Trusten Moore, 3rd year DVM Student, Western University of Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine
I often think back to my very first day of veterinary school. During orientation, excitement filled the room, small-talk was being made, and friendships were being kindled. We were all excited to finally start this journey. This was truly a moment that we have been waiting for. We anticipated the anatomy labs, lectures from specialists, clinical skills labs, and ultimately, rotating through clinics. However, the reality of medical school quickly set in as our schedules became overbooked and assignments began to pile up. Normal bedtimes changed from 10 PM to 1 or 2 AM. Healthy meals turned into fast food or snacks from the vending machine, and “freshman fifteen” turned into “vet school thirty.” The energy that we began to run off of is now maintained by Starbucks or energy drinks. Lastly, we began to lose communication with family and friends.
The medical profession is not easy, and we knew this before entering. We are constantly being pushed to fill our brains with an enormous amount of information to better the lives of others. As healthcare providers, we are trained to save others. We are trained to alleviate pain. We are trained to provide the best quality of life to our patients. But in order to save others, we must first, save ourselves. I think it is important for students to realize that our education may be affecting our own health.
A study performed in India looked at various stressors affecting medical students. They identified that these stressors were academic, psychosocial, and environmental. Academic stressors included the amount of material being covered, the frequency of exams, and fear of failure. The major psychosocial determinants were loneliness and family problems, while accommodation was the main environmental stressor facing these students.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reported that bouts of depression in veterinarians began during veterinary school. They also reported that 1 in 6 veterinarians have considered suicide. It is time that we come together as a profession to take care of each other, and this must start in veterinary school. Many schools have now hired therapist or counselors to be readily available for students when needed. But what can we do as students to help each other?
My purpose for writing this piece is to challenge students studying all areas of medicine. I want to challenge students to take care of yourself and your peers. Reach out when you see someone having a bad day. Speak to that person that you’ve never said a word to. Send encouraging messages to your friends to brighten their day. Create a workout group and go to the gym with friends. Take one day off each week. Find a hobby and make time for it. Go to the movies. Go on hikes. Call your parents. And above all, find time to rest.
It is time that we start focusing on our own health. If you’re experiencing any signs of loneliness, hopelessness, or depression, please, please find help.
I am thankful that my veterinary school career has been filled with loving friends and family along the way. However, I see and hear so many stories of students finding themselves in these dark places. Although we’re training to save lives, make sure you’re taking care of your own. I’m here for you. We’re here for you.