Things You Learn In Vet School

It was a frigid, wintery morning in Minnesota. A fresh coat of white snow covered the ground outside the veterinary teaching barn. The only haven of warmth lay in steamy piles of dung produced by our bovine buddies, and I wasn’t about to go there. Puffs of vapor emerged with every breath as my body fought to maintain core temperature, and I feared I was losing the battle. The cold not only slowed muscles but dulled the brain and made it hard to concentrate on what our instructor, Dr. Rhodes, was saying.

“Yesterday, you learned how to draw blood from a cow. Today, you will learn the art of getting a urine sample,” boomed Dr. Rhodes. She definitely was made of hardy stock. With a cup of coffee in one hand and a doughnut in the other, Dr. Rhodes calmly directed a barn full of inexperienced veterinary students.

Instructing us to put on our latex-free gloves, Dr. Rhodes placed her coffee and doughnut on the supplies cart so that she could demonstrate the urine-collecting technique. As she walked over to cow No. 102, I couldn’t help but notice that Dr. Rhodes herself did not put gloves on. No one said anything, but then again, who would? Instructors in general did not take lightly to advice from students.

“Use one hand to lift up the cow’s tail. Then, with the other hand, gently stroke the cow’s vulva three or four times.”

Wait … what did she just say? With furrowed brow and head tilted, I glanced at my fellow students. No one flinched. Hmm, OK, so this was just a normal day at the barn. Got it. “Then take a sterile urine cup and place it in the urine midstream.”

As Dr. Rhodes demonstrated the technique, I again noticed the lack of gloves and the unconcerned look on her face. Sure enough, after brushing her hand on the aforementioned body part, three or four times, a steady urine stream emerged. The cup she held caught the needed sample, but because of the force and volume of urine pouring out, some splashed on Dr. Rhodes’s hand. Placing the lid on the urine cup, she casually wiped her hand on her overalls.

“Are there any questions? If not, then get to it,” snapped Dr. Rhodes.

As the throng disbanded, I paused to watch as Dr. Rhodes headed to the supplies cart. I truly admired this woman. She was both intelligent and tough as nails.

Then it happened. Dr. Rhodes reached down for her coffee and doughnut. The hand that she grabbed the doughnut with was the one used to stimulate urination and also the one that received the urine splatter. My jaw dropped and my own right hand slowly raised with finger pointed. I quickly realized what I was doing, closed my mouth and lowered my hand before anyone noticed. At that moment, Dr. Rhodes turned to me and smiled. Did she know what I was thinking or was she just being friendly? Either way, I quickly moseyed over to cow No. 105 and concentrated on the task at hand.

Suffice to say, I couldn’t eat a doughnut for weeks.