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Tips on shadowing/volunteering while working full-time

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by pumpkinsmom, 02.17.12.

  1. pumpkinsmom

    pumpkinsmom

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    Hi all, Sorry if the questions below are a repeat of other threads, I did a search and didn't find anything quite like my situation. I'm not expecting a paying job, just trying to find a place to shadow and/or volunteer once a week.

    So I work full time right now and will likely be doing the same through the next school year (2012-2013). I need the salary, and I've formed bonds with my coworkers and supervisors so they are expecting me to stay on at least another year.

    Trouble is, I feel like a little of the life is being sucked out of me. So, I'm trying to figure out the best way of getting the vet experience I want. I have something abroad lined up over the summer, but I really need more hours in the mean time - and I really want to learn more about the vet career.


    Here are the problems I've faced so far - although I've only asked at a few SA clinics:

    - Any time I've offered to volunteer at a clinic, they say they don't take volunteers unless you're associated with a program (for liability reasons). Anyone else encountered this?
    - I'm only looking to shadow or volunteer once a week, not get paid. Would you still suggest mailing a cover letter and resume to lots of clinics? The reason I ask is that If I'm only asking to shadow/volunteer, why would they spend their time reaching out to me and contacting me back?


    - Also, I would be totally interested in shadowing or volunteering with an equine vet, but am unfamiliar with horses or stables. How do you find a vet/place? Do you search for an actual traveling veterinarian or for a horse stable? Do you mail a resume/cover letter, or call?


    Thanks for your suggestions and support!
     
  2. skittles12

    skittles12 UTCVM class of 2014

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    If you have a personal vet, I would suggest calling and starting there. Let them know that you are interested in pursuing a veterinary career and just the exposure is important to you. Even if they aren't able to accommodate you, they may be able to put you in touch with another vet who is willing to take volunteers.

    As far as equine, if there are any equine vets in your area you could definitely call them and see if they are willing to let you shadow. Or you could try calling horse stables and see if they can let you know of any equine vets.

    Don't forget about shelters and zoos as well. Sometimes shelters may be more willing to accept volunteers. Best of luck to you!
     
  3. chickenlittle

    chickenlittle

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    Due to liability issues, it seems that it's often easier to get a PT job that a volunteer/shadowing position. Yes, the PT job will often be cleaning kennels instead of directly observing the vet, but often you can move up from there... and if they know you're interested in being a veterinarian, the staff will often find ways to let you observe in your occasional downtime.

    If you're unfamiliar with horses, I'd suggest calling around and finding a stable that takes volunteers. Once you have some basic horse skills, you'll be a better candidate for shadowing a vet. I volunteered 5-10 hours a week for several months at a place that bought/sold horses and rented horses for trail rides. In hindsight, they did a lot of things wrong... but at least it gave me some basic familiarity with handling horses. After that, I was able to get a job working at a mixed practice as a receptionist and occasional vet assistant.
     
  4. squirrelsrule

    squirrelsrule Ohio State CVM c/o 2016!

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    How far are you from applying? If you have a couple years to go, then you have time and can get most of your hours over summer break, but if you are applying this year or next year, then I'd seriously consider quitting your job to get more hours. How many hours do you have? It sounds like no vet hours? I started off shadowing the vet that sees my wildlife and then got a job at an emergency clinic, but I only had 1 year to get the experience in before I applied.
     
  5. LetItSnow

    LetItSnow UMN CVM Gold Donor

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    Just some random, off the cuff thoughts that might be whacky enough to help, but they basically fall into two main tracks.

    The first is that I'd drop the word 'volunteer' and use 'shadow' when you talk to them. To some people there's no difference, but to a vet in a clinic there might be. 'Shadow' implies hands-off observing, which is likely what you'd have to start with (unless you took a paying job). Vets tend to be more comfortable with that. 'Volunteer' sorta suggests hands-on, which makes their liability spidey senses tingle. Unless you get a job, you may just have to accept that you'll be limited to 'watching' for a while.

    The second is that I'd start reaching out to people who know people. If you live near a vet school, call them and ask for resources who can put you in contact with vets who enjoy taking on pre-vets. Call your state VMA and ask them (I did this and got back a list of three clinics in my area that were amenable to me spending time there.). And last, don't discount your friends and families and their contacts: the vet that gives me the run of her clinic (and wrote me an LOR), is a relative of an undergrad study partner who said "You want to be a vet? I should introduce you to so-n-so. She's my husband's cousin's blah blah blah."
     
