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This section features information for veterinary students interested in preceptorship opportunities with Marathon Veterinary Hospital.

Student Requirements – you must read the following information before beginning your preceptorship!

***** You must provide your own student liability insurance. The AVMA offers preceptor coverage – it is your responsibility to have it before arriving. If you don’t have the coverage you will not be allowed to handle any animals – your role will be observation only – no exceptions! *****

What does your veterinary student program offer?
The Marathon Veterinary Hospital is sponsoring a Veterinary Student Preceptorship program. Each session lasts four weeks. The main purpose of the preceptorship is to give students exposure to a high-quality referral practice that also sees exotic animals. Approximately 20% of our 1000+ patients/month are non-domestics. We routinely treat birds, reptiles, amphibians, primates, rodents, mini-pigs, horses, fish, and invertebrates. In addition, we care for all of the injured wildlife in the region, which consists of shorebirds, sea mammals, sea turtles and other miscellaneous land mammals. The MVH also consults for the Monroe County Sheriff Zoo, the Everglades Alligator Farm, the Key West Aquarium, the Theater of the Sea and the Key West Butterfly Conservancy amongst others.

Students will work closely with the seven doctors at the hospital. They will be assigned cases and will also have a primary role in the care of wildlife. Aside from the medical experience one of the main focuses will be on practice and business management. Each student will be required to present a journal article at the monthly Journal Club meeting.

The MVH is the only 24-hour Emergency/Referral hospital in the Florida Keys. It is a Double Accredited AAHA facility (General Medicine and Referral Practice) and has state-of-the-art equipment, including an in-house lab, blood gasses, electrolytes, cell counters, complete chemistries, digital radiology, video endoscopy, ultrasound with color-flow Doppler, Carbon Dioxide Laser, Cold Laser, bone-plating and other orthopedic equipment. In addition, the hospital offers Traditional Chinese Medicine and Holistic Medicine alternatives.

The practice is located in sunny Marathon Key, Florida, less than one block from the ocean. There is ample time for recreation such as snorkeling, SCUBA diving, hiking, bird watching and other Florida Keys activities. Limited on-site housing is available for students for a modest fee on a first come basis. A bicycle is available for use to get around the island.

Contact: Dr. Natasha Self

Is there a minimum or maximum time frame that a student can stay?
The minimal required stay is 4 weeks. Due to the complexity of the program, any less than that would not be beneficial. We follow the calendar month and are not flexible to change the schedule to meet the many different colleges that we work with. You will have to accommodate our dates.

Are there any requirements that a student must meet to apply?
Students must have completed at least 3 years by the time they arrive. In other words, any time starting the summer AFTER their junior year they are eligible to participate. It is imperative that the students have the medical training prior to the preceptorship to get the maximum benefit from the program.

How do I apply?
If you meet the criteria, all you have to do is contact Dr. Diethelm either via e-mail or phone 305-204-9681. Please include a resume with appropriate contact information. Preceptorships are non-discriminatory and offered to persons meeting eligibility requirements on a first-come, first-served basis.

Is there housing available?
Yes. Student housing is available on site. A 35’ long RV is equipped for housing students. Linens are provided as well as all cooking needs. There is no television. The students are allowed to use the washer/dryer in the veterinary hospital after hours, or they can use the public laundry mat about a mile away. Wireless internet is available inside the hospital, or you can use your own cell phone as a hot spot in the RV. Rent is $100/week and includes utilities.

Will I need a car?
You will not need a car as the housing is on site. There is a bicycle available for students to use to get around the island. If you don’t want to bike to work then you may want to think about renting a car or using the taxi service. You will be within walking distance to Walgreen’s pharmacy and the local grocery store. In addition, there are several fast food restaurants and deli’s, all within a few minutes walk or bike ride.

Are pets allowed?
Unfortunately, NO. Sadly, over the years, we have had problems with barking dogs, urine-spraying cats and even abandoned pets. We can no longer allow students to bring pets into the RV. If you must bring a pet then you will have to find your own housing.

What do I wear?
This is a referral hospital, so, professional appearance is a must. That said, this is also the Florida Keys, where “Formal wear” is considered “clean shorts.” Please bring nice slacks and either a nice scrub top or clinic coat. Tennis shoes are okay as long as they are clean and not full of holes. NO BLUE JEANS, please!

The exception to that last rule is for field trips. You will have opportunities to work at the zoo, on large animals and even horses. As a result, you will want clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. You may also want to bring a pair of shoes that you don’t mind if they get muddy (especially during the rainy season).

You MUST also wear your student ID badge at all times – this clearly identifies you as a STUDENT so as not to misrepresent yourself as an Intern of Doctor. If you don’t have an ID you will not be allowed to accompany the doctors on any field trips.

Please bring a stethoscope to carry with you at all times.

Should I bring any books?
You should not need any books as the hospital has an extensive library of books and journals. Obviously, if there are special books that you need, you are more than welcome to bring them.

