The Coronavirus pandemic is having a profound impact on the veterinary industry and the society and animals we dedicate our careers to. Vet students at the start of their veterinary careers are being affected too, and whilst everyone’s situation is different we know there are common experiences: uncertainty, financial worries, disruption to extra mural studies and electives, problems with housing and accommodation, worries for friends and family, personal health challenges and more.
During difficult times finding aspects that you can control is important. Here are ten tips for vet students for looking after yourself, your peers, and those around you:
1. Reasonable goals
There is pressure to take up new studies and hobbies during lockdown, or to be very productive while at home, this path may work for some but it is not for everyone. For wellbeing in a time of crisis focus on establishing core things first: safety, security, looking after your health and those you care about and remote contact with people you love.
2. Avoid media overload
In a time of such uncertainty scrolling news and social media for updates can be tempting but constant updates can increase feelings of anxiety. Check in with news and information twice a day only, and from trusted sources.
3. Have a wide perspective on experience
Jobs: Although veterinary placements and jobs are not in a normal situation now, and this is not the placement experience or first job situation we wanted for you, there will be veterinary jobs again in time. Until then, if you’re finishing your veterinary studies and worrying about jobs, think broadly about experience. Starting veterinary work with a solid grounding in communication skills, farming, support in distress, customer service, retail, logistics and more can all assist transition to vet work. Many roles including farm workers, NHS call handling roles, food distribution and more will all be valuable experience.
EMS: We know EMS is variably disrupted depending on different placements and we know how stressful this is. If you were relying on placements for accommodation and are now stuck please get in touch with your university – many have hardship funds to help with COVID related accommodation problems.
4. Know your support team
The veterinary industry has faced epidemics before and we know that we come through strongest together. We all need a support team at times of difficulty. Think about who in your life you find most supportive and who you need on your support bench for your tough days, and work on maintaining those relationships and support virtually
5. Routine and structure
If you’re studying and doing many hours online study in isolation it is important to have routine and break up your day with structure. Try to create a small study area if you can in the space you are living and then take breaks from work moving out of that space at regular times.
6. Find an escape
Within that structure allow yourself at least half an hour a day of something you enjoy – playing with a pet, non study related reading, music, art, whatever it is that helps you to lose track of time and take a mental break.
If you’re able to be outside for your exercise do something you enjoy. Try not to get too caught up in training goals and avoid overtraining right now, focus on the health benefits and enjoying it. If you aren’t able to go outside consider connecting with others to exercise online.
8. Look after your health
Rest, good nutrition and self-care are important through this, but so is knowing when you need help. If you’re worried about your mental or physical health it’s important to seek help for it. Although health services are busy it’s important to ask for help when you need it and not leave things very late.
9. Rites of passage
Vet study is marked by a series of events which can feel like rites of passage. We know how important these are and losing or postponing those isn’t what we wanted for you. It’s OK to feel sad about the loss. If you can find socially distant ways to mark those occasions then do.
10. We’ll be here for you
Veterinary work and a more recognisable type of veterinary training will resume. If you’ve been between graduation and practice during this outbreak the industry will find ways to help you transition if you’ve had a break from vet work because of this. We’ve enjoyed meeting you during your training and are looking forward to welcoming you to our profession when we get to meet again.
Vetlife Helpline is available to students for confidential emotional support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Call 0303 040 2551 or contact us via anonymous email.