I’ve heard that, when you’re trying to figure out what to do with your life, you should think back to what you enjoyed doing as a kid. This may not be true for everyone, but it certainly is for Paige Ganster, a full-time veterinarian student.
“I remember chasing my Doberman Pinscher, Dreyfus, trying to put a plastic Band-Aid on him with my toy doctor kit,” shares Ganster, who grew up with dogs, bunnies, goats, and the occasional cat. From a young age, she knew that working with animals is what she’s meant to do.
At 15, her family veterinarian offered her the opportunity to work in her practice. And while most people start out working as kennel staff (feeding, cleaning, and bathing animals), Ganster’s vet allowed her to cross-train in most of the positions at the practice.
“I think back and understand that she probably did this so I could discover, early on, whether or not I was cut out for this field,” Ganster explains. “And I realized I am—because I loved every minute of it.” So, after high school, she attended Delaware Valley University and earned a degree in biology. Her intention from day one was that, when she graduated, she’d go to vet school. But she didn’t get in.
So, for the five years after college, Ganster worked at practices including Metropolitan Veterinary Associates and Emergency Services in Pennsylvania and held several different positions there—from receptionist to customer service representative to surgery and internal medicine nurse. During this time, she applied to about five vet schools four different times. And, yes, if you’re thinking this must’ve been discouraging, you’re right.
“After my second round of rejection letters, I started thinking I might just have to accept the fact that my lifelong dream might not come true,” Ganster shares. “But, I ended up talking to a former classmate who encouraged me to consider Oregon State University, where she was a fourth-year veterinary student. So, I applied. After putting me on the waitlist, they wanted me! I didn’t even wait for responses from the other schools. Oregon State wanted me, so that’s where I’d go.”
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to work with animals all the time.
How Did Having Different Roles Help You Understand the Industry More?
I worked in any position the practices would let me. I’ve performed kennel and janitorial duties, and I’ve worked the front desk and answered phones in addition to working as a veterinary nurse.
I feel so much more prepared to be a vet in the practical setting because I had these opportunities. Plus, I can understand all the other positions and how crucial they are in order for a veterinarian to be able to do their job.
What’s Your Favorite Thing About Working With Animals?
Obviously, I just love animals, so petting them, seeing their personalities, and getting lots of cuddles is always great. But, in this field, you work with people as much as you do animals. And I’ve really started enjoying not just caring for my patient (the pet) but helping take care of the client (the pet’s human).
It took me a while to realize that the biggest difference I can make in an animal’s life is supporting the owner. Being able to educate them and comfort them will improve the overall care for their pet, and that’s pretty awesome.
What Would You Say to Someone Who Keeps Getting Rejected From Their Dream Career?
Never give up and don’t settle. I second guessed myself a lot after a few rounds of rejection letters (who wouldn’t?), and I’m so thankful that, with the encouragement of friends and family, I kept pursuing my dream despite the setbacks.
If this is really, truly your dream, just keep trying. This might include furthering your education or relocating, but it also includes a lot of improvisation and the willingness to adapt. It’s all worth it.