What else should I bring?
That is totally up to you. You will definitely want to bring casual clothes (remember, even in the winter the days will get into the 80’s). If you like the beach, bring appropriate clothing for that activity. Snorkel gear, cameras, etc. Key West is a short drive away and a visit or two to the nightlife is a must!

What is the best way to get there?
Some students drive. Many students fly in. Here is a brief synopsis of the available airport options:

Miami Airport (MIA) – Least expensive option. Miami is about 3 hours away.

From there, you can

  • catch a Greyhound bus (800-231-2222) – very inexpensive but inconvenient route times
  • catch the “Keys Shuttle” (305-289-9997) – convenient, about $60 – $70 one way.
  • rent a car at the Miami airport, drop it off at the Marathon airport

Ft. Lauderdale (FLL)– less expensive but further away than Miami. You can access the same transportation options as above.

Key West Airport (EYW) – This airport is about 50 miles away. It is accessible from MANY different larger airports. The cost to fly into Key West is reasonable and we can arrange for someone from the hospital to pick you up.
The typical fee for a ride from Key West to Marathon is approximately $50 each way.

What is the typical day like? Do I work on Saturdays?
**** You are coming to get experience. You will get out of this what you put into it. If you sit on your hands you won’t learn much. If you get involved you will have the best experience of your senior year.

Here is the typical schedule for the preceptors:

  • Mon-Sat, 8:00 AM until FINISHED. Morning rounds start at 8 am sharp!!!! If you have cases in the hospital come in early to review your case prior to rounds.
  • Evening and Weekends – AS ARRANGED

1. Student Goals

Client Relations

  • history/physical examination
  • medical data assessment
  • therapeutics
  • anesthesia
  • surgery
  • supervisory skills
  • business management

2. Student’s expectations of doctors

  • teach pro-active client relations
  • review of medical cases
  • exposure to exotic animal medicine in private practice
  • positive working environment

3. Doctor’s expectations of students

  • commitment to 6 full working days per week
  • punctuality, neatness of appearance and professional manner
  • respect for current staff of our hospital.
  • present a journal article at the monthly journal club meeting



8:00 am – 9:00 am

  • morning case rounds
  • assist technical staff with treatments.
  • present case work-ups as required.

9:00 am – 1:00 pm

  • assist in the following areas as directed by doctors.
  • with doctors and clients in exam rooms.
  • with doctors in surgery or dental.
  • with technical staff for diagnostic procedures.

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm — lunch (exact times variable with caseload)

2:00 pm – 6:00 pm

  • assist in the following areas as directed by doctors.
    • with doctors and clients in exam rooms.
    • with technical staff for diagnostic procedures.

6:00 pm – 10:00 pm – optional

  • assist technical staff with treatments.
  • assist doctors with emergencies

Exam Room Protocol

  • You must be neat and well groomed at all times.
  • Check the exam room to ensure that it is spotless.
  • Take the medical record from check-in slot in the receptionist’s office.
  • Review clients name, animals name, sex, and age.
  • Call client into the exam room, introduce yourself, and shake hands.
  • Make some positive comment about the pet.
  • Refer to the animal only by its name or the word “pet”.
  • Use proper gender terminology.
  • Take a brief history on admission form in a non-intimidating manner – do not attempt detailed history.
  • Take temperature and weight (specify which scale).
  • Do not give your medical opinion of the case if asked by the client.
  • Draw up vaccines and obtain routine lab samples.
  • Tell client the doctor will be with them in a few minutes.
  • Observe and assist the doctor with the physical exam on medical cases.
  • Write down any questions you have for review at end of the workday.
  • Follow the doctor’s instructions.
  • Set up new clients in the exam room when busy.

Important Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do enjoy your stay with us!
  • Do ask questions when appropriate (not in front of clients).
  • Do anticipate the needs of doctors and staff.
  • Do have pride in your work.
  • Do listen and learn.
  • Do feel a part of the team.
  • Do offer suggestions for improvement.
  • Do ask for assistance if unsure of anything.
  • Don’t offer your medical opinion to clients unless instructed by the doctor in charge of the case.
  • Don’t ask questions in front of clients.
  • Don’t sit around doing nothing.
  • Don’t handle animals roughly!

Is there emergency work?
We are a 24-hour facility. The students are NOT required to attend emergency calls, but, since the housing is so close, most students do want to be called for interesting cases or after hour surgeries.

Is there any time off?
Ha! No, just kidding. You are off on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and evenings. Obviously, the schedule is not rigid and if time is needed off, that can be arranged. We frequently do field calls to the Everglades, the zoo or other parks on Sundays. Again, you are not required to participate on your days off, but, you will get out of this preceptorship what you put into it!

Contact Us

Marathon Veterinary Hospital


5001 Overseas Hwy Marathon, FL 33050

Clinic Hours

Mon-Sat: 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM Sun: Closed