As I had hoped for there have been a number of surprises, but interestingly these have not been as I expected (I guess that's a true surprises then..). Studying here has been a culture shock. Expectations included - fantastic organisation, high expectations and stringent protocols. Protocols regarding antibiotic useage is highly regulated, but in other areas.. lets just say, the priorities are clear! Primarily, I have noticed and enjoyed the lack of strict hierarchy; it has been very pleasant to communicate with the veterinarians as equals, comfortably asking and answering questions without fear of judgement or failing. Although this attitude is not wholly absent in the UK, it is much more universally applied here, in contrast to a few individuals back at home.
Having talked to a number of Norwegians about this, its clear that this is another example of the "Nordic Model" and it application in the workplace. Although many aspects of this just cannot be completely applied into other societies for a multitude of factors, not least the absence of the winning combination of a miniscule population and a strong economy, but simple attitude changes cost nothing and would change attitudes. Adapting a fairer and less oppressive attitude towards students, certainly from my experience at university and during EMS, would greatly improve student welfare in the UK.
Until I came to study here, I hadn't realised how stressful I had found rotations in the UK. I realise now that this is because, comparatively to some other students, I wasn’t doing badly. Mental health is a hot topic globally at the moment, and something which the veterinary profession is desperately trying to address. It is widely accepted that veterinary students and professionals suffer much higher rates of mental health illness than the public and many other professions.
I was listening to the news today, as people were condemning the British prison system and the extremely high re-offending rate we see. Reporting that the cause could be a result of poor attitudes and facilities within prisons failing to provide people with a sense of worth or equality. In contrast, the shining beacon of Scandinavia was compared (as always). They have a much different approach to prisons, providing excellent care, teaching and rehabilitation and as a (possible) result have much, much lower re-offending rates. I am not comparing veterinary school to prison, far from it, but perhaps there's something we could draw from this. Something, that really ought to be common-sense - perhaps treating people as equals, produces people who feel equal, valued and worthwhile. People like this can realise their full-potential.
So here is the picture as I see it, for vet students in the UK: weeks of 100% effort, under the constant scrutiny of clinicians; fretting about whether you will receive the dreaded 'mid-week' feedback and whether you will pass the week; comparing yourself to peers who seem to know everything you don’t; preparing the task or presentation for the next day whilst trying to revise the relevant diseases of the cases for tomorrow............after doing all this, you fast run out of time. Then you can find you become almost more stressed and anxious about trying to maintain the all important "work-life balance", acclaimed to protect you from the impending depression and despair that you are guaranteed to suffer if you don't find some 'headspace' or practice enough 'mindfullness' each day - just another bullet-point on your "to-do list". Until now, I had unquestionably accepted this as a fact of life, but now I feel resolutely that we should be working away from this.