Joana Momkute MRCVS BVMSci (Hons) MPharm can remember the precise moment she wanted to become a vet. As a child, back in her native Lithuania, her pet dog was hit by a car and she feared she was going to lose him. The skills of a local vet saved his life and prompted Joana to make veterinary medicine her career.
Now she is the one saving lives on the frontline of ECC medicine at Vets Now’s busy Barton-le-Clay clinic. But Joana was actually on the verge of quitting being a vet altogether and was only given the confidence to step into ECC thanks to Cutting Edge.
It’s Vets Now’s renowned induction programme which offers a supportive role into a career in emergency medicine for vets with a minimum of six months experience in day practice.
Joana’s mum’s a teacher and her dad’s a joiner, so there was no family veterinary background and Joana didn’t have a definitive career plan before the traumatic car accident when she was 10.
“I thought our dog was going to die and the entire family were in pieces,” said Joana. “But the vet saved him and that’s when I realised what a great job it could be to save an animal like that and have such an impact on people. I didn’t know anyone in the profession, but it seemed like a great route for me.”
Joana came to the UK in 2010, as soon as she turned 18. Being unable to get into vet school initially, she moved to Aberdeen to study pharmacy. After getting that degree she was successful with a veterinary application to Surrey University, graduating in 2020. She landed a job at a first opinion practice in Hertfordshire, but it was right in the middle of the covid pandemic.
“It was so busy and even experienced colleagues said they’d never seen anything like it,” said Joana. We had to wear PPE all the time and I was doing a lot of consults on the phone, rather than seeing clients face-to-face. It was really tough and by the summer of 2021 I was getting burnt out and I didn’t want to be a vet anymore. I had gone into first opinion thinking I’d be a good GP vet, but I found I wasn’t enjoying surgery, medicine or preventative health. ”
I was on the verge of quitting when I saw Cutting Edge on Facebook and some friends thought it would be a good thing for me to try.
As someone who has suffered from anxiety, Joana had imagined that ECC medicine would be the worst possible area of veterinary medicine to consider. But, having quite liked the little taste of OOH she had at her first opinion practice, Cutting Edge seemed like the perfect way to move into ECC with all the support she felt she’d require. Led by specialists in their field, it offers candidates an unparalleled learning experience with more than 300 hours of CPD, mentored shifts with an experienced ECC clinician and a network of like-minded vets across the country.
It had evolved to remote training in 2020, but Joana was one of the first intake as it moved back to a 10-week in-person offering at Vets Now’s Dunfermline headquarters in March 2022.
“There were 16 of us and we were staying at lodges at Loch Leven, which was a lovely environment,” said Joana. “We had two weeks at Dunfermline, then some online training, some clinic training and a final two weeks at Dunfermline. “It was a nice mixture, and you weren’t away from home for too long a time. All the lecturers we had were very knowledgeable and most were Diplomates or certificate holders in their specific areas. You really felt you were learning from the best.
“I absolutely loved Cutting Edge and I can’t say enough good things about it. There was a real community aspect to it as well. I made some good friends with the other vets, and we still stay in touch.
“We have a group chat and if you’re struggling with something in the clinic at night, there’s usually someone else working somewhere else you can ask.”
Joana found the practical ultrasound work of particular benefit, giving her a confidence in an area she’d previously found quite concerning. A two-day block of surgical work also refreshed and boosted her skills.
Her mentored clinic time was at Barton-le-Clay, and it was there she returned at the end of her Cutting Edge experience.
“While I was doing the course there was always an experienced vet on with me on the shifts,” said Joana. “It was good to have the support and very helpful in getting my head around the systems and how everything worked. I got to know how to manage the emergencies in a more constructive way, having a plan for each presentation rather than getting a bit stressed out.
With ECC you either solve the problem in front of you or stabilise and refer on. I hadn't appreciated that before and I realised I'd found what I was really good at in the profession.
Joana says her confidence and comfort levels in the job have soared and, like others she’s in touch with from the intake, she just can’t see herself going back to day practice. Only a year on from being on the verge of giving it up, she’s loving vet life thanks to Vets Now and Cutting Edge.
“When my dog was treated after being hit by a car, that was really ECC,” added Joana. “I feel that things have sort of come full circle and now I’m the one that is doing that job for other pet owners, which is really nice.
“I would never have thought about ECC without Cutting Edge And I still feel so supported. I have suffered from anxiety and burnout and there is so much emphasis here on mental health and looking after the staff.”