With two children, a couple of dogs, a horse, and the little matter of being Principal Vet at Vets Now’s busy Belfast clinic, life is never dull for Sasha Burns Fraser. But Sasha is relishing the role she took up at the start of 2023, and she tells us how AdvantEdge helped her make the switch to ECC medicine.

What led you to become a vet?

My uncle was a vet who had some farm animals and I used to spend loads of time there as a child. So, I’ve always loved animals and wanted to be a vet, but I had to work very hard to get to vet school. I went to University College Dublin, which required four A-Levels rather than the three needed for other vet schools. I chose Dublin so I could drive home at the weekends and still be able to compete with my horse. I’ve had horses most of my life and I wasn’t prepared to give that up. I graduated in 2015.

What did you after that?

I had thought I’d do mixed, but I went into a small animal practice. My first clinic was a bit of a baptism of fire. I seemed to attract a lot of emergencies, which is where I got my passion for ECC. That was quite a change as I hated it at university and I’d thought that if I specialised or did more studies, it would be orthopaedics. But it didn’t faze me, and I found I coped with the pressure. I enjoyed being able to bring an animal back from the brink of death and I got so much job satisfaction.

How did the move to Vets Now come about?

I always seemed to see emergency cases while working for Vets4Pets and we were a partner practice of Vets Now. I enjoyed talking to the vets there and just felt I’d like to be part of the team. So, I jumped at the opportunity to join when a job came up at Belfast five years ago. I loved it right from the start and couldn’t imagine going back to day practice. That was when I went through the Edge program.

How did you find that?

It was a two-week intense course at the Dunfermline headquarters along with a group of vets at the same stage in their careers. There were loads of great lectures as well as practical elements and a lot of case discussions and socialising. The vets I was with are still great friends and we talk on almost a daily basis. We have a WhatsApp group and it’s a brilliant support network, being able to talk through cases, get a second opinion and be reassured other vets would make the same decisions you’re making.

Image of vet surgeon Sasha Burns Fraser

Were there any elements of AdvantEdge you found especially useful?

Lots of it was a nice refresher and reassurance you were approaching cases the right way. Previously I hadn’t had a huge amount of mentoring with emergency cases, and it was nice to build on the knowledge I’d gained. So, things like knowing when my blood products might be important or when a particular blood test might help with monitoring and tracking. I definitely went back to the clinic better prepared and with a great boost in confidence. I was also able to share the latest knowledge with the rest of the team. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

How has your Vets Now career moved on?

I’ve always wanted to learn more and after I had my first baby, I started doing a post-grad Certificate in Emergency and Critical Care. During Covid, our caseload jumped enormously, and we were seeing so many critical cases I wanted to have more knowledge and be even better prepared. Our first baby was IVF, so we never thought we’d have another so quickly, but I had my second baby in 2022 while somehow successfully finishing my Cert. That allowed me to reflect on how I manage things, speak to the clients and approach cases. It helped me look at how to manage the team as well as myself. So, when the opportunity arose to become Principal Vet in January 2023 when I came back from maternity leave, I took it. It felt like a new start and a new role, but alongside a team I’d known for five years.

And how have you taken to the responsibility?

I really enjoy it. Having been with the team before, I feel I’m aware of any issues and concerns they have and truly hear what they are saying. I want to work with them to drive high standards of patient and client care alongside a no-blame culture. It’s all about helping them enjoy the job after what has been a pretty tough few years and helping the team gel.

How do you find that balance between home and work life now?

I have a good support system with my husband and my parents. There is always a juggle, but I have been finding the balance and I’m still getting a lot of time at home with the kids. And I’m getting out with my two Jack Russells and on my horse Sunny.