Question: What’s one time your nerves almost got the best of you?
My Answer: When I was in my final and clinical year of veterinary school, we would have Grand Rounds in the small animal clinics on Fridays. This was where the veterinary students would have to take turns presenting a case to all the clinicians on staff and the other students on clinical rotations in the small animal clinics at the veterinary college. If I’m not mistaken, anyone was invited to attend Grand Rounds. Usually the clinician (veterinarian) in charge of your rotation would “choose” the case for you to present. Visual Aids were required. This was in the days before computers, before power point. The most common visual aid back in those days was the overhead projector. Ahhh…. the dreaded overhead projector where you were always at the mercy of a having a projector bulb burn out on you right during your presentation. And you better be prepared should that happen! The first time I had to get up and present a case, I was doing an Intensive Care rotation and I had three cats, all belonging to the same owner, who had presented critically ill with Organophosphate toxicity (all three presented with vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, labored breathing, profuse salivation, weakness and uncontrolled urination). They were all three placed in oxygen cages for two weeks in the Intensive Care unit while receiving IV fluids and very intensive treatment for the organophosphate poisoning. I had to present their entire cases– their presentation, clinical symptoms, laboratory evaluations, treatment, response to treatment, problems, clinical outcome, etc.
I have always been one to get extremely nervous with any kind of public speaking. I felt very intimidated knowing I was presenting in front of a room full of veterinarians (all of whom were experts in their field) who were at liberty to ask me any question they darn well pleased (and believe me there WOULD be questions and lots of them. This I knew for a fact). I read everything I could get my hands on on organophosphate toxicity and learned everything I possibly could. Even though I worked hard and practiced my presentation multiple times, (yes, practicing in my apartment in front of a room full of stuffed animals really did help) I literally felt sick to my stomach before having to get up in front of dozens of other students and a room full of doctors. I was shaking so hard and my mouth was so dry, I truly wondered if I was going to be able to “get through it.” I remember feeling like I was going to faint. I do think it was the most nervous I had ever felt in my life. Thankfully, my presentation went well and I was able to answer every question thrown at me. It was sure a relief to be done with that presentation and the next time I had to present a case at Grand Rounds, I remember still being very nervous, but it was a bit “easier.” Looking back, (and I never thought I would say this), but that first Grand Rounds was a very good experience for me to go through. I learned a lot about Organophosphate toxicity, my patients, and myself. And as a happy sidenote, all three cats, who were very critical for weeks and stared death in the eyes more than once, and had not been given a very promising prognosis, survived.