the “Vacation Rotation” of 4th Year

There is a concensus between my classmates that of all the mandatory fourth year clinical rotations, there exists a single “vacation rotation.” It is not difficult to identify which 4th year students are on the sacred, time-sparing rotation. These are the students who seem to never leave the student lounge, or the students that arrive at various times throughout the day, sporting non-medical-profession-affiliated garb…serving as reminders that there is life outside of veterinary school.  These same students are the ones you see smiling…sincerely smiling. As we hit the halfway point through March, I’m starting to see fatigue set in. Exhaustion, stress and aggitated restlessness are taking their toll on students, and becoming much easier to see in the faces of students and residents/interns. This “burn out” is present on some rotations more than others, and you can just as easily spot a student currently on the notoriously tough rotations as you can spot the blissful student currently enjoying the vacation rotation.

“Vacationing” classmates are most frequently seen in the student lounge, working on random graduation paperwork, filling out employment applications, texting, catching up on their favorite TV show, wandering YouTube in an endless you-loop, distracting less fortunate students (particularly those enduring the labor and paperwork-intensive rotations like Oncology, Ortho and Internal Med).  I’ve heard of people counting down to graduation, but I was surprised to find people counting down their days to the two weeks which they’ll spend in what is the nirvana of 4th year rotations. By no means, does the school, administratively or academically, intend for student to feel this way about the mandatory clinical experience. But, luckily they haven’t implemented any changes that would eradicate the consensus of my class and classes before us. Hopefully, things will stay as they are and the clinical rotation of Anesthesia will remain an rotation that gives students a chance to learn while also giving them a chance to breath.

This consensus, regarding the Anesthesia rotation, is almost unanimous among all one hundred of us. What makes Anesthesia so special? It’s probably the borderline banker’s hours, minimal paperwork, absence of SOAPing, readily available assistance, great Clinicians and technicians, hours of free time and mild rounds sessions. Monday was my first day on anesthesia with the usual 8 AM start time. We went into an easy hour of rounds, reviewed our anesthesic agents and protocols, had a mini-orientation and then raffled off the day’s cases. Mondays are typically light in caseload. With only 4 surgeries, that meant four of us were given our freedom for the day…allowed to come and go as we please, with the only requirement being that if an emergency case showed up, someone would come back to the hospital to take on the case. Monday might as well have been a holiday, because no emergency cases came in and I was able to make some extensive progress on my senior project. Sunshine, 60 degrees, the freedom to run errands during normal business hours, finish up some personal goals, work-out…one day into the anesthesia rotation, and I was another student seduced by the vacation of a rotation. I understood exactly what all the anesthesia hype was about…and also was glad that I had saved anesthesia (unaware of its reputation) for one of my last 4th year rotations.

Monday of the clinical anesthesia rotation went down smooth, a refreshing breather from prior rotations. My classmates and I joke that if we’re quiet enough, we can hear the waves on the beach, taste a sweet pina colada and might very well be in paradise. We were either all craving a Caribbean vacation, or else somewhere we’ve got a leak in our anesthesia machines…because just about the time we thought it was smooth sailing for the week, we were capsized by a chaos-filled Tuesday.

I knew Tuesday would be busier, with multiple services having procedures that day…but, the efficiency of the anesthesia team, and the ease at which people work together, I wasn’t worried. I showed up Tuesday morning ready for my first case. I thought Tuesday would be similar to Monday, and I can say that there are very few things in my life that I have been more wrong about. Monday was the calm before the storm, and if this is the Bahamas of rotations, then my rotation-mates and I showed up right in time for Hurricane season.

$#%$ hit the fan.

All this lead up into Tuesday, and unfortunately I’ll have to pause my blog entry here. I’ve got an extensive list of things to accomplish this morning before heading into my rotation, and this is about all the blogging time I can spare right now.

To be continued…