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Concerns of diverse work experience placements

Growing up in London I struggled with finding different placements that included a range of animals. I felt very limited to small animals and often worried if universities will accept me with such little diversity. In this blog, I will talk about how regardless of your placement types, you can still extract the best information and skills.

Finding placements

I often find students struggling with finding places that allow students to take part in work experience. I contacted all the vet clinics in my area, and they all stated they didn’t take on students below 18 years old! So, I had to really think outside the box to secure placements. The quickest way to go about finding placements is to research and call! A lot of places take a while to reply via email so, even though it can be quite intimidating, calling is the best option. If they can’t offer you a placement, ask if they know of any other places that do and for their contacts, this will also save you some time and effort researching.

Non-clinical places e.g., re-homing centres are more likely to take on younger students for placements so do not skip these. It can also teach you a lot about everyday routine and care required for pets that is less likely to be seen in a vet clinic.

City farms are a good placement as it allows you to familiarise yourself with different animals compared to those seen in small animal environments. I had never been near cows before attending my local city farm. Getting comfortable with these kinds of animals is an important step in learning about their body language, expressions, and emotions, even if you don't feel ready to interact with them hands-on!

If you are still struggling to find placements within your area, contact some family members or friends who live in different areas, they might know of some good placements near them and hopefully, allow you to have accommodation whilst completing your weeks' experience there. I went from London to Somerset to stay with my nan whilst completing a week's placements at another vet, felt more like a holiday!

Utilising your placements

I want to get across that it doesn’t matter what kind of placement you are on, whether you're lambing, working with a reptile specialist vet or volunteering at a dog shelter, you can still extract equally good knowledge. The most important thing is to ask questions. It can feel like you’re a bit out of your depth or you may feel a bit awkward when first starting. The best way to get yourself involved is to ask questions, this will not only help you understand more about your placement, but it highlights your interest. If you notice a dog is being treated with antibiotics, ask why, how long for, and how will the antibiotics work to treat this? You can gain insightful knowledge and create a good relationship with the people on your placement.

On top of asking questions on things you are noticing, if you see someone doing something that you find interesting e.g., an emergency surgery, giving a vaccine, holding a dog for paw trimming, ask if you can help/observe. Nothing bad can come from asking, and if you’re lucky, you get to be a lot more hands-on than before you asked.

After asking all these questions, it can be quite easy to forget the details. It’s good to take notes whilst on your placement so you can re-visit when you want to refresh your memory or when it’s coming up to university interviews. From jotting notes down, you have the resources to go home and do some extra reading based on your interests. Extra-reading can also give you more knowledge and you may find information that jumps from animal to animal. So what you have learnt from a dog case at the vet, you can also apply to horses or sheep!

Lastly, don’t worry too much if you struggle to find unique placements, it’s great if you do, however, it will not negatively affect your chance of getting into vet school. I did my placements at small animal vets, dog groomers and city farms, not the most diverse and I got into my dream university. University will teach you about all different animals and how to handle them, so do not feel like you will be behind others. Just try to get the most out of all your placements and enjoy the experience!

Written by: Maisa Korchi

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