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Monday, April 25, 2011

Shaking Hands

Rahul emailed me with this question...

Currently I am a second year undergraduate student and I'm leaning strongly towards going to veterinary school when I graduate.  But one practical issue is really concerning me: my hands are mildly shaky and I'm wondering if I could still do the surgeries that most general practitioners perform.  Would I be forced to specialize to get around this problem?

Steady hands are very important for a vet, and not just for surgery.  Obviously, being able to safely and accurately handle surgical instruments is crucial.  However, you need fairly steady hands regardless of which field of practicing medicine you end up in.  With internal medicine specialists there are needle aspirates, endoscopy, ultrasound and other diagnostic procedures that require good hand-eye coordination.  With dermatology you are doing scrapings of the skin with scalpel blades, injections, and so on. Any time you are working with a patient and doing exams, diagnostics, and treatment you need steady hands.

Now that doesn't mean that mild tremors will preclude you from practicing medicine.  Many times people can overcome such a mild disability.  Try doing some exercises at home before you apply to vet school.  Take a sharp knife and cut into a peach, making a straight line.  Sew a button onto a shirt.  Thread a needle.  Pick up a pin with a pair of tweezers.  If you can do these tasks, the chances are that your shaky hands won't be much of an issue. 

If you haven't already, I'd recommend spending time working with a veterinarian and seeing the things they commonly do to see if they fall within your abilities.  You'll need to know this going into vet school, because you will have REQUIRED rotations in surgery, and if you can't pass these you may not graduate.  Find out your abilities ahead of time, and good luck.