What to know about different EMS placements
No two EMS placements are the same and there are inevitable differences between what you would find on an equine placement compared to a pig farm placement. The following is a brief outline of things worth knowing before embarking on lambing, pig, dairy farm or equine EMS placements:
Things to know about equine placements:
- This is often one of the more nerve-wracking placements if you haven’t had much horse experience, and if that’s you, perhaps consider going to a smaller and local riding stable where there is less pressure and expectation to immediately know how to tack up every horse.
- Make sure you tell the placement how much experience you have before you arrive, to avoid ending up in potentially dangerous situations where you don’t feel in control
- A true case of ‘fake it til you make it’ around the horses (some of them can tell if you’re nervous!)– that’s what I did, and it worked a treat
Things to know about lambing placements:
- Get stuck in! Lambing is perhaps the most hands on preclinical placement you’ll do, and often the most fun, so make the most of it! There’s also often multiple students on a farm at any one time, so it’s a fab way to make new friends at other vet schools, or to arrange a placement with your friends.
- It’s preferable to stay on the farm during your placement – rolling out of bed at 2am for the night shift feels a lot better when you don’t have far to go!
- Bring lots of layers, especially if you know that you’ll be working outside, or the night shift.
- A pen-knife will make your life a lot easier (baler twine holds everything but the actual sheep together on a farm)
- Bring some hand cream and lip balm (your hands will thank you after they spend all day going from warm, wet conditions to the cold April air)
- Make sure you eat/sleep enough – working a variety of strange shifts can mean you lose track of the days and what’s normal, so make sure you don’t forget to look after yourself!
- Bring some entertainment, especially if you know you’ll be doing the night shift. I found the Kindle app on my phone very handy, but a good old fashioned paper book or a pack of cards would be perfect
- Some farmers will pay you for your time, but don’t go in expecting it.
- Be resilient – not every lamb can be saved, and don’t forget the positive impact you’re having on the many, many others you deliver and save whilst you’re there.
Things to know about pig placements:
- Pig placements are amongst the most challenging to find and are probably the best example of how strong word of mouth is amongst vet students – ask everyone and anyone if you can’t find one!
- Consider whether you want to see an indoor or outdoor system: there’s likely more to do in an indoor system, but the working conditions will undoubtedly be better if you’re in the fresh air every day.
- If you are on an outdoor unit, expect that many of your jobs won’t be hugely animal-contact heavy, and instead you’ll spend a large amount of time dealing with their immediate environment and food instead
Things to know about dairy farm placements:
- If you find the right placement, this can be the most enjoyable placement (in my eyes): you get to spend all day around beautiful, intelligent cows and gorgeous calves, in often beautiful surroundings doing tasks that are often quite enjoyable
- I cannot recommend enough staying on the farm with the farmer’s family if they offer you the opportunity, it’s the best way to truly appreciate how many hard work (and how little sleep!) goes into running a dairy farm
- If you have one, a parlour top (waterproof trousers as a given) will save you from spending all day soggy and smelly after morning milking
- Wash your hands lots!! You can catch a fair few zoonotic infections from cows
The AVS MSG (Members' Services Group) have produced EMS guides for both pre-clinical and clinical vet students to help them organise placements as well as giving advice on how to get the most out of them. It includes both general advice and species specific advice covering all the species and different types of placement.