AdvantEdge graduates say course prepared them for challenges of emergency shifts

Starting any new job can be daunting, full of challenges and with lots of things to learn.

But vets Lisa Mackay and Natasha Williams reckon they’ve had the perfect AdvantEdge.

That’s Vets Now’s fast-track induction programme designed to give experienced vets up-to-the-minute ECC training.

And while the highly respected two-week programme is now being delivered virtually, new Vets Now recruits Lisa and Natasha insist the benefits are all too real.

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Lisa, who’s 53, joined earlier this year with more than 30 years of mixed practice experience under her belt.

It was a life, she admits, she adored.

“I loved mixed practice and to my dying breath I’ll stick up for the discipline of multi-species knowledge,” said Hawick-based Lisa, who is now senior vet at Vets Now in Gateshead.

“It has given me a huge amount of insight and skills.”

What Lisa fell out of love with, though, was the lack of potential career advancement prospects and the burden on family life.

“I’ve got two teenagers and they probably need me more than they ever did,” explained Lisa. “I found myself starting at 6am to do all the mum things I had to before work, did a full day and then commitments afterwards meant I wasn’t finishing until eight at night.

“I felt like I was never there for my family, which was horrendous. I was literally at breaking point.”

Lisa took a step into the unknown by quitting her job before being thrilled to land the role at Vets Now’s busy Gateshead clinic.

Lisa joined Vets Now in Gateshead after it became it impossible to balance work and family life in her previous mixed practice role

Natasha, meanwhile, had a different career path before embarking on AdvantEdge.

She went to London Vet School and stayed on to do the small animal rotating internship before switching to general practice in London and then moving to North Wales and Cheshire.

But she very much has the same work-life balance concerns.

“I’d just bought a house and wanted to be able to do it up and spend time in it,” said St Helens-born Natasha, who works in Vets Now’s Wrexham clinic.

“And I also wanted to see friends and my nieces and nephew without being too tired to visit. You have to care for your job but it’s really important to have time for everything else as well.”

Both Lisa and Natasha were put forward for the AdvantEdge programme following successful interviews.

Designed by ECC specialist Dr Amanda Boag, the training for experienced veterinary surgeons is intended to cement existing emergency knowledge, boost confidence and teach new skills.

Run Monday to Friday for two weeks, it features lectures by diplomates and emergency clinicians, hands-on practical sessions and mentored shifts with an experienced ECC Vet.

Natasha wanted a fulfilling job that also allowed her to enjoy life outside of it

Lisa said the remote learning experience was a really positive one.

“I was quite surprised how well it worked using Microsoft Teams,” she admitted. “And we also did group work on WhatsApp.

“There was a real mix of experiences and the course work made sure there was something for everybody.”

That mixture and the comprehensive nature of AdvantEdge ticked all the right boxes for Natasha, too.

“There was a lot of advanced information about things like electrolyte balances and blood gas analysis that I knew I needed to be more aware of,” said Natasha.

“But there was also a lot that I actually knew. And rather than that being a waste, it reinforced my knowledge and made me more comfortable in my abilities.

“I’d been furloughed and off work for 10 weeks before starting at the end of May, so it was nice to be reminded that you did know things. Those bits were a great refresher.”

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Looking back, Lisa said she feels much better prepared for any challenges her clinic work may throw at her.

“I had a lot of knowledge and transferrable skills, but I wasn’t particularly ECC orientated,” said Lisa. “I had known I’d need to upskill a bit and AdvantEdge has definitely helped with that.

“Medical case presentations and discussions were really useful, and I wasn’t as up to speed on cardiology, so that was really good.”

Both Natasha and Lisa reckoned the connections they made during the programme and the ongoing bonds have been another real positive.

They each stay in regular touch with other attendees through their WhatsApp group and the help on tap can be invaluable.

“I’ve got colleagues I know I can turn to in the middle of the night,” said Lisa.

“I just put out a message saying, “Hi, is anybody up? What do you think of this case or ‘Can anybody help with this situation’?

“And I’m much more aware of what Vets Now can offer in the way of support. If I need help I can cut to the chase and go straight to the information I need.”

Image of Vets Now staff for article on AdvantEdge

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Natasha admits the confidence she has taken from AdvantEdge is a massive boost for her.

“It took a couple of years after I graduated to really find my feet and enjoy the job, which I think is pretty common as it can be a big transition between student and vet,” said Natasha, who was planning to be a doctor before a change of mind when she was 17.

“Suddenly you are the one people are looking to for answers.

“I even applied for non-vet jobs at that time until my confidence grew.

“I now couldn’t imagine doing anything else, but confidence has always been a big thing for me.

“I’ve always been aware that I can still learn a lot so I can do the best possible job. So, I was attracted at having that time with AdvantEdge of being guided through what would be expected of me.

“Now I’m loving my time at Vets Now and really like my team.

“I’m comfortable about being able to approach my senior vet and just happy I made the move.”

And Lisa said making the move to Vets Now has changed her life.

“I do two night shifts a week and stay overnight near to the clinic, so I only have the one commute from Hawick,” added Lisa.

“My husband deals with everything at home while I’m away and then, when I’m home, I’m totally there. I just love working at Vets Now and I’m enjoying the step up to a senior level.

“I’m so much happier.”

Are you an ambitious and dedicated vet looking for a new challenge? We run two AdvantEdge programmes per year for vets keen to develop their skills before diving into an exciting career in ECC. Find out more about AdvantEdge here.