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Tips for getting involved at a clinic?

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by jenibenii, Aug 8, 2011.

  1. jenibenii

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    So I'll be a sophomore this school year and I've not had much animal or vet experience as of yet. I know lots of people have racked up a ton of hours already so I'm feeling a bit behind. I'm wondering if you guys have any tips for getting involved at clinics or with vets? I've tried on two separate occasions to call (multiple) clinics about volunteering, but they've either never called me back or brushed me off towards shelters, but even the shelters didn't respond to me. It's a little frustrating and I really want to get involved somehow.

    Once I go back to school I'm going to try again because I don't have time this summer now. Do you think asking about volunteer work over the phone is sufficient, or should I actually go to each clinic to ask? If I do show up at the clinics is it sort of pretentious to bring a resume since I'm not asking for a job?
     
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  3. squirrelsrule

    squirrelsrule Ohio State CVM c/o 2016!
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    Do you have any pets? I went with the vet that treats my domestic animals and my wildlife vet to start. Called the clinics repeatedly and got nowhere. Waited and when I had appointments I asked the vets directly and they were willing to let me shadow. From there I got a job at the emergency clinic one of the vets I was shadowing is on the board at. Worked out well :). I think trying to actually get in contact with the vet will help. I do know that a lot of the clinics around here fill up with shadowers in the summer time and you have to ask early. So, I might have lucked out since I have more time in the winter than the summer so I got in right when I asked.

    I'd just keep trying and I think it would be a good idea to go to the clinics, it shows you have more interest than just calling IMO.

    As for animal experience hours, I'd check with local petting zoos, barns, wildlife centers, that type thing, most are very happy to have volunteers.
     
  4. DVMDream

    DVMDream Don't disturb the snowflakes
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    Try asking about job shadowing instead of volunteering. Maybe word of choice will help some. Also, showing up in person is much nicer than just a phone call. I got involved by taking a job as a kennel assistant (cleaning the clinic and doing all the "dirty" work), but I was soon moved up to a veterinary assistant and I have now been working as a vet tech for over 6 years. So, baby steps. All you have to do is get one foot in the door. Some clinics will not allow volunteers at all because of the liability of them getting hurt/injured. Shadowing indicates that you want to learn about the job but you are not expecting to actually be in there and touching the animals. I understand how frustrating it can be. I am trying to find a LA vet or even zoo/exotic vet that will allow me to shadow to add to my application. While I would love to drive to each place and show up in person to ask, the places around here that actually have LA/equines are all at least 45 minutes to an hour away from where I live and they are all in different directions. It would take me 2 or 3 days to drive to each place and ask in person if they would allow shadows... I am going to be stuck with calling... :xf:. Good luck to you!:luck: Hopefully, you can find someone to give you that "foot in the door".
     
  5. bunnity

    bunnity Penn 2014
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    ^good post by DVMDream.
    Another idea is to get involved with a wildlife rehabber. Especially this time of year they need lots of help. Depending on the school you apply to this could be counted as animal or vet experience, but even if it does not count as vet experience you will probably be able to make connections with the vet that the rehabber uses. In my experience it is also really fun and extremely rewarding - few things beat releasing a rehabilitated animal into the wild and watching it fly or run away.

    You can check out
    http://www.nwrawildlife.org/
    for a rehabber near you.
    Beware that some can be a little eccentric :) but if you can find a large wildlife center versus one run out of someone's home, that may be your best bet.
     
  6. Minnerbelle

    Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

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    Don't feel too discouraged yet. People ignoring your emails doesn't necessarily mean that there aren't any volunteer positions open. It's very easy to brush away emails from random people asking for things. Most shelters have scheduled volunteer orientations and a specific person that handles volunteer inquiries. I would go to the shelter in person and find out how the volunteer program at that shelter works, and how best to get involved. A vast majority of volunteers end up being duds, so if it takes them effort to do things to get you involved, chances are, it's not going to happen. You need to be the one to do the work. So don't just send an email and sit back. You'll want to be respectful, but you'll need to be much more persistent/aggressive about it to show that you are someone they want to have around.
     
