Lizzi Sharples is a classic example of a vet who’s worked her socks off to get to where she is.
In her mid-20s, Lizzi was working as a professional dressage rider in Switzerland when she decided to train to be a vet.
But it wasn’t merely a case of applying to university and taking it from there.
Lizzi had left school seven years earlier with A-levels in English, French and History which, in her words, were “no use at all”, so she returned home to spend a year at night school studying Chemistry and Biology while working with horses during the day.
“It was tough going,” she recalls. “I’d get home from night school at 10.30pm and go straight to bed. But I got the grades I needed and was accepted into the Royal Veterinary College in London.”
Fast forward 11 years and Lizzi is now reaping the benefits of her hard work — although her life is still just as hectic. She is now married, to Ben, with three children and juggling sleepovers, riding lessons, and school runs with her job as a senior vet in our Chippenham clinic.
She joined Vets Now after having her first child because she wanted to do “something exciting”.
“After graduating I worked for a couple of years in a mixed practice, but I came to the conclusion that if I went back part-time after having a baby I wouldn’t get any surgery and I’d be doing ears and anal glands,” she said.
“That wasn’t going to work for me. I’ve always enjoyed working out of hours so I applied for a job at Vets Now, and I’ve loved it from the beginning. You never know what’s coming in and you’re often working on adrenaline which I enjoy.”
But how does Lizzi juggle the pressures of being an emergency vet with motherhood? The secret, she says, is enjoying your job, being flexible and making sure you have a strong support network in place.
“This job’s become a real passion”, she said. “At the beginning, I worked one weekend every month and then upped it. Now I work part-time clinical hours but I’m a senior vet, so I do my management stuff as well.
“I can do a lot of that remotely. As long as I’ve got WiFi, I can work from anywhere, and I’m always contactable so my vets know they can ring me and I’ll talk them through a case if they need help.
“We also have a WhatsApp group in our clinic so if you’re working on a difficult case then you can put your question in there, and someone will come straight back to you. It’s a nice community. I also get great support from my district vet, Becca, who is brilliant.”
Lizzi Sharples Senior vet
"I can be there for my children when I need to be... it's lovely to have that as well as a career."
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“This all means I can be there for my children when I need to be. I’m always available for drop-offs and pickups, I don’t miss any of their plays or school shows because I’m only ever in the clinic at night and I can fit the rest of my work around them.
“It’s lovely to have that as well as a career, and I consider myself very lucky.”
There’s another bonus to working as an emergency vet — she gets to tell her children she’s a superhero (albeit without a cape).
“I love it when they ask what I do at work because I get to tell them ‘I save lives’. It sounds a bit corny, but it does genuinely feel like that. We get a lot of severe cases in the clinic, and some can be very challenging.
“We had an RTA recently with massive trauma — they’re my favourite cases — ones with multiple injuries and lots of different aspects to them. Invariably, dogs who run out in front of cars are young and fit, they’re good patients, so they’ll recover if they possibly can.
“Saving those is just great. You know what you’re doing, but you don’t always know the right answer to everything, so it’s exciting. You never know what’s going to come in through the door, and I know some people won’t like that, but I do.”