have paid, but unfortunately there are many people in the world that will ignore the bill.

    The cat was most likely in extreme pain/severely injured. And a veterinarian will not send an animal home to suffer. If there is no money to pay for possibly very expensive treatments that may or may not save the cat, sometimes humane euthanasia is the correct response. I was not there but I imagine it was a traumatic experience for your aunt. Experiences like that very often leave a bad taste in people's mouths. It may not have been a bad vet, but simply very strict policies he has to adhere to in order to stay open.

    This also brings up why it is very important to give your pet sitter written permission to seek treatment for your cat, and access to money in case of emergency.
  26. LetItSnow

    LetItSnow UMN CVM Gold Donor

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    I'm not seeing what's "bad" about that vet. He's saying: Yes, I'll accept your cat if you can pay. If you can't, I'll accept your cat to euthanize (which, btw, is still costing that vet!). To me that seems reasonable. He's ensuring the cat gets treatment if the owner can afford it, but isn't left to suffer and slowly die in pain if the owner can't.

    You'd be surprised how many clients don't deliver on their promises to pay, if you offer treatment without demanding up-front payment.
  27. CanHardlyWait

    CanHardlyWait VMRCVM c/o 2016

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    :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:: I also worked in emergency and this is so important! Based on how many times situations like this have come up, I can't believe this is still overlooked, especially by non-vet boarding facilities and professional pet sitters.
  28. krh696

    krh696

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    Right now I currently work as a kennel person/technician in training at a small animal hospital. All of my hours are at this one hospital, but I see many people who have hours at more than one hospital. one of my coworkers and good friend started working at another hospital a few months ago and i have visited so I am familiar with the people who work there, would it be better if I shadowed there a couple days too just to get hours at a different hospital as well and see how different hospitals run and how different doctors work?
  29. BlackDog17

    BlackDog17 AVC c/o 2017

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    Was it really necessary to post this exact same thing FOUR times in four different threads? One post is plenty and will be seen by everyone.

    To answer your question: it may be beneficial for you to see how another hospital is run, so yes, I'd say shadowing at the other hospital is a good idea. But if you're looking to boost your application , you should try to get more diverse experience and see a side of vet med other than just small animal.
  30. Frozenshades

    Frozenshades KSU c/o 2017! Gold Donor

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    :thumbup:

    That's very annoying.



    What would probably be even better is if you got experience at a hospital that does different kinds of medicine. So since you've done only small animal so far, try and get some large animal experience. Other than that, I'd say you'd probably do better to stay at the same hospital and continue to build up your relationship with the doctor(s) there. You want people who know you real well so they can write solid recommendations.
  31. Emiloo4

    Emiloo4 UF CVM 2016

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    Not to mention, cross posting multiple threads is against SDN rules. I'm sure you meant no harm and aren't aware of how this works, but we can all see the posts you make, so now we're seeing it four times. Props for at least using the search function though. Most people don't even get that far. :highfive:

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