Experienced vets reflect on how AdvantEdge prepared them for life on the front line of ECC

Our innovative AdvantEdge programme is perfect for experienced vets looking to develop their skills before pursuing a career in emergency and critical care. Consisting of a two-week residential induction followed by mentored shifts in clinic, the programme offers a fast track into a full or part-time role in one of our nationwide network of emergency clinics.

Anita Notenboom, Lynda McLeary and David Hollinshead all completed AdvantEdge last year and we caught up with them at a recent reunion to ask how the programme had helped prepare them for a job in an out-of-hours clinic.

All three praised AdvantEdge for increasing their confidence and reinforcing their knowledge of ECC.

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How well did AdvantEdge prepare you for working in ECC?

AN: I actually applied for the job with Vets Now before I knew about AdvantEdge, but I’d been out of practice for six years and I was worried about hitting the ground running, especially in ECC. That was when James Forrester from Vets Now’s talent team suggested that AdvantEdge would be a great fit and really help bolster my confidence.

It’s now been six months since completing the programme and I haven’t looked back. It’s been absolutely brilliant. A lot of the things I’d learned during my residency and internships at the Royal Veterinary College started bubbling up to the surface again, so I went back to the clinic feeling more confident.

LM: I’d been working part-time for a number of years in a daytime practice, but the AdvantEdge programme really helped me revise and reinforce my ECC knowledge. The way we work in ECC is quite different to general practice so it was good to meet other ECC vets and hear their experiences.

DH: I was non-clinical for two years before I went into a senior vet role and I think AdvantEdge prepared me really well. It helped sharpen the skills that I hadn’t used for a while and the calibre of lectures took us from a basic to an advanced level. I found it really helpful working in the clinics beforehand and then having two weeks of solid listening and learning.

What’s the most important thing you learned?

AN: The most important thing for me was learning about the Vets Now community and the support that was available. It showed me that I’m not on my own when I’m doing a night shift as there are more than 50 other clinics filled with people doing exactly what I’m doing. AdvantEdge gave me the opportunity to meet some of those people face-to-face and make really good friends. We’ve got a lovely Whatsapp group and we really support each other.

LM: Seeing that I was at a similar level to some of the other vets really built my confidence. I also found the practical sessions really interesting, particularly the surgery day as we covered certain things that I hadn’t done before.

DH: As well as learning a lot of new information, the programme showed me that I knew a lot already and I was in a good position to be working sole-charge in an ECC clinic, which was massively good for the confidence.

Image of AdvantEdge graduates for vets now article on AdvantEdge reunion
Anita, David and Lynda (left to right) at our AdvantEdge reunion

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What attracted you to Vets Now?

AN: I’m a night owl so doing night shifts really suited me. A friend happened to mention Vets Now so I looked online and found three vacancies in my area, which I took as a sign. However, I’d never really focused on ECC, so when I found out about AdvantEdge I thought it was the perfect opportunity to receive fully-funded training in a really exciting area of veterinary medicine.

LM: My family and I were making a big move from Aberdeen down to London so I thought it was time to get back into a full-time, challenging job. I knew that a daytime role wasn’t really going to work for me so I decided to apply to Vets Now. It was great to get a job that I felt was really going to work for me, and receiving two weeks of training through AdvantEdge was the icing on the cake.

DH:  The idea that I could spend two weeks doing nothing but learning about ECC was what appealed to me. It was a really nice sweetener to coming into Vets Now.

Would you recommend AdvantEdge to others?

AN: If someone has an interest in ECC I’d definitely recommend it. But I think all vets would enjoy it. People who work in first-opinion practices will potentially see these kinds of emergencies during the day.

LM: If this is the sort of job they want to do then absolutely.

DH: I’d thoroughly recommend AdvantEdge to people who could cope well with the fast pace. It’s really good, but there’s a lot of training condensed into two weeks, so you really need that base knowledge to get the most out of it. For those with a little less experience, the Cutting Edge programme is probably a better option.

