All aspiring veterinarians will job shadow a veterinarian at some point in their journey to veterinary school. The day to day details of job shadowing a veterinarian can differ depending on the veterinarian that you are shadowing, but some constants remain the same. And one of the best ways to get the most out of your job shadowing experience is to interact and ask great questions.
What questions should you ask while job shadowing a veterinarian? There are no wrong questions, but here are some suggestions.
- Ask about the day to day operations of the veterinary clinic. Job shadowing is all about learning if you like the details of the job.
- Pay attention to specific cases you observe during the day, so you can ask questions about the treatment of those animals.
- Ask the veterinarian questions about themself, like what like and don’t like about being a veterinarian. Or how they successfully prepared for veterinary school.
In this post, we will break down these categories of questions, into specific questions you can ask during a job shadowing experience. Some of them are great first day questions. Others may be of higher value and result in better answers after you have more experience in a veterinary clinic.
A quick note about asking questions during a job shadow experience: it is often best not to ask questions in an exam room in front of clients ( pet owners). That time is for the veterinarian and clients to talk together. Save your questions for downtime or in between appointments.
Questions about the day to day operations of a veterinary clinic
There are so many questions that you can ask about the day to day operations of a veterinary clinic. These are just some suggestions to help get you thinking about questions as you prepare for your job shadowing opportunity.
These questions are great for when you are job-shadowing a veterinarian seeing scheduled appointments:
- How much time do you schedule to see a wellness (healthy) appointment vs a sick pet?
- How does the veterinary clinic handle emergencies? Do they see them themselves or is there a local emergency clinic?
- What vaccines do you recommend for dogs (or cats or horses or whatever species the veterinarian sees at this clinic)?
- Do you always see animals with owners present?
- What preventative care do you recommend for cats (or dogs or cows or whatever species you are working with)?
- How do you deal with aggressive or scared animals?
Questions for when you are observing lab work being run:
- What are you looking for in a stool sample?
- Do you run all of the labwork (blood, urine, and stool) in the clinic? Or does the clinic send blood to other locations for testing?
- What are you looking for in a urine sample?
- If you didn’t observe the collection of the urine, ask about how you collect urine samples from different animals.
- For bloodwork, ask which veins you can collect blood from in that species.
If you are watching surgery, ask the veterinarian or veterinary technician some of the following questions:
- Are all animals given the same drugs prior to surgery?
- What pain medications do pets receive during/after surgery?
- Do the animals get an antibiotic with or after surgery? Why or why not?
- What are the purposes of IV fluids during surgery?
- What are the monitoring machines measuring?
- What numbers are being recorded in the anesthesia record?
- What different types of surgeries do you perform?
- At what age do you recommend spaying or neutering animals? And why that age?
Questions about individual cases
These questions can vary significantly depending on what you are observing, but below are some general questions that can be applied to most cases. The veterinarian may explain some of these answers to the client (animal owner), but if you don’t know or hear the vet already answer these questions, consider the following:
- What medications are being prescribed? And why/what do these medications do?
- How common is this disease?
- If you are watching a toxicity/poisoning case, ask about other common toxins for that species.
- How do monitor the progression of this disease (if it is not curable)?
- If the veterinarian prescribes antibiotics, ask how the veterinarian works to help prevent antibiotic resistance?
- If you are shadowing a large animal veterinarian, ask about antibiotic withdrawal period for food animals.
- Ask about bloodwork results. What does an elevated (or decreased) value mean?
- What does bloodwork test for? Why is it recommended?
Questions about a veterinarian’s personal experience
Most veterinarians are willing to share their personal experience about getting into veterinary school and are happy to give aspiring veterinarians tips. Here are some questions you can ask the veterinarian about him- or herself.
- What veterinary school did you attend? And how did you choose that school?
- What type of veterinary experience did you have before you applied to veterinary school?
- What is your undergraduate major in?
- What recommendations do you have for a student at my stage of veterinary career preparation? Any tips for me?
- What do you like the most about your job?
- What do you like the least?
- Have you always worked in this type of veterinary medicine? If not, what did you like and dislike about your previous job?
- What’s your favorite species to work with?
- What species do you see?
Need more job shadowing questions ideas?
The above questions are just some suggestions to help you start thinking about great questions to ask at your first or next veterinary job shadowing experience. If you have other great questions that you think could be added to this list, let us hear about them in the comments section below.
You could also check out the Student Doctor Network pre-veterinary forum. This thread has some additional suggestions: https://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/to-ask-when-shadowing-vets.626419/
How old do you have to be to shadow a veterinarian? The average age to beginning job shadowing is 16 years of age or older. But it is well worth contacting your looking veterinary clinics when you start high school to see if they allow students to start job-shadowing earlier. Want to read more about this topic – click on the link below.
How many hours of experience do I need to get into veterinary school? Most applications will need several hundred hours of veterinary experience on their veterinary school application in order to be sucessful. Generally successful applicants have between 150 to 1000 hours of veterinary experience. Check out our Apsiring Veterinary Checklist in order to get organized about gaining exerpience early.