Louise Littler is one of our outstanding emergency vets.

In the early part of her career, while working in mixed practice, Louise felt as though she was on a never-ending treadmill. Lacking motivation and passion, she questioned her career choice.

Struggling to find her way, Louise made the brave decision to quit — even though she had bills to pay and no job to go to.

It was, in retrospect, the best career decision she’s ever made.

In this heartfelt and wonderfully-written testimony, Louise explains how taking on a job in out-of-hours emergency reinvigorated her passion for veterinary medicine.

Aged 26, I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Earning a wage, working with some great people in a mixed practice with good facilities and nice clients. At home, I had a decent house, a loving fiancé and a supportive family.

So why was I not happy?

It crossed my mind that I might be being ungrateful or entitled. But having grown up in a single parent home with a mum who worked hard to make ends meet, I felt that was unlikely.

Perhaps I was just lazy or lacking motivation? Maybe my reluctance to get out of bed in the morning was a manifestation of some inherent indolence? Surely, I was the only person who wakes up most mornings at 7 am and spends 30 minutes thinking of ways to call in sick before abandoning the idea and rushing to work?

Louise quit her job at a mixed practice after becoming bored with the routine
An image of two Cutting Edge vets treating a brown dog in our Glasgow hospital. Image for Vets Now article on veterinary graduate advice

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When life feels like one never-ending treadmill and each consultation, surgery and interaction with the boss becomes something to merely ‘get through’. When each working day ends later than planned, lunch breaks are fleeting, and nights are spent either on call or mentally replaying the days’ toughest moments on loop, perspective can be hard to find.

In hindsight, it’s clear now that I was both exhausted and bored. I was not giving my time freely, I was having it begrudgingly taken from me. I lacked a passion deep enough to motivate me, inspire me and drive me to excel.

When I pictured the future, five or 10 years down the line, battling through each day, I was terrified, this was not what I wanted. But I had no idea what to do.

So, I quit.

After one particularly tough night on call, where I’d attended a difficult calving on a remote farm with a verbally abusive and intimidating client, I decided I’d had enough. I handed in my notice without any idea of what would come next. Despite not knowing where my next pay cheque would come from or how I would pay my bills.

I felt relieved.

I won’t lie, the next two months working my notice were tough, trying to justify the decision to friends and family outside of the vet world (those in it, got it). ‘But you’ve worked so hard’, ‘It’s a great job’…

Ultimately, I felt more at ease with uncertainty, than the certainty of unhappiness.

The next chapter in my veterinary career began a month or two later with a job advert for a sole charge out-of-hours position in Liverpool.

On paper, I’d have been foolish to go for it. A gruelling 14-night on 14-night off schedule. Working alone with minimal backup just 18 months qualified, an hour commute each way. I must have been crazy. But somehow it just felt right.

Working nights allows Louise to easily fit her family life around a successful career

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Having taken the job, I figured with time that ‘Sunday night before school’ feeling would return. Sure, by the 12th night shift I was exhausted, but I never once dreaded going to work, I’d found my passion, my niche.

It’s easy to assume that working as a night vet is just being a vet, at night. But you’d be wrong. Pardon the pun but the two are as different as day and night. ‘Day’ vets are GPs with a fabulously broad knowledge on everything from preventative health care to management of complex metabolic diseases, orthopaedic surgery and everything in-between.

‘Night’ vets while maintaining some of this knowledge, have specialist skills in emergency medicine and critical care, an unnerving ability to stay calm and a passion for communicating well with clients in the most difficult situations.

I’ve not given a vaccination, dispensed a wormer or spayed a normal healthy bitch in 10 years. DKAs, GDVs, RTAs and other scary acronyms, I’m your gal — these are my comfort zone.

The other primary difference between the two careers, and why I consider veterinary OOH/ECC to be a diversification of normal clinical practice rather than an extension, is the schedule. Working permanent nights is a lifestyle choice.

Much like being a farmer it becomes part of who you are.

When I pictured the future, five or 10 years down the line, battling through each day, I was terrified, this was not what I wanted. But I had no idea what to do.

Louise Littler Veterinary Surgeon

I cannot remember a week going by when I haven’t received a sympathetic look from a client or acquaintance when I inform them I work permanent nights. ‘you work all night?’, ‘Oh poor you’, ‘that must be tough’, ‘maybe they’ll switch you back to days soon’.

Every OOH vet and nurse I know has a rote reply they roll out in these moments to defend their choice. ‘It pays more’, ‘I get more time off’, ‘I get more time with the kids/dogs/horses’. And yes, they are all true but, for me, the benefits exceed this.

I have autonomy — and I make my own decisions and plan my time better both on and off shift. I now have time to recover and recuperate in-between, facilitating resilience.

My team is small, yet we can make life-saving transformations in just a few hours. Going from first contact to stabilisation, diagnostics, medical or surgical intervention and recovery in one shift. We can make a real difference and I take an overriding sense of achievement from this.

Night work is unique with many more pros (and cons) than I can list here.

It’s challenging and certainly not for everyone, but for those considering walking away from clinical work altogether, those brave enough to diversify and give themselves time to adjust (six to 12 months is typical), a rewarding career can await them.

In a bizarre twist of fate, I now work within the same veterinary hospital I left as a new graduate. Many of the lovely day staff remain. Walking through the doors at 6:30 pm ready for the night shift I feel invigorated rather than depleted.

Plus, I feel privileged to be there to give the day team a much-needed night off to recover and recuperate too!

An image of two Cutting Edge vets treating a brown dog in our Glasgow hospital. Image for Vets Now article on veterinary graduate advice

Interested in a career in ECC?


With a vet surgeon role at Vets Now you will be exposed to cases you simply wouldn’t experience in general practice.

Search Jobs