Vet tells how AdvantEdge programme provided her with the perfect platform for busy emergency role
There’s no archetypal emergency vet or vet nurse.
Our clinical staff are a diverse group united by a shared desire to be there for pet owners at the time they’re needed most.
Some have vast amounts of experience while others are not long out of university.
But everyone — almost without fail — has an interesting backstory to tell and Anita Notenboom, who last year completed our AdvantEdge emergency and critical care training programme, is no different.
Born in Borneo to a Japanese mum and a Dutch dad, Anita, 44, lived in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia before her family moved to the UK in 1984 where she pursued her childhood ambition of becoming a vet.
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After working hard at school and taking a gap year, which involved volunteering at her local vet in Eastbourne and completing a large animal NVQ qualification, Anita was accepted by the Royal Veterinary College in 1992.
She qualified five years later, before going on to complete a one-year internship in small animal medicine and surgery, a year in general practice, followed by a three-year residency in internal medicine.
During this time, she gained her certificate in small animal medicine.
“Staying in academia was tempting but I felt my strengths were working with pet owners face-to-face,” Anita recalled. “I wanted to be there for people bringing in their first puppy or their first kitten, to get to know the owners just as well as their pets, so I moved back into general practice.”
It was a frontline role Anita excelled in. However, after 15 years and a bout of ill health, she took an open-ended break from the profession to start a disability awareness training company with a colleague.
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“I spent six years at it with no regrets,” she said. “During that time I developed skills in sign language, digital marketing, social media advertising, videography, editing and photography among other things. It was a steep learning curve, but I enjoyed the challenge.
“But the pull of the veterinary profession was always there. I felt the excitement and challenges of running a business weren’t quite enough for me and that’s when a friend mentioned Vets Now. So I contacted Amanda Boag, both a friend and fellow resident when at the RVC, and before I knew it an interview had been arranged.”
Despite her vast experience and varied background, Anita was keen to sign up for AdvantEdge, partly because she wanted to refresh her knowledge of ECC and partly because she knew it would do her confidence the world of good on her return to the profession.
“Even though I had experience of ECC, particularly during my residency and internship, it had been a long while since I was on the front line,” explained Anita, who has been working full-time in our Reading clinic since June.
“AdvantEdge provided me with a platform to dig back into that knowledge, while also learning about new procedures. The training was brilliant, second to none, and just focussed on ECC.
“As well as covering the basics, it provided a universal step-by-step approach to dealing with some of the most common emergencies. There were also sessions on communication, preparing for night work and mental health and wellbeing.”
Anita Notenboom AdvantEdge graduate
"We’re all in it together. There's support available from all areas of the business and you feel proud to be part of Vets Now. It’s almost like finding a family. "
Anita was particularly positive about the quality of the lectures and practical sessions, describing her lecturers as both approachable and extremely knowledgeable. These included specialists such as Dan Lewis.
She was also enthusiastic about the colleagues she met on the programme.
“The quality of training was incredible,” she added. “We had diplomates, and no less than the vice-president and president of the RCVS. But equally enjoyable was meeting new people with similar experiences and a similar mentality.
“Above all else, AdvantEdge has given me more confidence. I’ve never been so keen to put my learning into practice.”
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But why, after six years away from the profession, did Anita choose to return to work in out-of-hours emergency?
“I’m very much a night owl so the hours suited me,” she said. “But I also wanted a challenge. There’s a real adrenaline rush working in emergency and no shift is ever the same.
“It pushes you to the limit but it’s very rewarding” added Anita, who being a free spirit, now lives on a canal boat on the River Thames.
“Another big plus point, largely due to the flexible shift patterns, is you get a lot of time to yourself. It allows you to enjoy your hobbies again. I’ve been doing a lot of photography on my time off. I’m also planning to pick up my guitar again, which I haven’t picked up for 14 or 15 years.”
Anita decided on Vets Now in part because she sensed something different from other veterinary employers — something familiar.
“I like the culture and I love the fact there’s always someone around to help, even at 2 am. It also helps that I’m part of an amazing team in Reading. I’m so proud to work with such great people.
“It’s almost like finding a family,” she said. “There are no ranks, no hierarchy, we’re all in it together. There is support available from all areas of the business. You feel proud to be part of Vets Now.”