It's Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia

By Kiera Hurley-Bennett, RVC

Kiera spent time at PennVet in Philadelphia, USA completing an externship.

Why did you go to Philadelphia?


I saw it as an opportunity to travel whilst also doing some EMS. PennVet is known for an amazing ECC service so it seemed like a great place to learn more about it seeing as it is an area I am interested in going into after graduation. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to see practice in the USA to decided whether or not to sit the NAVLE (it's a now or never thing for me because my equine and farm knowledge will go out the window after finals)

What did you get up to/what is your daily routine?

- I did a 2 week externship on ICU at the small animal hospital. Our hours were 7am-6pm Monday to Friday with weekend shifts helping out with SOAPs and patient transfers from the emergency service. Our main responsibilities were SOAPing and following the progress of primary ICU patients, and assisting in the care of patients from other services that were being managed in ICU, commonly post-surgery cases. We had a selection of 'packs' on various topics to work through for rounds, and had teaching rounds with the senior clinicians, residents, and intern every day for up to 3 hours! Some of the cases I saw: aspiration pneumonia, septic abdomens, 3 (!) post-surgery PDAs, DKA, heart worm, pacemakers, ruptured biliary mucoceles, parvo and distemper infection......


Was it always sunny?

- Never believe what you hear on TV kids.

What did you learn?

- So much! You were kept very involved in the discussion of patient management and any procedures that were performed. Teaching rounds were absolutely incredible, going really in depth on topics such as blood gas analysis, fluid therapy, and a practical session of TFAST and AFAST. The hospital has a memorial service where owners can donate their pets for education, so we were able to practice placements of central venous catheters, trachestomy tubes, chest tubes and centesis techniques in a wet lab session. I also quickly learnt to have conversions in my note book for weights, temperatures and common drug names! If you suggest using Hartmann's in the US, prepare for a lot of blank stares, and prepare for your spelling of everything to be incorrect (even if they might be correct in the UK!)

Who were you working alongside?

- I was in a small group with a final year Penn student, and another extern from Glasgow vet school. We were able to work closely with all members of the team from Vet Techs up to senior faculty members. I was lucky to work with Dr Deborah Silverstein who is co-author of 'Small Animal Critical Care Medicine', one of the bibles of veterinary ECC.

How did you get this opportunity and what can other students do emulate you?

- PennVet offers an externship programme for every clinical service it runs, including its large animal clinics. You can choose to do up to 4 weeks of externship (1 or 2 services) and the school does not charge you to attend (unlike some of the other US vet schools who offer externships). They were very happy to offer me a place and overly helpful with planning knowing I was travelling a large distance to go there! Penn vet students are often away on externships of their own, so it was easy to find a sublet from a Penn student a very convenient distance from the school and much cheaper than staying in a hotel! The school is also located close to the centre of Philly which has lots of historic sites and is super easy to navigate. The only regret I have is that I didn't go for 4 weeks!