Thursday, August 9, 2012

Diary of a shelter medicine intern: the first few weeks

At my last report I had finished about two days of my internship and was still giddy with joy. During the rest of that week, I got to work on site at a major cat hoarding case. Hundreds of cats at a cat sanctuary gone bad had been seized by a large rescue organization, and were being managed in a previously abandoned animal control facility which had been patched up to manage all these cats. My team swooped in to help with spay/neuter. We surgerized about 200 cats over two days. We also got to see how the facility, originally designed for dogs, had been fixed up to house so many cats. Quite a bit of creativity had gone into making dog runs inviting to feline inhabitants. I was impressed.

The following week, I was oriented to my new job (even though I had already been working for several days). There were lots of lectures about things I now have no recollection of, and lots of tours of the hospital.

Then I started two weeks of Primary Care service, which represents the first of six or so rotations in the main hospital, so that I can be exposed to other kinds of medicine besides shelter medicine. Primary Care is different this far south than it was in New England. I learned so much about flea control. I was completely unprepared to deal with animals who were on flea preventatives and still crawling with bugs. Fleas down here have become resistant to preventatives; who knew? I also had my first interactions with veterinary students since I stopped being one. They would not call me by my first name no matter how much I asked. Being called “Dr. Dog Zombie” still feels odd and stilted to me. They were also all mildly afraid that I would give them a bad grade whenever I asked them a question.

The week after that was a hodge podge of stuff. All the interns (3) and new residents (2) dove in to studying the Guidelines for Care in Animal Shelters: we watched webinars, read consulting reports from when our department had visited shelters and given recommendations for improvement, discussed, and of course read the actual guidelines. We also had an ophthalmology lab, in which we practiced common eye surgeries which we might have to do in shelters, using cadavers. And, fortuitously for us but not for the shelter, we consulted on a small outbreak of panleukopenia in a nearby shelter. I really want to blog more about all of those things, but may not find the time, as they are working us hard. If there are any particular things you guys want to know more about, please ask! Getting feedback on what interests you will definitely influence what I choose to spend blogging time on.

Which brings us to this week. This week, I’m at a course on campus about managing feral cat colonies. Am I a student? Sort of, because I have to attend all the lectures and take the tests. Am I an instructor? Sort of, because I run a station during the clinical section of the course and teach the course participants how to prep anesthetized cats for surgery. Perhaps I have gotten the worst of both worlds!

Tonight, I am off to learn how to trap feral cats. Despite never having done this before, I will be a team leader. But how hard can it be?

[ETA: So far we have trapped three cats, out of a reported ten. Go Team Dog Zombie!]