  6. Katie8

    Katie8 NCSU CVM c/o 2016

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    I looked at the schools in my area that had equestrian teams and googled where they kept their horses. I also googled eventing and sporting stables in the area. I just emailed every place I could find stating who I was and that I was applying to veterinary school and was hoping to get some hands on experience working with horses and asked them to contact me if they would be okay with me volunteering my time to help out. I got some pretty cool experiences (I dewormed all the horses this past spring) and was able to observe a few veterinarian visits including one emergency visit to relieve a choking horse!
     
  7. bayarea15

    bayarea15 someday super vet

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    This thread is quite helpful, I am working on getting more exp! Thanks!
     
  8. variegata

    variegata Wisconsin c/o 2014

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    I agree with LetItSnow, don't use the word "volunteer," use "shadow." That way, it's clear to them that you don't expect to do anything hands-on, but you want to get experience, have the opportunity to ask questions, etc.

    If you really need animal handling experience, try a shelter or rescue. Turn in a volunteer application, attend whatever training they require, and you're in. They'll have you sign a liability waiver so they're off the hook, and you'll be able to get your hands on some animals. Obviously, if you do this, you'll still need veterinary experience and if you can only do one, pick the vet experience over the animal experience since that's more important, but improving your animal handling won't hurt your application and will make your life easier in the future when you're working at a clinic.
     
  9. pumpkinsmom

    pumpkinsmom

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    Thanks for all the tips! Yeah, I am already a volunteer at a shelter but it's a 45 minute drive away from me which is difficult to make on a regular basis. I'm also volunteering at a zoo, but I think I really need to focus on vet experience now.

    To answer squirrelsrule's question, I have a little animal experience (100 hours) but no vet experience yet (I'm a career-breaker if you couldn't tell). I do have an internship abroad lined up for the summer so that will get me like 300 hours vet experience. I also do hope to apply this upcoming cycle. I realize my hours are really low, but I have a really high GRE and last 45 GPA, and hopefully I can write a good personal statement. Don't get me wrong, I don't have high hopes of getting in this cycle, but I figure I should try to apply and then get an application review.

    So today I went to my personal family's vet and asked them about shadowing on the weekends and they were the first to not dismiss me right away! I had assumed that offering to volunteer would be the nicer thing to do, since they don't really get anything out of someone shadowing them, but now I understand more from the liability side of things. Hopefully this lead follows through.
     
  10. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    Officially, you don't do anything for them. ;)

    I just started shadowing at a LA hospital and while I went being told they are not allowed to do anything, I do get to do little things. I help feeding and restraining, get to hotpack a horse and was shown how to put medicine in a horse's eye so I could do it next time. All smaller things, but a great way to keep you on track instead of only watching all the time. I guess it depends on where you are, but nothing doesn't always mean nothing. :]
     
  11. equine2be

    equine2be equine2be

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    All the advice here is good...I am a non-trad but gained lots of experience when I was younger working for a small animal clinic, so I had a leg up there.

    Trying to get more recent experience/shadowing recently was more difficult, like you I work full-time. I volunteer at a shelter on weekends, a small one, and they introduced me to the vets who work with them, doing spays/neuters and med care for the animals that need it, so that opens up an opportunity for shadowing with them when I have time. A larger humane society probably has its own vet staff.

    Also don't forget the American Association of Equine Practitioners...I believe they have a 'shadow a vet' link on their site that can hook you up with a local vet who is willing to do this...however, due again to liability, not sure there are too many ops there. I haven't tried it.

    Also the same goes for food animal vets...try looking up some of the associations and they may have names there in your area (again, haven't tried it, but worth a shot).

    Some stables might have lesson horses who need grooming, and/or there might be a therapeutic riding program for people with disabilities, which you could volunteer for once you're more comfortable around horses.

    Good luck and don't give up...persistence does pay off, even if you have to contact 100 vets, there will most likely be those 1-2 who will be willing.
     
  12. JoAnna423

    JoAnna423 NCSU c/o 2017!!!!

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    It was very hard for me to get experience as an undergrad since I worked full-part time, as well as was a single parent. I did not get ANY vet experience prior to starting my junior year, but the more hours I got the easier it was to get additional hours...your resume will build quickly, and even with working other non-animal related jobs, I managed to get experience in MANY areas with at least 200 hours in each. I worked part time at a small animal clinic only getting maybe 10-12 hours a week (sometimes less), but once I left the job I had 300+ hours. True, most of it was kennel cleaning and husbandry stuff but hours are hours...and I found that you have to balance ACTUALLY learning veterinary skills and just learning about the profession/getting hours for your app...I became kind of obsessed with "I have to know this" and "I have to know that" but actually, NO ONE expects you to be a vet when you apply...I think you will see that once you get your "hours" going, they will add up quickly and volunteer/paid or not the next experience will become easier and easier to get!
     