What do you enjoy most about working in ECC?

AN: The best thing for me is my team. I love them to bits. The time off in between shifts is also brilliant. At my clinic we get around two or three days off in between a set of shifts, but every month we get a block of nine days off. No matter how bad those shifts were, when you get to those nine days off it feels like it’s all been worthwhile. It means that I can still get things done and do the hobbies that I want to do. It’s not like an 8 am to 9 pm job anymore like it was in day practice. Now I know that I can go and visit my parents for a few days without worrying about taking time off. I love that about my job.

LM: I love the nurses. All of them are great, they have a lot of skills and they really help and support us.

DH: I love the feeling at the end of a busy shift when your team has held everything together. You just get this lovely feeling that you don’t get anywhere else. In day practice you might get to the end of a shift and think you’ve vaccinated another 30 animals, but in ECC, once everything has been transferred back to day practice, you can stand back and think ‘we did that’.

Image of full group of AdvantEdge recruits during the reunion in Dunfermline
The AdvantEdge group at our reunion

"When I found out about AdvantEdge I thought it was the perfect opportunity to receive fully-funded training in a really exciting area of veterinary medicine."

Anita Notenboom AdvantEdge Graduate

What advice would you give to people considering following in your footsteps?

AN: You need to have a certain mentality to be a Vets Now vet. It takes a certain type of person. I’m not sure what type of person that is, but I know it when I see it. Maybe it’s someone as crazy as me!

LM: Go for it. It can be really challenging and very tiring but also very rewarding. Vets Now is a great company to work for and they really try to look after you. Also, if something isn’t working for you, talk to someone about it and it’ll get sorted.

DH: I’d say go and do some shadow shifts as you really need to know it’s something you want to do before signing up to training. It’s hugely rewarding but you do need to put a lot in to get a lot out. But to anyone set on a career in ECC, I’d highly recommend it as I have no regrets.

What are your tips for working out of hours?

AN: Eat healthily, drink lots of water and sleep as much as you can between shifts. Remember to still do the things you love outside of work rather than sleeping all day. If life is just work and sleep then you risk ignoring certain needs in your life which can affect your mental health.

LM: Look after your nurses and treat them with respect. Also, make time to do the things you love and spend time with your family.

DH: Find a good place to sleep after a shift – blackout blinds and air conditioning are essential when trying to sleep during the day in summer. Also, as Lynda said, look after your nurses. They’ll make or break you. They rule the clinic.

What are your ambitions for the future?

AN: It would be nice to have a hobby on the side but I’m generally happy as I am, living each day as it happens.

LM:  We’ve moved in the last year and it’s just been manic so I need to make more time for what I want to do.

DH: I really care about my team and the way Vets Now works and I want to do anything I can to enhance the way we work in my clinic and as a company. Vets Now is a great company and we have the right goals but at the moment the expectations are just a little bit high, such as shift lengths and so on. I think there’s more to do so I’d like to work on that.

Finally, what do you like most about working for Vets Now?

AH: I feel like I’m very well looked after and that I’m part of a family. Even though there are different hierarchies, I still feel that we’re equal in that we want what’s best for the company and what’s best for our patients and clients. I think we’re always better when we’re working together as a unit and that’s what I love about working for Vets Now. They’ve also really encouraged training and pushed us to succeed as ECC vets.

LM: It’s great to work for a company where I feel really appreciated and looked after. There is also so much CPD available and we have access to excellent resources.

DH: Even if we don’t get things right all the time – because we do a difficult job and it can be hard to anticipate things – our heart is in the right place. If things go wrong they’re looked at and addressed. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a great place to work and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

If you have experience in small animal or mixed practice and want to develop your skills to allow you to pursue an exciting career in emergency and critical care, AdvantEdge might be for you. Learn more about our AdvantEdge programme here.