Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Final exams: interview with Dr Jade Risdale from ABC's Vet School

Jade Risdale, fellow students and a sheep.
This week is the final episode of the ABC's Vet School. The fifth year veterinary students at Murdoch University are days from graduating...but they have to finish their final exams. Meanwhile the fourth years, including Jade Risdale, are coping with a seemingly endless tide of pracs and theory...

Dr Risdale was in the second last year of her veterinary degree years ago when Vet School was filmed. She is currently working in a small animal clinic south of Perth and took some time out to chat with SAT.

What made you decide to become a vet - and are you still doing it for this or these reasons or has your motivation changed over time?

One big reason for me was (due to experiences with my own animals) was that I wanted to have the knowledge and skills to be able look after my own animals the best possible and be able to pick up on any problems early (know what I was looking for). I also thought about career options and figured making a living helping animals feel better sounded pretty good :p I have wanted to be a vet since I was able to contemplate the idea of a "job". My animals have always meant a great deal to me and seeing vets over my life helping them whenever they got sick was really inspiring for me and I developed a great deal of respect for the profession, this contributed to my decision also.

Are there any significant non-humans in your life and can you tell us a bit about how they have helped you through vet school?

There have been many significant non-humans in my life. Currently I have a dog, 3 cats and a horse, all of which have their own personalities and are very special to me :p Through vet school (and life) my first dog Jenna was particularly significant. She was with me since I was about 7yo and passed away the start of my second last year of uni at 14yo. She was a great dog and my best friend the majority of my life so far. She was a very caring girl and loved people, was always there for me, simply an awesome dog!

She also helped with my education and veterinary interests, as she was diabetic later in life, developed cataracts so was blind in the end and developed seizures layer in life. How this helped? When someone close to you gets sick, in this case Jenna, you do your research! So by the end I had firsthand experience and was well informed on giving injections, diabetes, living with a blind pet and seizures.

Being in fourth and fifth year is gruelling, but you had the added scrutiny of TV cameras. How did that affect you?

Yeah... It was a bit confronting being followed around. I am naturally a quiet, fairly non-social person who tends to blend rather than stand out :p and I feel I lead quite a boring life, didn't really go out or anything. So it felt really strange someone following me as if I was a very interesting person and commenting on my daily 3 hour trip as really significant/ determined, when I just saw it as a "got to do what you got to do" type thing. Plus... I don't really like cameras (Not very photogenic) so it was really awkward for a while. It took a long time to get used to it :p In regard to interfering with study it wasn't too bad, it did take up some study time and I did give up time outside of uni for the show also. The crew were pretty respectful though and worked around me to get a lot of the footage they needed. Probably the most stressful times being recorded were right before one of my exams, the sheep laparotomy surgery, the cow epidural and when I failed one of my exams and needed to do a supplementary test.

[See the episode here].

What was the highlight of being involved with the production?

I think what I liked most about being part of the program is that it will be a nice memento to have to look back on in the future (See where I came from) and the hope that the show will have some impact on the public, i.e. Show people what is involved in becoming a veterinarian and the challenges we have to face in this profession.

How has the veterinary degree changed you as a person?

It has allowed me to achieve my lifelong goal! You want different things as you go through life but I have wanted this my whole life! Now that I am a vet, I have achieved that ~20 year long goal. I have a sense of achievement/ satisfaction and now I am working on what I want/ want to achieve next. As a person I think I have more so matured than changed through obtaining my veterinary degree. I have had to deal with the reality of the profession and all the hard work you must do to get through builds a good work ethic... well at least that's how I feel. I am still a kid at heart, that will never change and I still have the same morals, etc., having the vet degree hasn't really changed me too much, I’ve just grown as a person :)

Getting through those final years is one part of the journey. What is the next step for you and how well prepared do you think you are?

Well currently I am working on building my confidence, becoming comfortable with the basics/ common things seen in practise and working on my time management! You are REALLY slow when you first get out, compared to experienced vets and the only way to get faster is through practise, so that's what you do. Once I have the basics down packed, then I can always look at specialising or trying something else within the profession, there are so many options with this career, which is another great thing about our profession. I think currently I am doing alright, still pretty slow with my consults and surgery, but I am getting there :P

Vet training tends to be highly demanding, full-on, all-encompassing. How do you wind down?

I am fairly boring really :p I am happiest just chilling at home with my family and animals. A normal weekend is me usually playing a game or watching a movie in the company of my boyfriend and sister with a purring kitty cat on my belly :P I love just spending time with my animals and loved ones, they make me happy just being in their company.

That said, some people think a lot of vetty thoughts in their down time. Are there any good vet books, websites or resources you recommend?

VIN is quite a helpful resource I have found. I haven't needed to branch out further than this, my colleagues and my textbooks/ lecture notes thus far. Sorry, I try to spend my down time as "family time" trying to create some "Work-life balance", so I will read vet-related texts on occasion, but I don't have any other good resource suggestions currently.

Finally, now that you have graduated, what is your advice to vet students? Good survival tips? Dos and don'ts?


For final year in particular, NEVER FORGET you are surrounded by SPECIALISTS so don't feel down if you forget or don't understand something, it will all be ok, you'll get there in the end. DO - try to keep your stress levels down/ find an outlet for stress, Get enough sleep, Keep on top of your work and be organised (The information stream doesn't stop so try and do your notes, read through lecture notes, etc. as you go, don't leave it till later and become bogged down in information). DON'T feel disheartened if you need to do a supplementary exam - They are stressful BUT in doing them you go over everything you may not have had time to go over before/ did not learn well enough and it will benefit you in the long run.

Thanks Jade! If you are like me and have struggled to be home at 8pm Friday night (hey, I was working!) then you can catch up on the previous eps on iView any time of the day or night. Is it just me or does everyone need a box of tissues when they watch this show?

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