Vet School During COVID

University of Auburn Veterinary Classroom empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic
An Empty Veterinary Classroom

I spent the four years before vet school working tirelessly in order to become someone that AUCVM would want as a student. I was so busy studying so I could have plenty of experience (& money), shadowing different specialties to make sure I loved the work, and doing everything else that I could to stand out from all of the amazing students applying for the seat I wanted in my veterinary class. I was so busy doing all of that, that I didn’t even take the time to think about what life would be like once I got in. I didn’t give full attention to the debt load, the compassion fatigue, the suicide statistics, or the older veterinarians that told me they wouldn’t pursue vet med again if they could go back. I thought all of those issues must just be exaggerations…we never talked about them in depth during my time as an undergrad student. 

Once I got into vet school though, I felt like I hit an emotional brick wall. My enthusiasm was replaced with imposter syndrome and anxiety over the lifestyle I was pursuing. Could I handle vet school’s demands? If I made it through vet school, could I handle everything that came with being a veterinarian? My first year was full of me going back and forth between feeling totally capable and feeling totally drained. Luckily, I had my friends and I was constantly surrounded by colleagues who were open about going through similar struggles. Vet school is hard but we helped remind each other that it’s worth it. With COVID, students don’t get that anymore. First year students have had to mostly rely on messaging apps and social media to meet each other and try to make connections. If I’m struggling with feeling isolated at times – even with my amazing group of friends here to support me – I can only imagine what some of them are feeling.

Advice from a current student

If you’re a student that is currently struggling with feeling overwhelmed, isolated, etc.

    • Talk to a counselor. It is seriously so healthy to do this, especially when you’re mentally or emotionally struggling. I love talking to mine and know I wouldn’t make it through vet school without her.
    • Reach out to classmates: ask them to grab coffee, go on a walk outside, get brunch, study together, anything! It’s intimidating as heck to reach out to new people (I was always convinced I’d be rejected) but the reward far outweighs the risk.
    • Put. Yourself. First. Don’t put your grades first, others first, or this career first. Your wellness is the most important thing, and if you spend your time in school training yourself to care for that above all else, you can contribute to the much needed improvement in veterinary medicine. We are reaching a pivotal point in this field where we are finally talking about mental wellness and if we all act together to preserve our wellness while also being successful veterinarians, one day we won’t have the highest suicide rate in civilian careers or high depression rates. We won’t be telling pre-vet students that if we could go back in time we wouldn’t choose vet med again. 
    • Know that COVID schooling does not reflect the amazing world of veterinary medicine. It’s frustrating staring at a screen all day and it sucks not getting much hands-on experience, but hold on because it gets so much better. Don’t let the changes caused by this pandemic change your mind about the career you’ve worked so hard to get to.

If anyone ever wants to talk to me about my wellness journey through vet school so far, I’m always happy to do so. Message @NotOneMoreVet on Facebook or Instagram and I will see it.