  7. chickenlittle

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    Agree with DVMDream. A lot of clinics can't accept volunteers due to liability issues. "Job shadowing" may get you a little further, but I'd also suggest actually applying for a paid position. Prepare a professional resume, put on nice clothes, and go deliver your resume in person to every clinic in the area. Your goal is to get a minimum-wage job cleaning kennels (no, it won't be glamorous... the kennel person is also typically the one responsible for keeping the hospital clean, including floors/bathrooms/etc), but once you're in you'll be able to work your way up from there.

    My first vet job started off as a 20 hr/wk summer kennel assistant job, literally JUST walking dogs, feeding boarders, cleaning cages, vacuuming/mopping the hospital twice daily, and cleaning the bathrooms. Within a month, though, another employee left and I was working 50 hrs/wk... AND the techs started letting me see more of the "medical" stuff once they began to trust me (and I became more efficient at getting the kennel finished so I could go help out in treatment). The experiences and good references from that job helped me later get another summer vet clinic job doing a combination of receptionist/assistant work. That, in turn, put me in a good place to get a job between undergrad and vet school doing more tech-type work. Yes, I also had a lot of non-vet employment (retail, grocery store cashier, lab assistant, telephone market research surveys, etc) during times that I could not find vet jobs, but the jobs are out there if you're willing to work for them. AND, I'm convinced that all of my non-vet work experience helped set my application apart from many of my classmates. (I don't know that for sure, but it's a hunch.)

    Right now, as the doctor in charge of hiring for my hospital, I'd give almost anything for a part-time employee with a flexible schedule who was willing to clean kennels, walk discharged patients up front to their owners, keep the treament area straightened up, vacuum & mop the clinic at night, and show at least a reasonable degree of work ethic & maturity in exchange for minimum wage and the chance to occasionally observe some pretty cool stuff!!
     
  8. SocialStigma

    SocialStigma OVC c/o 2015
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    Go into the clinic to ask (bring a resume with you and cover letter), drop it off with the clinic manager if all possible and then follow up a week later if they haven't contacted you back. Persistence pays off! A vet clinic is a very busy place and people forget to pass on phone messages all the time. I never got a job this way but I did get 2 great volunteering/shadowing gigs out of it.
     
  9. jtom

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    While I believe going in person to ask is ideal, I would also recommend emailing. Several of my long term experiences were initated through email.
     
  10. EllieGirl89

    EllieGirl89 Ohio State CVM c/o 2015!
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    Sometimes you have to be assertive. I started using the vet clinic where I now volunteer/work as my equine vet about 2 years ago. Then around springtime last year I went to the clinic all dressed up and took up a resume and cover letter explaining that I was trying to get into vet school and needed experience and was interested in shadowing. The receptionist was very nice and said she'd put it on the vet's desk. A week later I hadn't heard anything so I called to follow up and the receptionist said she'd put a note on his bulletin board. Another week later and I STILL hadn't heard anything so I called again. She said the note was still on the board but she'd put up another. After the third week that I hadn't heard anything, I decided to get creative. I called up to the clinic and made an appointment for my horses to get their teeth floated, and as soon as the doc was in my barn I asked him about shadowing. He was happy to let me shadow him once or twice a week. Eventually I started shadowing the other co-owner of the clinic, a small animal vet, twice a week as well. By the time the summer was over, I had plenty of hours to apply with and two very strong veterinary LORs. I've maintained a good relationship with these vets and am now there 4 days a week for about 6 hours a day, and when those days are really busy and the need me there they pay me for them. Once I had an in, I worked very very hard to show them that I could be an asset to the practice and that I could be extremely useful.

