Surgical Intern Dr Sarah Lynam outside Fitzpatrick Referrals

Q & A with Advanced Ortho Intern Sarah

Published 07.07.21

Fitzpatrick Referrals specialist veterinary hospital benefits from a dedicated team of interns who work alongside our specialists and patient care team to improve their understanding of specialist treatment in their chosen disciplines. Our interns are qualified veterinary surgeons undertaking a 12-month supervised placement.

Sarah is due to complete her surgical internship at Fitzpatrick Referrals Orthopaedics and Neurology this month and spent seven months on the general surgical intern team, before joining the advanced orthopaedics and neurosurgery internship programme, where she has worked directly with Professor Noel Fitzpatrick as part of a small focused team, supported by other boarded specialists, radiographers, nurses and physiotherapists, gaining experience in diagnosis, surgical management, and postoperative care.

Here Sarah shares her internship experience

Q & A with Advanced Ortho Intern Sarah

NAME: Sarah Lynam

AGE: 25 years old

JOB TITLE: Surgical Intern

UNIVERSITY: University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest

HOMETOWN: Dublin, Ireland

Which internship programme are you doing at Fitzpatrick Referrals?

I’m doing a surgical internship at Fitzpatrick Referrals and started in May 2020. I spent seven months on the general surgical intern team and was then invited to join the advanced orthopaedics and neurosurgery programme, working as part of Professor Noel Fitzpatrick’s intern team for a further seven months.

What were the most important factors for you when choosing a practice to apply to?

  • To have supportive, kind, and well-informed team members;
  • A practice that is well-equipped and up-to-date with the latest technologies;
  • A practice that is always looking for ways to improve and is open to new ideas;
  •  A practice with an excellent reputation;
  • A practice that puts its patients first.

What made you decide to do an internship at Fitzpatrick Referrals?

I visited Fitzpatrick Referrals as a veterinary student and I was hugely influenced by the procedures and surgeries being performed and the level of expertise and dedication to the objectives. Every member of staff was most welcoming, and I found the entire atmosphere to be comfortable and inclusive.

There was a very positive and informed team atmosphere dedicated to the wellbeing of everyone involved and the patients in particular. This contributed hugely to the excellent learning experience.

Talk us through a typical day as an intern on your particular programme.

A typical day starts with the assignment of surgical cases. We then move to the preparation of patients for surgery (bloods, x-rays, CT, MRI, etc.). Team members fully familiarise themselves with the clinical history of the patient as an essential part of the preparation process. Once the patient has been appropriately prepared for surgery to include intubation and anaesthesia, the team members scrub in and ensure that the surgical equipment is thoroughly prepared and organised in such a way that the needs and requirements of the surgeon are fully appreciated and in place.

Throughout the surgery, it is essential that we are prepared for and capable of addressing any eventuality. The level of expertise of the surgeons is such that they are capable of providing a level of explanation which is vital to the learning experience of everyone present. As a consequence, each surgery is a richly rewarding experience that is above and beyond textbook knowledge alone. Not every surgery is without its complications and the challenge of being able to address the unexpected is a vital part of the learning experience.

Postoperative recovery is the next part of the process and patients must be diligently monitored and accurate records are carefully maintained. It is of equal importance that these records are available to and passed onto the next team so that they are fully informed of the patients’ postoperative progress.

It is a well-known belief, in human medicine, that an empathic doctor with a good bedside manner is of immeasurable value to the patient. The same can be said in equal force in veterinary medicine. I have always had a love of animals which I believe transmits to and is positively received by many of my patients whilst in crisis. I hope and believe that this has had a positive influence on their recovery.

Another part of our working day involves assisting in the work-ups of other patients including the evaluation of diagnostic images and patient assessments. Our week also includes journal club, Tobias club and neurological rounds. This allows all of us to keep on top of and discuss the latest details of various conditions.

Veterinary surgeon with Border Terrier patient
Veterinary Surgeon Sarah with Border Terrier puppy patient Mollie in the wards.

How have you found the internship?

The internship has been everything I expected and much more. I knew that I would be facing many challenges, particularly as a new graduate in the company of many vastly experienced auxiliaries, nurses, interns, residents and senior clinicians. Notwithstanding their levels of expertise, or perhaps because of it, I was made to feel not only welcome but an important part of the team. This has helped me to address, manage and learn from the many challenges which are presented to a veterinary practice of high standing. The learning experience has been second to none. The hours and workload are demanding, but I would not wish it to be any different.

What have been your highlights?

My highlights have been feeling so welcomed and appreciated. The team here have been supportive and encouraging of me. I believe that I have progressed immensely and I love the whole surgical experience. Being surrounded by so many talented colleagues has encouraged me to keep constantly improving and striving for more.

Were there any tough moments?

There are plenty of tough moments. To say otherwise would be misleading. Fitzpatrick Referrals take on and face enormous challenges in an informed and focused way. It does so in an environment where it is important to be able to identify what is ultimately best for the patient. Decisions of this nature can be very tough, not only on the decision-maker but also has an impact on the patient and its family. Sometimes, these decisions call for informed courage and that brings with it its own level of toughness and each of us must be equal to that challenge.

What skills do you feel you have developed as a result of your internship?

One of the real challenges is knowing where to draw the line in regards to what is best for the patient. Combining academic knowledge with surgical skills is an immensely exciting daily experience. Being part of an effective and cohesive team has hugely developed my interpersonal skills. The practical experience in orthopaedics and neurology to date has been outstanding and problem-solving is also an important part of the learning process. I consider myself to be immensely privileged.

What are your plans after you complete your internship?

I love being a veterinary surgeon and thrive on the whole experience. My internship has been all that I could want it to be and more. I hope to continue in an environment that continues to challenge me whether that be by way of another internship or general practice or some other opportunity to feel fulfilled in my profession.

What would you say to a vet considering doing an internship? Do you have any advice as to how they can make the most of it?

What I would say to a vet considering an internship is that you have to be very dedicated, committed and always strive to be a good team player. I feel that you are obliged not just to be the best that you can be but better than that. You may not always have a lot of free time as an internship of value is intense, demanding and has long hours. It is important to focus on the bigger picture and appreciate what should be an incredible and worthwhile opportunity.

You are privileged to be working alongside some of the best people in the profession at every level. The surgeons apart from being highly experienced are also willing, dedicated and accommodating teachers. You are made to feel valued and included at every stage of the process and for all of that, I remain deeply grateful.

My advice to someone who is still really keen is to go for it. Give this internship everything you’ve got. You won’t regret it – and don’t forget to have some fun along the way!

Read about our internship programmes