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Comfort in the Chaos

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

October 1, 2023

Christopher Knap, AVC 2024, travelled to Sheshatshiu as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of writing.

Admittedly, I enjoy experiences where I feel unfamiliar or out of my element. The excitement of the unknown, of a new beginning, is partly what has pushed me from coast-to-coast, and many points in between. It is what inspired me to move to Vancouver straight out of high school. It is what caught my interest in Northern Ontario when I was considering vet technician programs. It is what brought me to PEI and to AVC when I was trying to gain acceptance to vet school. And it was something that I looked forward to most about The Chinook Project.

When looking back on my experience in Sheshatshiu, I realize that I had two polarizing experiences that occurred within the clinic itself- that had nothing to do with our patients, our clients, or our team. Ultimately, these differences boiled down to this: the times when I was in the surgical tent, and the times when I was on the floor.

I will be honest when I say that I felt out of my element the first few times that I stepped inside the tent to perform a surgery. As a result of the UPEI faculty strike the previous semester, I only had one “big kid” surgery (see: ovariohysterectomy) under my belt to date. This is one of the things that excited me most about the opportunity, but also the one that I felt the most anxious about, due to my lack of experience. Though I knew all the steps of the procedure, I lacked the muscle memory, the tactile experience that only hands-on experience could bring. Needless to say, I found myself getting frustrated.

I had read all of Dr. Hopson’s info sheets and watched all of the demo videos numerous times over - so why can’t I bury these knots?! I was just holding the “deep” loop, why did I pull it taut?! Why the heck is it even called a “smurf” anyways?!?! As much as my time in the surgery tent was an important exercise for my surgical skills, it was most definitely also an exercise in patience and self-compassion. There were times when I could do nothing else but stop and take a breath, commiserate with my classmates, or laugh at myself. Ultimately, as tough as I found those moments, I knew that there was a group of my teammates just on the other side of the tarp working through appointments with a lineup of clients and

a chorus of barking dogs waiting, and was thankful to be where I was.

That being said, having worked as a technician for the last number of years, I am fairly comfortable with the ebbs and flows of appointments; the history taking, the procedural stuff, the client communication and education. That part of the clinic may not have been new to me, but the environment sure was. There were many times when there were so many clients waiting for help that I forgot who had been waiting the longest. There were times when there were so many dogs barking inside the clinic that I’m still not convinced that I was speaking to clients in coherent sentences. But in that chaos, there was comfort and familiarity - that I was working with a community of people who wanted to do the best for their animals, and that we were going to deliver the best care that we could for our patients.

To be frank, I entered The Chinook Project with very high expectations of myself and about my performance as a member of this team. I received a one-week crash course in vaccine and deworming protocols, surgical and anesthetic techniques and effective client communication, but I think that the most important things that I learned were to manage my expectations of my own performance and to just step back and take a breath once in a while. And most importantly, that even comfortable situations can get a bit chaotic sometimes, and that there can often be comfort found in the chaos.

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