    The vet has since told me that he gets a stack of resumes about 2 inches thick every year and he simply doesn't have time to go through them all. I've seen how frazzled and rediculously busy he gets and understand now why I never got a call back. I've also seen him completely ignore notes like the one that was posted for me on the bulletin board because there are a million other notes that are far more urgent. I was once dehorning some calves with him and the owner asked him how I got so lucky as to get to ride around with him, and he gave the man a wry smile and said "This one? She wouldn't leave me alone." So sometimes persistence and making yourself stand out really does pay off! It might make you uncomfortable (it was SO not me to really be assertive and ask for what I want!) but sometimes you have to just go for it. Literally he gets 30-40 requests for shadowing every year-he can't take them all, so the ones that are going to get noticed are the ones that are polite but persistent. Good luck!
     
  11. RemyHou

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    What kind of animals have you rehabbed so far? I'm planning on attending a class tomorrow to rehab opossums, and I'm also interested in rehabbing rabbits as well. The others require a bit more work, and rabies shots that are too expensive for my measly wallet right now :(
     
  12. bunnity

    bunnity Penn 2014
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    I volunteered at a rehab clinic and worked with... rabbits, squirrels, possums, all kinds of songbirds, hawks, owls, crows, kestrels, turtles, chipmunks, snakes, geese, ducks, herons, wading birds... I got to observe rabies vector species (raccoons, skunks, groundhogs, bats, foxes) but not handle them.

    Most people find rabbits a pain in the ass but I love them! The babies are hard though because you have to tube feed them.
     
  13. hottchoclat

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    I did not realize how hard it was going to be to find a volunteer opportunity.I went to five different vets with resume in hand. I will keep on trying!
     
  14. smilin1590

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    Yep it was super hard for me but once I got a hold of my shadow position that I have currently I'll do anything to keep it. I shadow at a small town clinic which is not super busy but on the bright side it gives me quite a bit of one on one time with the vet and they slowly have let me start doing more stuff the more I'm around... So also my advice would be to look into small town clinics.
     
  15. jenibenii

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    Sorry this reply is so late, but thank you for all the suggestions! I will definitely try to spruce up my resume and put together a nice cover letter. Should I show up to each clinic sort of dressed up as well? I really hope I'm able to get involved, and maybe my chances will be higher in SLO since the population is way less than Los Angeles :)
     
  16. Dsmoody23

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    What worked for me:

    - Print out a list of pretty much every clinic within a 10 mile radius of your house.
    - Type up a resume that focuses on academic and animal experience. Add your GPA, school honors, relevant classes.
    - Type up a really nice cover letter, addressed specifically to the doctor and practice manager of each hospital. Explain what you're doing with an overview of your goals and qualifications.
    - Drop one off at each clinic. Make sure you put your packet in the hands of the practice manager, even if you have to come back twice. They're generally the person who does the scheduling and coordinates the shadowing and hiring.
    - Call back the next day, and then call back weekly if you get no response.

    - Profit. Win.
     
  17. Wubbles

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    :thumbup:
    I've started doing this after emails/calls haven't gotten me anything past one-day-only shadows. I'm hoping I'll snag something with this technique. I totally revamped my resume to focus on my current schooling instead of past employment and I think it's helping.
    It's definitely frustrating putting myself out there and getting nothing in return but it seems consistency/persistence is the key.
    And jenibenni, I would definitely go in with nice clothes (i.e. not everyday jeans). First impressions and all that....
     
  18. jtom

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    Yea I think the biggest problem is the resume is never given to the veterinarian and it sits in a stack of papers with the receptionist or office manager. I would just keep trying, it is definetly not easy finding a clinic that will allow you to shadow/volunteer more than 1 day or a week.

    You might be able to speak to the vet directly if they do LA as the number of techs they have to answer the phone would be low or they might not have techs and hence they will personally answer the phone. Also if the practice has many vets, they might post the dr's numbers on the website so you can talk to them personally.
     
  19. PocoCalypsoQH

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    I was having trouble finding LA vet experience, so I went on the state VMA website and called every LA clinic listed there within 50 miles of my house (~20) and I got about 3 calling me back to say they don't take pre-vet students as shadowers, and 1 called me back and said I could come in as much as I wanted about 40 mins away from my house. I had one place call and say send them a resume, and I did, but they never called me back after that. I don't really think sending a resume is necessary, but I think a phone call is more effective than email.
     
