Life as a recently-qualified vet can be stressful at times.
Finding work that provides the opportunity to truly make a difference, undergoing CPD, while also continually learning on the job are all demands every veterinary graduate has to meet.
One of the most effective ways to achieve those goals is to follow the advice of people who’ve trodden the same path. They understand the sacrifices it takes to become a successful vet and know, from first-hand experience, what life is like on the front line.
We asked seven of our most experienced vets what one piece of advice they’d give to someone just starting out in the profession.
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Amanda Boag, clinical director of Vets Now and president of the RCVS, advised newly qualified vets to “always believe in your own ability” and try to learn something new every day. She said: “Remember that every single patient you work with is an opportunity for you to learn something, even if it’s something simple. That will allow you to improve as a vet no matter what.”
Professional standards director Laura Playforth called on new vets to avoid the pitfalls of perfectionism. She said: “Don’t focus on trying to be perfect and getting things right all the time. It’s important to recognise that everybody makes mistakes and you need to be kind to yourself when you do because we are all human, we’re all fallible. We all need to recognise that fact and move on from it, learning from the mistake rather than beating yourself up.”
Dan Lewis, an ECC specialist at Vets Now in Glasgow, said it’s important to find “something you love doing”. He explained: “At the start of your career try to gain as much experience as possible in as many different fields until you find what you love. If you keep doing something you really enjoy, you’ll eventually become great at it and people will seek out your opinion.”
Perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice came from Scott Kilpatrick, internal medicine specialist at Vets Now in Glasgow, as he offered a poignant reminder of the mental health crisis within the profession. He said: “I’ve been qualified for 11 years and I’ve known of five people who have committed suicide in that time. I think if you were to ask any other professional in any other industry, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who knew as many people who had done that.”
But Scott added: “It’s wonderful being a vet and hugely rewarding. I’d never do any other job, but it’s not worth causing yourself so much anxiety, heartache and stress to contemplate taking your own life. So my advice is, take time out to focus on yourself and speak to others if it ever becomes a bit too much for you.”
Senior vet Lukasz Rybscynski, who works in Vets Now in Portsmouth, said it’s important to remember that hard work and a commitment to improving your professional knowledge will bring success and opportunities. “If you want to be a successful vet it’s important to follow your instincts and prepare for a lot of hard work. This is especially the case at the beginning of your career. The knowledge required to be a good vet is huge so you need to be a hard worker. But if you apply yourself then it is a very rewarding career.”
Australian vet Kerry Doolin, who works as an ECC referral clinician in our Manchester hospital, said the secret to success is using your time wisely. She added: “Protect your personal time. Make sure your mental health is a priority, that you have hobbies and a life outside of work because this is a job — and one of the biggest issues we have in the profession is burnout. Being a vet can be hard and emotional, you often work long hours, and you can’t sustain that without a good work-life balance.”