How to get the most from your EMS placement

Posted on October 04, 2019 by Louise Rayment-Dyble

Vet students are the future of our profession, and it is important we support and guide them into being the sort of vet that we need going forward. We can be a great help in teaching resilience and communication styles. We learn a lot about the art of veterinary medicine on EMS placement, and it can be a great resource for recruitment too.

Tips for getting most out of placement

  • Make a connection - we all know how hard it is to walk into a workplace of strangers and make conversation, but if you are warm, smiley, and friendly to all the team that’s a good start
  • Wear a name badge - if you have a college badge, or even if it’s just a sticker, bring it so people learn your name
  • Get your bearings – take a guided tour and find out how the day works so you can see what might be interesting and how to find out what’s going on eg with the visit/message book, the ops or in-patient boards, the practice computer system, one of the vets, a friendly nurse or receptionist.
  • Don’t just focus on watching the vets work - get involved with the nursing team, they’ll have a huge amount of knowledge and tips. Practice clinical exams on in-patients, listen to hearts, palpate abdomens, clip nails, empty anal glands, offer to do IVs, set up drips and radiographs if they are comfortable with that.
  • Don’t hide in the staffroom even if you’re nervous - if you’re visible and look keen, you will see so much more
  • Ask questions and start thinking - what would I do? - it will soon come round, and the more thinking practice you get the better prepared you’ll be for that first job
  • Try to help out - offer to clean, ask the nurses if they need any help, clean out that kennel, mop that spill, make that cup of tea. If you build rapport with the team by mucking in and being one of them, you’ll get so much more out of your placement
  • Know when to chat and when to keep your distance - vets love having really enthusiastic students, and will give you lots of gems of wisdom if you ask about their experiences. There are some situations though, when stepping back is appropriate eg a difficult client or a euthanasia, or just some days if the vet/ nurse is having a tough day. Don’t take it personally, find someone else to help/watch, or maybe offer that cuppa later.
  • Likewise don’t be offended if you are not allowed to do something - there might be a new or recent graduate that needs to practice that op, that client may have requested a particular vet, or maybe even the vet concerned is not confident enough to teach you. Again don’t take it personally, be patient and wait in the wings – your turn will come. 
  • Plan to go somewhere more than once if you can - students that have a regular practice are more likely to be trusted to practice things like surgery, or get taken on that interesting visit. You will learn much more, and often this can be a stepping stone into your first job in a familiar and supportive practice.
  • Have respect for all the team members - everyone is part of the team, and if you chat to everyone alike you’ll get on a lot better and be included more
  • Offer to come in for emergencies or help weekends - if you can come in out of hours let the on-call vet know. You can be helpful and will see different types of cases, and learn how to handle them. The team will be impressed with your work ethic
  • Keep a diary or journal of interesting cases and your reflective thoughts - it will be useful to look back and for any case reports.

EMS placements are definitely worth the time and effort you put into them. I personally learned a huge amount and gained inspiration and tips from my mentors on placements and some remain friends to this day.

Finally, enjoy it. Being a vet is one of the most rewarding professions, and every day offers a huge and often unpredictable variety of experiences, so make the most of it.

Louise Rayment-Dyble

Written by Louise Rayment-Dyble

Clinical Director, All Creatures Healthcare

Louise Rayment-Dyble is the Clinical Director and Practice co-Owner/Founder of All Creatures Healthcare in Norwich, and also the East of England Representative for BVA Council. She is the President of the Eastern Counties Veterinary Society, and a past President of BVZS.