As a child I got to miss some school on days I had to go to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. I remember the feel of my forehead pressed to the cool glass of the car window as I stared, amazed at all that was happening outside of my school walls. There was a whole other world of busy people working, playing, and doing all kinds of things.
Career Day quickly became a favorite event for me. I loved hearing stories from Moms and Dads about what else there was to do when I got older.
I got an invite from to participate in a virtual career day geared towards younger kids. How fun!
I wore a lot of career hats prior to becoming a Mom: lifeguard, camp counselor, music instructor, crisis center responder, business consultant, veterinarian, and professor. BUT the one I am asked about the most is my time as a veterinarian. I’m thrilled that so many children have learned to love and respect animals and have an interest in keeping them healthy. Veterinary medicine isn’t the career for everyone, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience!
So you want to be a veterinarian?
The information below is meant to be shared with elementary students harboring an interest in veterinary medicine or a desire to work with animals. I’ve answered some simple questions provided by Meghan about working as a veterinarian and provided 7 key things your elementary student can do now if veterinary medicine is on the radar as a possible career!
– What was your title, field?
Veterinarian (Animal Doctor) – I did extra training to be able to work with birds and animals that live at the zoo.
– Does it require a special degree or training?
Veterinarians spend a lot of time in school. In the United States, most veterinarians go to college for four years and then go to veterinary school for another four years. Some veterinarians decide to do an internship that lasts one year and/or a residency that can last two to three years.
– What subjects and skills are important in veterinary medicine?
Veterinarians use a lot of science. Biology is probably most important. Chemistry helps too with understanding medications. We use math to figure out how much food or medicine an animal needs. Being a good problem solver helps us to figure out what is making an animal sick. Animals can’t talk the way humans can, so we have to rely on clues from the way they are acting and tests (X-rays, blood work) we can run in the hospital. Veterinarians must also be very good at listening and talking to the people who care for animals. Being able to work well with others helps us make sure the animals get good care.
– What fun things did you get to experience?
Lots of veterinarians take care of cats and dogs, but others work with horses, cows, and even gorillas! Some do research to help keep people healthy. Still others work for the president in Washington DC (senators) or go to space (astronauts)!
Here are 3 of my favorite moments as a veterinarian:
1 – Surgical Removal of a Cystic Calculus in a Tortoise
2 – Pregnancy Check in a Sting Ray
3 – Surgical Correction of Choanal Atresia in a Macaw
And 3 of my favorite patients:
1 – Black Footed Penguin
2 – Serval Kitten
3 – Eaglet
I was afraid if I listed more than 3 I would never finish this post…..LOL Animals are amazing!
7 Things to Do Now if You Want to Be a Veterinarian
Learn All You Can and Do Well In School
Science is important, but so are all the other subjects. Veterinarians have to know about animals, but they also have to be able to speak and write well. Do the best you can with your course work and look for extra books at the library on subjects you really enjoy. Loving to learn, even if you don’t love every moment of school, is super important. Grades are just one way to measure how well you are learning, but they are one of the most common ways that veterinary schools decide on who gets to attend.
Be Curious About Animals
People who take care of the animals like pet owners and zoo keepers will need you to understand some basic information about what animals eat and how they act. Take the time to watch the animals outside your window or your own pets. How do they walk? What do they eat? When are they most active? Knowing what is “normal” for an animal can help you tell when something is wrong.
Spend Time With Animals
Just knowing facts about animals isn’t enough. You need to be comfortable around them and hopefully have them be comfortable around you. Your own pets are an excellent experience, but if a pet is not possible right now, see about offering to do some pet sitting. You may also be able to volunteer with your parents at a shelter, wildlife rehabilitation center, farm, kennel, zoo, etc.
Learn to Cross Stitch or Hand Sew
When veterinarians perform surgery or close wounds they use suture. Suture has to be tied in special types of knots in the skin in order to work well. Many of the knots and patterns veterinarians use are similar to those seen in cross stitch patterns. The fine motor skills you develop in your hands and fingers will also help you be a better surgeon.
Play Video Games
Many veterinarians now use cameras to help with surgery. The cameras are often on the end of small rods that go inside the animal’s body. Endoscopy is a type of surgery that uses a camera. Video games help develop hand and eye coordination which is super important when trying to do these types of surgeries. Many doctors, both human and animal, use video game like training to learn how to do endoscopy.
Learn More About Being a Veterinarian
Next time you take a pet to the veterinarian, ask them to let you listen through the stethoscope to the animal’s heart beat. Ask to see inside the ears when they use the otoscope. If you don’t know what a stethoscope or an otoscope is, you have some homework. Start by learning more about the veterinary profession. Here are just a few ways to get started:
- Read I Want To Be a Veterinarian
- Read A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian
- Look at Animal X-Rays (For a light source; try a light table (buy one or build one) or try this cheaper option)
- Practice listening to heart and lung sounds with a stethoscope (use pets or siblings, with permission of course)
- Color with the Veterinary Anatomy Coloring Book (I used this in veterinary school!)
- Play the Animal Hospital Video Game Online (Created by the American Veterinary Medical Association)
- Find a FutureVet Program (funded by Banfield)
- Find a Local College Program such as these Animal Focused Programs at University of TN
Play and Work Well With Others
Being a veterinarian requires a lot more than just loving animals. You also have to be able to treat them and care for them even when they don’t want your help. You also have to be able to talk to and work with the people who care for those animals. Sometimes this can be very hard, especially when animals get really sick or die. Sometimes people have trouble paying for the care their animals need. This can make people angry and they may say things that are hurtful or unkind to you. Practice being nice to other people, even those who aren’t nice to you. It’ll pay off when you’re faced with a client or caregiver who is having a hard time being kind.
Take Your Child to Work Day is April 28th.