Sunday, October 24, 2010

The joys of scheduling 82 students over 12 months

As my class nears the beginning of our clinical time (in only 147 days!), my school has to schedule us. For the first three years of vet school, cohorts do almost everything together. A few hours a week are set aside for individual activities, but mostly you show up, sit in a big lecture hall with 81 of your closest friends, and listen while one faculty member after another shows up and talks at you.

Obviously, 82 of us would not fit in the tiny cardiology room or the ER all at once. So for our 12 months of on-campus core rotations, we are split up into little groups. (The final two and a half months of clinical time is all elective time and expected to be mostly off campus.) I do not envy the administrator who has to manage these schedules! We all have requirements (I need a specific week off for my brother’s wedding on the other side of the country; a friend of mine needs a specific six weeks for an elective at a nearby aquarium). And we all have preferences (mostly we want our Ambulatory rotation, which is outdoors in Connecticut, to be in September and not in February).

The scheduling is done in two stages. For the first stage, we are each assigned the order of our major blocks. What’s a major block? Basically, the 12 months is split into four seasons. You do a group of rotations together over the course of three months (one season); that is a major block. So I might do one set of courses in the spring, and someone else might do that same set in the fall.

We were all in lecture when email came from administration that our scheduled block information was now ready and in our mailboxes. Because we all have laptops in lecture we all knew immediately. There was 30 minutes of lecture left. The tension was palpable. One student actually got up and brazenly left lecture, to return with her envelope (and the envelopes belonging to her friends sitting near her). I jiggled all through the next 30 minutes until we had our break and could get our schedules. I am afraid the subsequent lecture was shot as well, as we were all obsessed with our little pieces of paper throughout it.

I mostly but not entirely got the order that I wanted. I will not be doing Ambulatory in the winter. LPK will. I am concerned that she may not survive. I was at that clinic for one day in January for a second-year rotation day, and it almost did me in. “Now we will vaccinate these three dozen calves. You are all going to have to take your gloves off to handle the syringes.”

In a week we will go through a second lottery process to establish the order of the individual rotations within each major block. (Small animal medicine first? Or pathology first?) This is a full day process; we have no lecture scheduled that day and are expected to spend the entire day in the administration building, waiting for each pass through the lottery. (Four blocks, plus two weeks of required on campus electives, means six passes through the lottery.)

And then my schedule for 12 months of my life will be set. If any friends of mine choose to get married and ask me to attend, I may have no way to get time off. (I told my brother that he had to decide on a day for his wedding before the lottery process began, so I could adjust my schedule around it, more than a year ahead of time.) It’s going to be a very different life from the one I am living now.


  1. I managed to knit half a sweater on lottery day!

  2. I'm hoping to study the hell out of small animal medicine/surgery for Friday's test, but suspect it will be impossible to study anything while trapped in a building with 81 other students obsessing over the lottery process at high volume :)