Sam is enjoying the life-changing benefits of working in ECC

Vet Sam Fielding still remembers vividly the weekend that was to lead him to a new – and happier – chapter of his life.

He was on call at his mixed practice and got just five hours sleep before having to head straight back into another week of day surgery duties.

Sam realised he wasn’t being challenged enough, he couldn’t always give his best for his patients – and his personal life was suffering.

Now all those things have changed for the better after Cutting Edge provided the perfect way into emergency and critical care medicine.

Our 10-week paid induction programme is for vets with at least six months experience in UK daytime practice and the mix of interactive lectures and practical learning prepares vets for their new ECC role.

That knowledge and support proved invaluable to Sam, so much so that within 18 short months of joining Vets Now he was in a position to make the step up to covering a senior vet role.

Senior vet Sam treating a patient in the clinic
Sam decided to apply for Cutting Edge after a particularly tiring weekend in his mixed-practice job

Sam grew up on a smallholding in the north east of England after his parents moved from Scotland and he was forever surrounded by animals.

“There were horses, dogs, cats, chickens and I pretty much wanted to become a vet for as long as I can remember,” said Sam, who works at Vets Now’s Middlesbrough clinic.

“I got a Saturday job at my local practice when I was 15. Getting a taste of what went on pretty much sealed it for me, although farm and mixed practice was what I thought I wanted to do.”

After gaining additional experience on more farms and at other practices after school Sam went to Liverpool Vet School in 2012, graduating in 2017.

His passion wasn’t yet for ECC, but that changed during the two mixed practice jobs he had before joining Vets Now.

Each did their own OOH cover and what he saw started to alter Sam’s thinking.

“It was at night and weekends that the most interesting calls seemed to come in,” said Sam. “That’s when you’d get all the critical patients, the surgical cases like GDVs. And I liked the imaging and ultrasound work.

“I found that was what was more interesting and challenging, rather than the more routine daytime surgery work.”

But while Sam found his passions stirred by working on those critical cases, the long OOH hours were taking a toll.

Vet Sam and his partner Jess
Sam's partner Jess suggested he consider Vets Now

“It was very difficult, especially at busy times of year like lambing and calving,” admitted Sam. “It’s hard to work things up properly when you’re tired the next day having been up all night.

“I knew I wasn’t always doing the best that I could. And from personal point of view, I was spending most of my time away from work resting, not actually doing things I wanted.”

The epiphany came after that especially tiring weekend and, knowing he needed to find that better work-life balance, Sam took up his partner Jess’s suggestion of considering Vets Now.

The intensive training provided by the Cutting Edge programme instantly appealed, along with the shadowing of experienced vets in the clinics.

Vet and vet nurse treating a dog at a Vets Now clinic

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Sam started the programme at Vets Now’s Dunfermline support office in March 2020 and although the pandemic cut the face-to-face sessions there short, the continuing sessions at the clinics made sure nothing was missed.

“You get such a great knowledge base that builds on what you’ve already learned and done in practice,” said Sam. “You can see what you may have been doing wrong and how a different approach can help the outcome of the case.

Aoife Reid, who took the course, was brilliant and I learned so much just by talking to her.

“And then at the clinics you see how different clinicians deal with cases, picking up what’s good and then adapting your own style.

“You may have got into a routine of doing things and with Cutting Edge you get to know there is a lot you still don’t know.”

Other vets at Middlesbrough have been on the Cutting Edge programme and sharing learning with them and those on his particular course has been a boon for Sam.

“We’ve still got a WhatsApp group where we talk about interesting cases and can get advice,” said Sam. “You know that’s always there as well as much wider support within Vets Now when you’re maybe on your own at night and you need a bit of help.”

The constant flow of patients at Middlesbrough has provided Sam with exactly the challenges he was seeking, and he’s in no doubt that he’s become a better vet as a result.

Sam's dog's Jazz and Ralph at the top of a mountain
Sam now has time to spend with his family, including his dogs Jazz and Ralph

Having learned so much, he’s not resting on his laurels when it comes to advancing his knowledge.

With support and encouragement from Vets Now he is now deciding on whether to do an ECC Certificate or an Imaging Certificate.

But he has already shown his capacity to do more by covering the maternity leave for the clinic’s senior vet.

“I’ve really enjoyed the additional responsibilities of helping to run the clinic,” said Sam. “It can be hard to get advancement in day-to-day practice but that’s definitely not the case here.

“I wasn’t sure I’d take to the management aspects of the new role, but I have.

“And I enjoy mentoring other vets because when you discuss other cases with them, you learn too.

“I felt I was stagnating in my other job, now I’m challenged like I wanted to be and there’s always more to learn.”

While Sam loves his professional life, he is savouring his time away from work more than he ever did.

“Jess and I have two dogs called Ralph and Jazz that I now see more, and I also have time to renovate our house,” added Sam. “I can plan my life better, so I have no regrets at all about making the change.”