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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Phoebe Thomson-Bird: Equine Hospital Placement

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    24 Nov

    With generous funding from Gateway Challenges Funding and Rosemary Murray Travel Award I was able this year to travel to the Leahurst Campus of the University of Liverpool, to work at their busy Equine hospital. This was a 2 week Extra-Mural Studies placement, which is a requirement of the Cambridge Veterinary Medicine course.Phoebe stands smiling with another student outside the equine hospital. They are both wearing clinical clothing with stethoscopes and equipment

    I had never worked with horses in a clinical capacity before this placement, and due to being unable to drive I found it incredibly difficult to find equine hospitals I could work at from home. The Liverpool Equine hospital was recommended to me by a supervisor, but without funds from Gateway it would not have been possible for me to take up this great opportunity.

    On the placement, we were required to work a mixture of day and night shifts, which I found intimidating at first but soon grew to love. It was a busy placement, with approximately 30-35 in-patients at any one time. The hospital has three departments, soft tissue surgery, orthopaedics, and medicine, all of which students can get involved with. The average day was spent administering medications and performing clinical exams on the in-patients, then shadowing the clinical vets and assisting with anything from lameness work-ups, taking radiographs and scrubbing into surgery, to restraining a feisty foal or removing a horse’s shoes (which is a lot harder than it looks!).

    On my first night shift, we had 3 emergency colic cases come in, which all required surgical intervention. Scrubbing in to a colic surgery was unlike anything I’d been involved in previously at vet school – there was something about performing surgery on a larger scale that really appealed to me, and made me remember why I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon in the first place. On a sadder note, there were a lot of cases that were past the point of surgical repair, which had to be put to sleep. […] I gained important knowledge from this that will help me in my future work. 

    TThe photo shows the shadow on grass of Phoebe holding a horse by a lead rein.he experience was made better for getting to meet students from other Universities around the country (and around the world!) – there were 15 other students at the equine hospital while I was there, and hearing about the differences between the veterinary course at other institutions was incredibly useful. Learning to work with colleagues from different backgrounds is also something that will help with my future career.

    Staying away from home completely alone for the first time helped me learn more about myself, as in our days off I explored the countryside of Neston and came to appreciate my own company more. I feel I gained a lot of independence from this trip, which I won’t forget. Another student from Murray Edwards also took part in this placement at the same time, although we were in different working groups, so it was good to also have a friendly face in Liverpool. I was incredibly nervous before starting this placement – I was travelling and staying alone in an unknown area of England, and on top of that I was working with animals which I had barely any clinical experience of. This opportunity really opened my eyes to the idea of working with horses in the future – without it I would never have discovered how interesting equine clinical work can be, so I’m incredibly grateful to the Gateway Programme for making this a possibility for myself and other Murray Edwards veterinary medicine students.

    Phoebe Thomson-Bird
    Undergraduate student, Veterinary Medicine