Abbie Stoutt is loving life as a vet at Vets Now’s busy Thamesmead clinic. But Abbie says she’d never have made the move to ECC without the acclaimed Cutting Edge programme, which she’s sure has also made her a better vet.
Was being a vet always on your radar?
I can barely remember a time when going to vet school wasn’t my goal. I clearly remember having a conversation with a teacher about what subjects to pick and I said then I wanted to be a vet. When I was 14, I started working on city farms in Hertfordshire and by the time I was 16 I was working at my local vet practice every Saturday morning.
Where did you go to vet school?
It was the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) – but only after the biggest possible panic. I sat an exam and then, a little later back at school, I saw an email saying I hadn’t filled out my work experience information. It said if I didn’t have it in by 12 noon, they couldn’t continue my application. It was already 10.50am. I had to dash out of class, get my parents to email over the spreadsheet I’d kept – and got it sent with two minutes to spare! After all that drama, the five years of study turned out to be pretty straight forward, and I graduated in 2019.
Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do?
I enjoyed my farm animal rotation, so I looked for a mixed job after graduation and worked at a practice in Suffolk. I was there for a couple of years, seeing about 60% small and 40% large animals, and then went on to be a full-time equine vet in Essex for a year.
Was there much exposure to ECC work?
I loved the ECC rotation at university and the critical care in the ICU. In practice I always enjoyed my out-of-hours, seeing different, interesting cases. That’s what led me to think about Vets Now – but knowing I could do Cutting Edge was vital.
So, you wouldn’t have made the move without Edge?
Definitely not. It was a long time since I’d done any proper small animal emergencies, and I didn’t feel able to just walk straight in and be okay with it. It would have been far too daunting.
What was the Cutting Edge schedule?
I joined Vets Now in March 2023 and went right on to the programme. It was a 10-week course split between the central support hub in Dunfermline, online lectures from home, and shifts in clinic.
What was it like doing it with other vets in a similar situation to yourself?
I found that to be one of the best things to come out of the programme. It was lovely being with other vets of my age and experience level. We have a chat group now and if any of us have a question or an issue with a case, we know we can message in the middle of the night and someone else will also be working and can offer an opinion. It gives you welcome reassurance.
Were there any elements of the course you found especially useful?
We did a surgery weekend in Sheffield which was the best practical CPD session I’ve ever done. I haven’t done a lot of surgery, but the approach and advice about going back to first principles made me feel so much better about it.
Were you able to apply things from the Edge programme back in clinic?
A lot was about first principles and it’s a reminder that when you’re faced with an emergency, it’s often a case of ABC – triaging, fluids, pain relief etc. That makes it a lot less daunting. And you know you can act while having your Principal Vet there to help you when things are that bit more complicated. I’m definitely a better vet and am able to deal with things I never thought I would.
How have you settled into Thamesmead?
I really love it. For me, it’s the perfect amount of busyness while also having enough time to have a rest and gather your thoughts. There’s a nice mix of private and PDSA work. It’s also very rewarding. I remember one case where a dog came in under GA after having seizures all day. Things were so bleak, it looked like it may have to be euthanised. But after a real team effort we saved it, and it was like a different dog by the morning. I’ve never seen owners so happy and grateful when it walked out.
And how are you finding the work-life balance?
It’s never been better! I might do two or three shifts and then have three or four days off or do a weekend and then have a week off. Although the shifts add up to a full-time job, I have so much time off to do stuff at home, see family and go out with friends, which includes the new friends I’ve met on the Cutting Edge course.