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Changing Goals, Changing Attitudes

Heather Bruinooge, AVC 2019, traveled to Nain and Sheshatshiu in 2018 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing.

August 31, 2018

As a child I was taught to remain humble, do my best and work hard no matter what the task. Although these attributes may contribute to me being a good veterinarian, I am far from perfect and one of my downfalls is having confidence in what I do. After three years of intensive veterinary school and countless hours of veterinary observation and participation, I still have hesitation in many of the veterinary tasks I set out to do. I began fourth year trying to adapt this insecurity and use it to motivate me to never stop learning. Having The Chinook Project as one of my first rotations became a key component in this change. While it taught me new skills in surgery and medicine, it had much more of an impact on me personally – to regain belief in myself.

In the beginning of the Chinook Project I often felt incompetent and struggled to trust my training and knowledge. I was going through the motions of the busy clinic but found myself stressed about the small stuff. I was giving owners suggestions, but I questioned myself regularly. Surgery was one of the areas in which I had confidence but I found myself stepping back, watching clinicians perform tasks when I could have participated if I simply spoke up.

Heather Bruinooge performing surgery during the Chinook Project rotation

It took a couple of days to get into the groove of The Chinook Project, but when that point hit, my confidence shifted. There were many factors involved in this change of perspective and I have no doubt that the busy environment of the Chinook Project itself was essential to the process. One of the key moments was when I completed my first surgery with a fellow classmate without the assistance of a clinician . We thought through the process together and discussed any areas where we were lacking confidence. I started to realize that although my teammates looked like professionals on the outside, they had the same insecurities I did. They too were learning. I likely looked confident on the outside even though internally my confidence was lacking.

Another key moment in gaining confidence was during our mid-rotation evaluations. I realized that the veterinarians who were teaching and working alongside me thought that I was prepared and knowledgeable in what I was doing. I began to realize that not only did the veterinarians believe in me, but my fellow classmates were completely trusting of me. We helped one another in busy cases and would often substitute in and out of cases with complete fluidity. Additionally, my patient’s owners viewed me as an educational resource for their animal’s health. For the first time I began to truly feel like a veterinarian not just a student.

The only person in the room without confidence in my skills was me. I considered this and decided to make a change. My lack of confidence was holding me back and I had to combat this to become a better veterinarian. I took in the confidence from those around me and no longer brushed off compliments but acknowledged them and used them to motivate me. I was proud of where I had come and excited to learn more.. There was no way I could know everything, and I became okay with that. I often surprised myself with how much knowledge I could bring out of memory that I thought I had forgotten.

Now, I was no longer receiving grades to prove I was performing as expected. Now, I was receiving smiles and understanding from owners, support from veterinarians, and complete confidence from my fellow classmates. Now, I can believe in myself to try new things, and I can trust my training and knowledge to assist me in dealing with difficult cases. Most of all, I can trust my gut in knowing that I am in the right career path and that there are endless opportunities in my future as a veterinarian. I have found value in the fact that I will always be learning and perfection is unattainable and also not my desired goal.

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