  20. Bearby

    Bearby UF CVM c/o 2015
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    My 2 cents:

    -Always, always, ALWAYS go in person when applying for a paid, shadowing, or volunteer position. It's much harder for people to say no to someone in person than it is over the phone. People will still say no to you, but you'll at least grab more attention and you can always request that they keep your information on file in case the need arises for the position you are trying to fill.

    -Don't settle for giving your resume to a receptionist. If the owner or office manager are not available, ask when they will be and either wait or return later. Like someone else said, things almost always get lost or don't end up in the right hands if you rely on the front desk staff. Not to say that receptionists suck, just that they have so much else going on that it tends to get pushed aside or put under a stack of papers or accidentally filed somewhere.

    -Don't underestimate the power of knowing people. If your parents, siblings, close friends work with someone who is, is related to, or has a close relationship with a veterinarian...use them to your advantage. I applied and applied and applied for postitions when I was first looking and no one even gave me a second glance. My mom worked with a vet's sister-in-law and mentioned that I was trying to find a volunteer position. A week later I was in the clinic, and after a month of work that volunteer position became a paid veterinary assistant position.

    Anyway, that's all I have. good luck!
     
  21. chickenlittle

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    I would dress nicely, but not too nicely. Personal preference may vary, but as the doctor in charge of hiring for my hospital, I like to see people come in wearing something like khaki and a polo shirt (guys) or khakis and a casual blouse (girls). If your clothes could talk, you'd want them to say something like "I'm professional enough in appearance to represent you well to your clients, but also someone who's laid back and not afraid to work."

    Is it okay to drop off a resume wearing old jeans, or anything too tight/low-cut? Heck no. I just finished hiring some new team members for my hospital, and there were multiple people who did not get calls back on their resume largely based on what they were wearing when they came in. I always try to speak personally to anyone who drops off a resume (unless I'm in surgery or gone to lunch), and that first little 2-3 minute "mini-interview" is where I decide whether I'm going to consider their resume.

    At the same time, though, I'll admit that I'm also a bit turned off when people come in overdressed, especially if they haven't had any prior vet experience. If someone came in wearing a suit, for example, I would likely wonder if they were too "high-maintenance" to work in a vet clinic, too clueless about how gross veterinary work can be, etc. I'd still call them back, but they'd have to work hard to overcome that initial first impression.

    Those are only my own personal opinions/preferences, but hope it helps! Remember, professional yet hardworking is what you're trying to convey!
     
  22. squirrelsrule

    squirrelsrule Ohio State CVM c/o 2016!
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    At the clinic where I work, if you haven't met and talked to the clinic manager you really don't stand a chance in being hired. Receptionists take the resume, put it in the manager's mailbox AND leave her a note and I don't know what she does with them but so far I have never seen anyone hired through that system. Well, I guess technically I was, but I know that the vet I was shadowing who is on the board of the emergency clinic went over and talked to her so even though I hadn't met her a good word was put in for me.
     
  23. jenibenii

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    Update! Well I went to two clinics today with my resume and cover letter. The first one the receptionist told me their insurance wouldn't cover volunteers or shadowers, and I told her I had insurance but she insisted and I was nervous so I just left my resume with her (I know I shouldn't have) anyways and didn't argue. But then after I had left I realized I forgot to sign my coverletter! I was freaking out for a bit there... Then at the second place I actually got to talk to the vet, and he said they could arrange for me to come in for a day to shadow but it can't be a regular thing since it's a really small practice. I also left my papers with him. So yay for some progress? :]
     
  24. Trematode

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    I was asked to volunteer through that system once.
    Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw.
    If a clinic says they are going to call you by a certain date, and don't, I recommend calling them back and checking on the status of your application. I got one volunteer position that way.
    Also, ask your family and friends. During my academic advising appointment first year, the dean passed on the name of a professor to get in contact with. His wife is a vet. After striking out at the close vet clinics, I emailed the professor. His wife was no longer working as a vet, but he referred me to a woman who was starting her own clinic. I got in contact with her and she asked me to come to her open house with a resume. I was able to pick up some hours that way.
     
