Thursday 20th January 2011 by C. Freeman
Former student Paige Hunter returned to Brooke Weston to speak to students about higher education and university life. Paige, who is studying to be a vet, is in the penultimate stage of a five-year course at Bristol Vet School.
The first three years were devoted to animal management, physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and health and husbandry, coupled with work experience at veterinary surgeries, a dairy farm, a pig farm and stables. She has studied all aspects of animal care, from birth, through diagnosis, treatment and death, having seen behind the scenes in an abattoir.
Her remaining coursework is devoted to clinical study including pharmacology and farm animal and companion animal studies. Paige said: ‘Clinical study is determining what is wrong, what drugs to give and pathology is the study of how everything goes corrupt. We are really starting to tie everything together now. After exams at Easter I’ll start rotating for the next three terms where I could be working on the intensive care unit for three weeks, then be on the spay clinic, then be with a large animal vet. It is really varied.’
She spends a lot of time at her Wellingborough-based ‘foster-practice’: ‘They know you; they know what you are good at, they know your weaknesses and get you involved. I did a cat spay all by myself. The vet talked me through it and I did it from start to finish. I’ve done a couple of dog castrations, some stitch ups. It is never as easy as they make it look. I first saw a cat spay in Year 9 and they are pretty routine but abdominal surgery is probably the most difficult surgery that you are ever going to do, even if it is routine.’
Paige settled happily into student life and spoke to our Sixth Formers about adapting to life at a large educational institution: ‘University life is great but it is difficult. People thought I was smart but if they saw the people I’m studying with they would be blown away. I went from being in the top part of the school to being in the middle at university and I had to get used to that. People talk to each other and help each other a lot more and they are more open as well.
‘Since I have been to university I have never met so many people with so many issues such as depression and eating disorders. But the universities are so well geared up with personal student support. I thought I was one student in the masses but if they see that if you genuinely need help, for whatever reason, they will be really good and will treat you as an individual. My outlook on everything has changed. You’re a brand new person when you go there, you are a clean sheet, there is no history of anything, no expectations.’
Although Paige has had experience of working with a variety of animals she will probably specialise in surgery: ‘Having done surgery I love working with my hands, I love craft, cross-stitch and making things so, although I thought I would go down the large animal route, it is very hard to find true mixed placements. I think I will probably end up in a small animal practice doing something surgical. Obviously I want to be a competent vet, but I want to specialise, or do a certificate, or an internship. I love learning and I want to know that I’m particularly good at something, whether that is orthopaedics or tissue surgery.
Paige, who is only the third student in Brooke Weston’s history to study veterinary science said: ‘Now I have adapted to it I don’t see anything abnormal about coming home after a nine to five lecture, revising for a mini test, doing some more revision and going to bed. That is normal life for me.
‘It is the best thing I ever did, the best thing I ever dreamed of and far more. It is a completely different way of working. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and was lucky enough to get into Bristol. I had all my family support behind me. I can never take it for granted. I am so lucky, a round peg in a round hole!’