Not Okay

We are taught to practice evidence-based medicine – meaning, when new research comes out showing that old protocols or therapies are not as effective as we thought, or some interventions are unsafe, we apply the new information to our practice. We are scientists, applying what other scientists discover to patients in the real world, and we are held responsible if our decisions result in injury or death to our patients. As such, don’t you think we’d want to learn in the most effective way possible? Yeah, I thought so, too.

Lectures are crammed into more space in our schedules than we have, exams at 7 am and lectures in the same class at 9. We are taught right up to the day before the final; this coming finals week, we have fifteen hours of instruction, and most of that information will be on exams, though we’ll have less than 24 hours to learn new material. Whatever information isn’t on the exams will be on the NAVLE, though we’ll never have had the opportunity to properly learn it.

I can hear the criticism now – learn it on your own, you’ll pick it up as you go, it’s building a foundation. I understand that – but literally three days after finals are over, we start with new classes. When do you propose I learn on my own? This summer? Sorry, I’ll be on internship, no time to learn things I should have already learned. If our foundation is cracked, how long do you suppose the house will stand? Education research has moved leaps and bounds, but in professional school, where we are told to evolve with the science, we are stuck in the seventies in many ways.

Don’t get me wrong – many of our professors are wonderful educators who care about our learning, and go above and beyond to make sure we leave their class with our heads full of knowledge. But in a system stacked against life-long learning, these educators can only make so much progress.

Every clinician outside the school I have every talked to about the first year after graduation has told me it takes a minimum of one year to properly train a veterinarian – which means it’s even harder for new grads to be competitive when looking for employment. This is not okay.

The system is failing us. We pay ever increasing tuition fees for a curriculum that grows disproportionately – new classes are added to teach us neurology or business, while other classes have not changed in twenty years, when some of our younger teachers were in school. The same professors, teaching with the same powerpoints, in order for us to pass the same exams. The same jokes told by lecturers year after year. The same complaints directed against each new class by professors who care more about showing how educated they are than about teaching us. Some of our teachers proudly tell us that the entire class fails their exam every year. In what world is that good education? Dis-motivating students before you even begin teaching them does not prove that the educator is intelligent or the top of their profession – it puts the students, who pay these teachers’ salaries, at an extreme disadvantage.

Our education system is not okay. It is not okay to compare each class to the one that came before, saying they were more interactive, more engaged, smarter. It is not okay to lie to incoming students, that everything is done to prevent students from failing out, when more students are failing every year. It is not okay to blame the students when 80% of a class fails an exam – that demonstrates that the pathology lies with the establishment, not the students. It is not okay to claim to support mental health, while are willingly and knowingly contributing to the mental illness epidemic in our profession. It really is not okay.

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