  25. Bearby

    Bearby UF CVM c/o 2015
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    Do your best to wow them at your day of shadowing/volunteering. I know it's hard because you said you don't have a lot of experience but make sure that you look neat, are a few minutes early, ask questions, and don't be afraid to ask if you can help with something. There are a lot of things they probably won't be comfortable letting you do as a volunteer, but pretty much anyone can take a temperature and it's nice to have help when the dog's trying to eat your fingers for lunch. I know that he said that it won't be a regular volunteer position, but showing them that you would be an asset would make it more likely that they would invite you back. Also, throughout the day if the Dr. is talking to you about your preparation mention that you're trying to increase your hours of experience and that you've had a hard time finding positions. The vet world is very small and if he can't hlep you out, he may know someone else who can...but again he's not going to recommend you to his colleague if he can't market you as a beneficial part of the team. Good luck!!
     
  26. bunnity

    bunnity Penn 2014
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    I disagree somewhat - I think if you are there to shadow that means you watch but don't actually DO much. There is a fine line between being enthusiastic about helping and being annoying - and I think as someone with zero experience you would want to focus first-day efforts on "oh I'll clean up that pee" or "yes I'll grab your stethoscope out of the other room." An inexperienced person taking it upon themselves to take a temperature is a great way to get bitten. I know that's not how you meant it Bearby and I totally agree that a good impression could lead to more opportunities. I just think for a first day shadow it is more appropriate to stay out of the way for the most part.
     
  27. Trematode

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    I would also like to point out that your duties as a volunteer vary from clinic to clinic. Many members on here claim to start out slow, then move on to more "technician" duties as I like to call it, like restraining animals, prepping them for surgery, taking temperatures etc. I have volunteered at two clinics and 95% of my time, I cleaned or observed, and the position I just picked up is looking the same. My advice is to not get discouraged if you do not get to do some of these things. It may come with time. Just relax, ask questions when appropriate (IE: one clinic had a no-gossip policy while an animal is under anaesthesia), and enjoy your time there. :).
     
  28. Chinola

    Chinola UF 2015!
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    What's a no gossip policy? Are you not allowed to talk when an animal is under anesthesia? That would be a long day!
     
  29. Trematode

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    Hehe. It was a small clinic, so there were not very many surgeries. They did not want all of the staff standing around and chit-chatting while prepping an animal for surgery. There are a lot of things that have to be done in a short period of time, so they wanted to keep conversation at a minimum to avoid distractions, which can lead to mistakes. I think that was the reason I was given. It was a long time ago.

    This clinic was very particular about their charts. A lot was recorded: what time they were intubated, what drugs were given and when, how much anesthesia the animal is under at a given time, what the animal's bp is every 5 minutes, etc. I do not know if the clinic being accredited had anything to do with it, but the vet pointed out that when you are this anal about charts, it is easier to pinpoint when something goes wrong. While an animal is being intubated, a lot of information has to be recorded. It is easy to get distracted and forget something.

    The clinic was pretty laid back and a great place to volunteer, but in situations like that, they ask you to cut the chit-chat to a minimum.

    I just wanted to warn the OP that if a staff member appears to be concentrating heavily on what they are doing, it may not be an appropriate time to ask a question. Also, I have found myself witnessing intense situations. If I knew an emergency was coming in, I would ask if I would be allowed to see it. If a situation arose in surgery, I would ask if the vet if (s)he wanted me to leave. These situations can be very stressful. I did not want to get in the way or add to the stress by being there.
     
  30. CorporateFatCat

    CorporateFatCat UC Davis c/o 2016
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    That's better than what I thought. I thought it meant you couldn't talk about the animal under anesthesia. No fat jokes about the patient, please.
     

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