  13. bayarea15

    bayarea15 someday super vet

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    I'm trying to get large animal and equine exp. :/ the equine folks I've talked to have a huge waiting list...

    Sent from my PC36100 using SDN Mobile
     
  14. Fireflysushi

    Fireflysushi CSU c/o 2016!

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    Everybody else's advice on this thread is great!! I just want to emphasize how important it is to be persistant. I went to undergrad in the same town as a vet school, so not only was there the issue of places not allowing volunteers for liability reasons, but there was also the fact that I had to compete for spots against the thousands of other pre-vetters in the same town. I had to call 20 or so clinics before I found one willing to accept volunteers, and then had to continue calling that clinic about a dozen times before they allowed me to come in.
     
  15. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    I love in a town with a vet school, too. No vet clinic wanted to take me, but I am now shadowing at the vet school. I was totally too intimidated to ask there in the beginning, but they ended up being the only ones who would take me. So if you live close to a vet school, don't be scared to ask! :)
     
  16. bayarea15

    bayarea15 someday super vet

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    I don't live that far from Davis, there's an idea.

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  17. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    And you get to see a ton of awesome things! At least I do at the LA hospital. And I was told that I wouldn't be allowed to do anything, strictly observing, but.. Yea, no. I get to help with bladder lavages, gastroscopies, etc. it's awesome! :)
     
  18. Fireflysushi

    Fireflysushi CSU c/o 2016!

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    This might just be an old wives’ tale, but I have heard that you really need to make sure that you have vet experience outside of the vet school that you apply to. They don't want it to look like they are playing favorites by admitting people that get most of their experience at the school. I had a friend that was denied at CSU because too much of her experience was from the VTH. That said, it is a great way to learn the ins and outs of vet med and even make contacts at other practices. I would give it a shot!
     
  19. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    I'm gonna be with a vet in Germany this summer and hopefully another vet clinic after that. :)
     
  20. LetItSnow

    LetItSnow UMN CVM Gold Donor

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    Eh. Since there's no recourse for unadmitted applicants, and it is in the school's best interest to take candidates they feel most confident about ... I'm going to go with 'fiction' on this one. Exactly who would the vet school be concerned about accusing them of playing favorites?

    .... and anyway, playing favorites is part of the real world. In the business world, you hire the people you know.

    My guess is your friend misinterpreted information from the school and she wasn't really denied because of 'too much' experience from CSU, but 'too little' experience overall/elsewhere.
     
  21. Fireflysushi

    Fireflysushi CSU c/o 2016!

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    This may well be fiction. But her file review did say that she had too much experience from only one place eventhough she had over 1000 hours and mixed animal experiences- sheep, horses, dogs, cats, oncology, orthopedic reseach, and anesthesia. So say what you will, but in her case working/ getting vet experience only at the VTH through undergrad was stated as a fault in her application. I think we would all like to think that having a rounded app will get us in, but the fact is that small facts often distinguish admitted candidates from those who are denied.
     
  22. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    Maybe it wasn't the fact that it was at the VTH, but that it was only one place as opposed to a few clinics.
     
  23. Fireflysushi

    Fireflysushi CSU c/o 2016!

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    That would be my guess...now that I think of it more ;)
     
  24. LetItSnow

    LetItSnow UMN CVM Gold Donor

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    Ok, fair enough, but that's subtly different than what you first said. You first were throwing out the idea that experience *from the vet school hospital* was what burned her. Now you're revising it to say "from only one place." Those are different things....

    FWIW, more than half of my experience came from our school's teaching hospital. That's just an n=1, but I know that in addition to the hours of experience, it got me an awesome recommendation, and that grapevine noise says that an internal recommendation carries a lot of weight.
     
  25. Fireflysushi

    Fireflysushi CSU c/o 2016!

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    Haha yeah I am a flip flopper. I just remember she and I discussing why they said that in her exit review and we came up with them not wanting to play favorites.
     
  26. Trilt

    Trilt NCSU c/o 2016 Gold Donor

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    Same - a bit more than half of my experience came from our teaching hospital and research facilities, but I also have the other half from more "real world" places. I definitely know people who've gotten rejected (with otherwise awesome stats; think 4.0) because they only have experiences from one vet hospital, so it's probably the same deal.
     
