Undergraduate Amy says working part time in ECC clinic is a great way to see real-life emergencies

Many people dream of becoming a vet.

Often they’re influenced by tales of James Herriot, the rural vet who wrote a series of books about his life in the Yorkshire countryside.

But in reality, veterinary work often fails to live up to this idyllic image.

While saving the lives of animals is still the most important part of the job, a modern vet’s time is also spent making difficult decisions about whether or not to put desperately ill animals to sleep, dealing with budgets and other paperwork and perhaps working unsociable hours.

That’s why experienced vets tell any undergraduates willing to listen to get as much real-life veterinary experience under their belts as they can before making important decisions about their future career paths.

Amy Reynolds, 23, a fourth-year veterinary student at the Royal Veterinary College, is doing just that — but not in a conventional way.

Rather than writing to practices to plead for work experience or an unpaid internship, Amy instead opted to apply for a job as a vet receptionist at Vets Now’s pet emergency clinic in Hemel Hempstead.

She said: “I went for the job at Vets Now because I wanted weekend work that would allow me to experience life in a clinic and improve both my general knowledge and my practical abilities.

“It has certainly helped me do that and has also opened my eyes to the importance of good client communication.”An Image of Undergraduate Amy Reynolds for Vets Now article on undergraduate experience and Cutting Edge

Born in Derby, Amy went to a community school in the city before being accepted into the RVC to study veterinary medicine.

Unlike many of her counterparts, who perhaps spent their childhoods on a farm or surrounded by animals at home, Amy’s interest in veterinary work comes from a lack of contact with pets when she was younger.

She explained: “My parents never wanted pets. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was never able to have a pet as a young child that I’ve always wanted to be surrounded by animals and care for them.”

Amy applied for the job at Vets Now in April and said it quickly opened her eyes to the reality of life as an emergency and critical care vet.

She said: “Unlike many other undergraduates, I didn’t have a gap year working in a small animal practice, so I’ve always found it quite challenging imagining how I would apply all the different concepts I’m learning about in practical sessions at university to real-life cases.

“Working at Vets Now has given me a massive advantage in this regard. Everything is so much clearer now. Seeing cases in a practical way has been so beneficial to me.”

Working under the watchful eye of senior vet Michelle Dawson, Amy is encouraged to ask clinical staff any questions she may have about veterinary medicine.

“The help I receive at work is phenomenal,” she smiled. “The staff are always happy to answer any questions I have from uni, and also talk me through things until I understand.

“If we have a surgery going on, then everyone in the team is involved, and I get to see first-hand how the vets and vet nurses work together to save the pet’s life. It’s invaluable experience.”

Working in a busy emergency and critical care clinic has had such a profound effect on Amy’s plans, she’s now reconsidering which route to take when she graduates.

She said: “In all honesty, I don’t know what my plan is now. I’ve been to some daytime practices, and they just don’t compare with emergency and critical care. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who would enjoy the routine of working in a daytime practice, but I now realise that I’m more attracted to the high adrenaline caseload of emergency and critical care.

“I’m not sure I could deal with seeing just a few consultations a day. I’m leaning towards working in a busy emergency clinic.”

In November, Amy won praise from a panel of senior vets after presenting a case study she’d worked on in Hemel Hempstead at Vets Now’s ECC Congress.

She was among seven veterinary undergraduates invited to the event. The other six had all taken part in Vets Now’s extra-mural studies (EMS) programme.

Amy’s ambitions now are to graduate, get some more experience under her belt, and perhaps apply for Vets Now’s Cutting Edge programme, which provides vets with all the skills required to work sole-charge in ECC.Amy Reynold's with her EMS group at Vets Now Congress for Vets Now article on Career Progression

“Since coming to Vets Now and hearing about the Cutting Edge course, it seems like a great opportunity,” she said. “I am hoping to apply once I graduate.”

Interested in joining Vets Now through our innovative Cutting Edge programme? Our next intake for Cutting Edge is in April, and places are filling up fast.

We are also recruiting for more experienced vets for AdvantEdge. If you, or any vets you know, are interested in applying, please call the Vets Now recruitment team for more information on 01383 841181 or click here.