Charlie Grainger BVETMED MRCVS works as a vet at Vets Now’s busy Colwyn Bay clinic. Charlie, from Salford, tells us how Cutting Edge, which provides a structured and supported route into ECC, helped her make the switch to a veterinary life she’s loving.
Did you always want to be a vet?
I was that kid who used to bandage their teddies when they fell off the bed! I’ve always been obsessed with animals and knew I wanted to work with them. But I wasn’t sure just what I’d do, before finally deciding on being a vet.
So, where did you study?
I went to the RVC in 2013, through the Gateway course. Initially it’s obviously all theory-based and you don’t see an animal for the first two or three years. That was a shock to the system as I’m quite a practical person and I find I can take in knowledge best if I can see what it relates to. I’d had a taste of ECC at another, non-Vets Now, clinic before which was enjoyable if a bit overwhelming, so Manchester made a much better impression. I graduated in 2019.
I did several placements, and one of those was at the Vets Now Hospital in Manchester. One of the weeks was in the evenings and I particularly enjoyed seeing more of the emergency stuff.
What was your plan after graduating?
I started as a GP at a Vets4Pets, as I’d done several placements there, and stayed for two-and-half years. Obviously, everything changed during the pandemic and, with other staff at the practice furloughed, I found myself the only vet. It accelerated my experience, I guess, as I saw just about everything you would as a GP. And being sole charge, dealing with everything that came through the door, gave me some grounding for what it’s like in ECC. But it also made me get bored with GP life quicker than I may have done as I was seeing the same things so often.
How did you cope with all the pressures?
There was the odd day – not too many – when I thought I just couldn’t keep being a vet anymore. The clients got grumpier during the pandemic, and we were getting daily abuse because we couldn’t provide the full service – like giving routine flea treatments – because we were dealing with emergencies. But the support from the team helped me get through it.
What led you to make the career change?
I was doing a graduate programme which had rotas of CPD and one of those was on emergency procedures and was run by Vets Now. It covered things like chest drains and tracheostomies, big dramatic stuff I hadn’t seen since vet school. I was so excited by it all, but I had the sudden realisation that the clinic didn’t have the kit as we didn’t do that kind of thing. I felt I was on this course and would never use anything I’d learned. A friend at the Manchester Hospital said she thought Cutting Edge might be perfect for me. That same night, sitting in my hotel room on the CPD, I researched it and applied there and then.
Which lectures made an impact?
It was a lot of the basic stuff, like dealing with animals in shock. I hadn’t really had to do that since graduating, but almost every animal you see is in shock because they have a lot going on.
I'm also obsessed with neurology and those sessions were really interesting. The lecturers were so passionate, you couldn't help but feel motivated.
And how was the clinic time at Colwyn Bay?
I did shadow shifts, and everyone helped me feel at home straight away – the PV even got me a Chinese takeaway on my first night! You were on with different vets, and you saw how they liked to run things in their own ways. I got to know all the nurses, and they are all lovely.
What was the Cutting Edge experience like for you?
I thought the structure was so well thought out. We started with two weeks at the head office in Dunfermline, which was perfect. It was long enough to bond with the other vets – we had a lovely weekend together in Edinburgh in the middle – and just the right time to take in all the lectures without feeling overwhelmed. I’ve made friends I still speak to at least twice a week. We have a group chat and there are constantly cases we can give advice each other on, as well as just being a social thing.
So, how has Cutting Edge prepared you for the ongoing reality of life there?
The experience of being on my own at Vets4Pets has helped massively, as I’m used to dealing with things myself. So, I think I could have managed, but I’d have felt an awful lot more stressed if I’d walked into this job without Cutting Edge. It’s such a reassurance to have not only had very recent lectures, but to have the notes to hand. I had a case very recently that I’d had a lecture on, and I just went and put that up. If it was a lecture I’d had in 2017 as part of my training, there would have been no chance of doing that. And obviously here you can call other clinics, and I love having that support and backup.
And are you really enjoying being a vet again?
Massively. Colwyn Bay can be really busy because of the number of tourists the town gets, but I’m really excited and I leave work happy. I haven’t felt that in a long while and I look forward to going in to find out what I’m going to see. I feel a lot more positive about my career because I’m enjoying myself again.