  27. Tegan05

    Tegan05

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    My experience with shadowing ended up turning more into a volunteer situation. At first the clinic was worried about liability, but once they got to know me, they got a lot more relaxed and started letting me do more things.

    Even if you are just shadowing, there are a lot of things you can do to be helpful. Drawing up vaccines, cleaning rooms, stocking products, monitoring stats during surgery, etc. I thought small animal clinics were incredibly dull my first week since I was mostly just standing around watching annuals and vaccinations, but once you are able to help out and get more comfortable with everything, it definitely gets better. Plus my clinic had some really interesting medical cases come in that breaks up the monotony of vaccines and ear infections!
     
  28. StartingoverVet

    StartingoverVet Flight Instructor for hire Gold Donor

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    Really. Is that the only reason? I remain skeptical.

    I was 3-0-1 with my app, and had experience at only one place, and it was not mentioned in the file review where I was wait-listed. And it was not mentioned in any of the 3 interviews where I was accepted.
     
  29. sunshinevet

    sunshinevet

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    Pretty sure its because you're too awesome for words ;)
    Or, to word it differently, probably approached the whole situation differently and made it clear that you personally didn't require any further experience to be sure of your choice.

    I'm curious of all those who shadowed at teaching hospitals - I really don't know how this works?! Our teaching hossie is full to the brim of final year students, 4th year students, 2nd year students, vet nursing students, post graduate students, interns... the list goes on. Every week of the year veterinary students are rotating through the hospital, so I don't understand where prevet shadowers fit in? The students are just about fighting to get to do things on some services as it is.
     
  30. StartingoverVet

    StartingoverVet Flight Instructor for hire Gold Donor

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    :thumbup:
    Perhaps you stated my point better. A lot of applying is how you present it.

    I don't think there is a single thing that generally gets you accepted or rejected (well maybe if you don't meet requirements or are a murderer or something).

    So I don't like statements like "only having one vet experience at.." or "you have to have multiple ....", or "without a gpa of...." etc etc.
     
  31. PetPony

    PetPony Rawr :*

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    So far, most of the students I see are 4th years. There are some vet tech students and here and there 2nd and 3rd years that work here (for things like surgery).

    I was told that I could only watch and not do anything, which I really didn't mind. But after a while, they asked me to help with certain things. It's really never that busy there. Sometimes there are three rotational groups, but that's really it.

    That's only LA though. I have not been in the SA hospital yet (besides walking through it).
     
  32. mooshagen

    mooshagen UC Davis SVM C/O 2016

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    I used the word "extern" to be honest. And it is very hard. A lot of people complain about liability. I used contacts, friends that reached out to their vets, etc. Some places even asked for recommendation letters. Craziness!
     
  33. Trilt

    Trilt NCSU c/o 2016 Gold Donor

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    While I obviously don't know 100% that that is the only reason, NC State (where she was rejected) is super super super gung ho about diverse experiences. In the specific person I'm talking about, our pre-vet advisor said her application was otherwise very strong and was the one who said that was the reason. She got in to at least one other school OOS, because she's there now! Mileage always varies and I do hate that I made it sound absolute, but definitely do consider that some schools don't like people only having one place of experience. Considering the discussion I was responding to, CSU is one of those also.

    I did different things depending on which department I was in. For LA, I was strictly hands off, because they had way more than enough people and I'm not a person who really knows what to do with sick/painful horses.

    For SA, I generally worked myself in as a helper for the fourth year students; each department would have 4ish at a time and I'd follow one into an appointment, grabbing any extra supplies I thought they might need and throwing them in my pocket. The student would do the initial exam and ask all the normal questions, then I'd follow them back and listen to them pass it on to the clinician in charge of the case. Some students would get me to run back and double check things in the room or verify with me that they recorded it correctly, and others sort of acted like I didn't exist. :laugh:

    Then both of us would follow the Dr. back into the room, they'd discuss the findings/treatment/etc (obviously this varied a lot as to which department I was in), and if there were treatments/diagnostics to be done I'd follow the fourth year with the animal to radiology, or the kennels, or wherever. If not I'd head back to wherever the department was headquartered and while the fourth year started typing up the case, I'd follow the next one out the door for whatever they were doing. Rinse and repeat. I'd also walk dogs, run blood upstairs for testing, tidy rooms and generally tried to be as useful as possible. The fourth years liked me a lot. :)
     
  34. LetItSnow

    LetItSnow UMN CVM Gold Donor

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    I didn't shadow there, I volunteered. Did a few years of canine rehab.
     

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