For UF Vet Students, It’s Off to Work They Go

A two-week clerkship provides exposure to everyday life in private practice.

Andrew DeStefano, right, a third-year University of Florida veterinary student, completed a two-week small animal clerkship at Trenton Animal Hospital under Dr. Thomas Hester, left.

Sarah Carey/UF

University of Florida veterinary students eager to gain real-world experience are getting the opportunity through a new course that places them in off-campus hospitals.

The College of Veterinary Medicine this semester launched a small animal clerkship involving 17 practices within driving distance of Gainesville, Fla.

The two-credit elective exposes third- and fourth-year students to circumstances they may not find during a mandatory rotation in the UF Small Animal Hospital, said program coordinator and clinical assistant professor Wendy Mandese, DVM.

“Not everyone has CT or MRI,” Dr. Mandese said. “Many students get into general practice and realize it’s not anything like what’s at the university.”

The pace they see in private practice may be slower than in a teaching hospital, and the pet owners they come in contact with may not be as financially receptive to treatment proposals.

“If my students come up with a treatment plan for an animal that costs $100, I try to say to them, ‘OK, that is a good plan, but what would you do if the owner says they don’t have that much money?’” Mandese said. “You always need to have a Plan B ready.”

The two-week class calls on students to do more than see patients alongside a participating veterinarian.

“It’s a lot more than shadowing,” Mandese said. “Students will have specific learning outcomes they have to complete and a checklist they have to follow before and after they are at the practice.”

The experience is designed to teach students about more than just physical exams, treatments and surgeries. Students are expected to spend 10 percent of their time on practice management aspects such as client billing, inventory control and employee supervision.

And like any clinic employee, they must show up to work on time.

“The student will be expected to be present in the practice Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or [until] the practitioner’s day is completed,” the course syllabus states.

The small animal clerkship is similar to one developed for equine students in 2011. More than 100 students enrolled in the equine course in 2014.

Among the small animal practitioners hosting UF students is alumnus Clint Greene, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, of Town & Country Veterinarians in Gainesville.

“The students will gain some insight into career opportunities and a better understanding of what a healthy veterinarian-to-veterinarian relationship looks like,” he said.

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