NCSU CVM Turtle Team Externship
My week-long externship spent with the Turtle Rescue Team has definitely made my list of memorable moments. Since I was coming into this experience with no knowledge of or experience with turtles and even exotics for that matter, I already expected to learn a lot during my time there. However, I didn’t expect to be so fascinated by these small, humble creatures.
When I arrived on site for my first day, I was put to work right away cleaning habitats and soaking turtles. As I made acquaintances with each of our patients for that week, the vet students taught me how to identify various species of turtle, how to determine their sex, and how to handle them. Eastern Box turtles, which only weigh less than a pound, are much stronger than you would think which I learned that hard way trying to pry open many shells to administer eye drops and injections. I also quickly learned to respect Snapper turtles after seeing one lash out as we attempted to draw blood from it. Amazingly, turtles are very resilient animals and seem to be able to withstand a wide range of pressures. There were a couple of turtles who lost the top part of their shell to a lawn mower, exposing their internal cavity, and were still bright and alert as could be. Although, that may have been the morphine talking.
I was surprised to learn that the Turtle Rescue Team was completely student run and promoted. The vet students on the team advertise, raise funds, interact with clients, design treatment plans, and even perform surgeries all on their own. The Turtle Team allowed these students to have some ownership over their work preparing them for work as a vet in the real world. Even more surprising was the fact that not every student on the team has a focus in exotics medicine. Of course, most of the students wanted to work with exotics, but some wanted to stick with small animal medicine, and another wanted to go into equine medicine. However, every one of them was there to expand their own horizons and help out with the team. The students also offered me some very useful advice that they picked up after completing their first and second years of veterinary school. I learned countless ways to get the most out of my education in the years to come.
Overall, the Turtle Team externship was a very fun and interesting experience. Not only is NCSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine at the top of my list, but I am also considering joining the Turtle Team if I do attend.