5 reasons for vet students to feel great about EMS

EMS with a sloth
As summer inches ever closer, the majority of vet students will be starting to prepare for several months of EMS placements. No doubt many of you will have to explain to family and ‘non-vet’ friends that, contrary to popular belief, you will not be enjoying a 3-month long, work and care free summer of exotic travel. Instead you will be working hard and most likely not being paid a penny! 

With long days ahead, often far from home, EMS requirements certainly may seem like a great injustice (especially when the sun is blazing and you have decided to spend 2 weeks in a near-windowless small animal practice) but, do not be disheartened!

When I look back on my EMS I remember some of the best days of my university life. Of course there were a few jobs that I brush over in my memory and have placed in the ‘life experience not to be repeated’ drawer but, overall, EMS was a positive experience and one that was very beneficial.

So for anyone feeling hard-done by in the lead up to the summer, read on…

Why EMS matters

1. It provides ‘hands on’ experience of your future profession

EMS provides a vital insight into the world of veterinary medicine and the way we interact with those whom we serve. It ‘fills in the gaps’ teaching us what cannot be taught in a university environment. Pre-clinical EMS ensures that we keep our minds open to all walks of the profession from an early stage and that we appreciate, not just our clinical work, but also animal husbandry, the financial impacts of what we do and the commitments involved in any kind of animal ownership.

2. It helps you to realise what all the lectures are for

At times vet school can feel overwhelmingly theoretical, seeing what you are learning being put into action and using your knowledge to problem solve can help you to feel motivated to learn.

3. It starts to prepare you for some of the emotional challenges vets face

The stuff you don’t usually read about in textbooks. EMS placements were the first time I experienced vets having ‘difficult conversations’ with animal owners. I will never forget seeing a vet break the devastating news of a Bovine TB discovery to a farmer for the first time. Seeing how different vets deal with challenges can be incredibly helpful for professional development.

4. It’s your chance to put your own stamp on your degree

Decide what you enjoy. Find out what is most important to you. You can travel or not travel. You can return to a particular practice time after time or you can visit as many as you physically can. The choice is yours.

5. It’s great fun!

I remember spending my 22nd birthday at the races after my local equine vets let me join them as a birthday treat. I also remember the sheer panic when the tyre of my (very vintage) car blew out, in the dark, in rural Northumberland on my way home from an equine stud. Then there was pig EMS during Scottish summer – my friend and I driving tractors, trying to catch escaped pigs and just managing to stay awake long enough to catch Andy Murray’s Wimbledon semi-final after a 4am start on weaning day.

So, it may be hard work but, enjoy your EMS and learn as much as you can from it, it’s invaluable.

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