Practice makes perfect

Externship Project

In the second week of my externship, I was assigned to perform spay surgeries on three cats from the local humane society. A spay surgery, also called ovariohysterectomy, is the removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female dog or cat.

It was great to put on my surgical cap (figuratively) and be able to perform surgery with a mentor to give me feedback. I was apprehensive about tackling three surgeries in one day as someone relatively new to surgery. At the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), we are taught and examined on all aspects of surgery including sterile technique, preparation of the patient, scrubbing in, donning the surgical gown and gloves, surgical techniques, and suturing.

Student veterinarian preparing for surgeryIn second year, we use a stuffed surgical model called a DASIE to perform a spay. In our third year, we have the opportunity to perform part of one or two spays in a dog or a cat with supervision from veterinary surgeons. In the first week of my externship, I was able to scrub into surgery and assist with a spay. Even with all that experience, there is still nothing like performing a surgery from start to finish by yourself.

I practiced my sutures and techniques in advance to keep my skills sharp. I watched videos and reviewed my notes to ensure that I performed every step correctly. During the surgeries, the staff veterinarian was there every step of the way to provide oversight and guidance. With each surgery, I grew more and more confident. I breathed a sigh of relief as I placed my final suture for the last surgery.

I assisted in their follow up care, which included checking their vital signs and incision line. It was so rewarding to see that they were healing nicely. Hopefully, they will all go to good homes. When I graduate, I will be expected to perform routine veterinary surgeries such as spay, neuter, and mass removal. I look forward to additional opportunities to have mentorship while performing surgery during my final year at OVC.