Sarah Hird is a vet working between several Vets Now clinics. Sarah, who has held various positions including Principal Vet, now chooses to work weekend shifts alongside her burgeoning new career as a psychotherapist.
What’s your veterinary background?
I think being a vet was always the plan and I had a lot of encouragement from my parents. I’m from Yorkshire, but I went to vet school in Edinburgh. I really loved it there and qualified in 2001. I went into small animal practice for a few years, in Yorkshire and London, as part of which I did on-call. I wasn’t particularly well supported and, as a relatively new graduate, I was in sole charge fielding emergencies through the night, so I didn’t really enjoy my first taste of OOH. As I would then be on shift in the practice the following day, it was quite draining.
How did things progress from there?
I fell into teaching following the birth of my first child in 2006. I taught Veterinary Nursing at a college in York, which I really enjoyed. I wrote much of a nursing degree course during my time there. However, following the birth of my second and third children, I decided to be a full-time mum for a few years.
When did you join Vets Now?
That was in 2014 when I decided I wanted to go back into practice. There was a refresher programme which was really helpful when I started doing night shift full time at Bradford. It was hectic but I felt really supported. I then switched to roving, doing weekend nights due to childcare changes and all the way through I’ve felt Vets Now have worked around my needs. I became Principal Vet at Alfreton and then District Vet for District 3.
So, what took you into psychotherapy?
I loved the pastoral care element of the managerial role, getting to know the staff and figuring out what they needed. That’s what sparked my interest in psychotherapy and counselling, and I went on to train in it while moving to weekend work to accommodate that. I did that for three years, roving around different clinics. I’m a fully trained psychotherapist now, working three days per week. I work with MIND in addition to having my own private practice (sarahhirdtherapy.co.uk). I mostly work with vets, and I feel I’m helping with that as well as still seeing patients and doing the clinic work I love.
How does the weekend working fit in?
I live in mid-Wales, about an hour-and-a-half or more from my nearest clinic, and Vets Now have been really good in helping with a hotel for the Saturday night so I can do both of the day shifts. I start at 12 noon on the Saturday, and I’ll finish at either 6.30pm or 8pm depending on which clinic I’m at. On Sunday I’ll usually start at 8.30am and finish between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. In the busier clinics, like Liverpool or Preston, there will tend to be two or three vets along with multiple nurses, ACAs and reception staff. So, there’s a good buzz. Even the quieter clinics still tend to see their busier caseloads over weekend days, so shifts go quite quickly.
What would be your advice to someone wondering whether weekend working might be for them?
I’d encourage them to even consider just trying it out for one shift, not necessarily the whole weekend. That’s a way to get your confidence up with ECC in a supportive environment. It gives you additional skills and if you are working in a day clinic, you can go back to that feeling better prepared for any emergencies that come in.
And once you are in the fold, as it were, you can see whether you might want to dabble with nights. So, you’ll have the control of doing the shifts you’re contracted for, with the possibility of picking up more to suit yourself. There’s a fantastic amount of flexibility.