Katie Turney is a vet at Vets Now’s thriving clinic at Ashford in Kent. She tells us how a lightbulb moment led to the Cutting Edge course that’s helped change her life.
What is your veterinary background?
Family friends insist they heard me say I wanted to be a vet when I was four, but it was far from a smooth path. As a teenager I picked all my GCSE and A-Levels with being a vet in mind. I did five A-Levels, which is way too many, and the pressures I put on myself affected my mental health. When my necessary grades came back as ABB and not enough to get into vet school, I was totally crushed.
So, what did you do next?
I took a year out and went and worked at McDonald’s. I got promoted within six months and although it’s not a very vet-adjacent job, I learned that I was a good communicator and team leader. Now in my veterinary work I employ closed loop communication, where I name exactly what I require, and that’s just what we had at McDonald’s when we were ordering up burgers. When I applied to Surrey University, I decided not to re-sit my exams and just spoke about the skills I’d developed. It obviously impressed as they offered me a place within two days.
Did you get much of a taste of ECC at Surrey?
I started in 2015, graduating in 2020. My first experience of emergency medicine was in my fourth year – and it was Vets Now that changed it all for me. We had a lecture from Aoife Reid, Head of the Edge programmes, about the basics of approaching emergency patients. I loved that session and found it so cool. Then we had a triage practical from Steph Timmons who is now the Area Clinical Director for the area I work in. She went through the Vets Now checklist that flags up anything that needs addressing immediately. Halfway through it the light went on in my head and I knew this was what I wanted to do. When I later bumped into Steph at a careers fair and she gave me a leaflet about Cutting Edge, I saw that as my way in.
What did you do then?
Once I’d qualified, I knew I had to have six months UK experience for Edge. I decided to do a graduate programme as I learn well that way and I thrive off structure. I did the IVC Evidensia Graduate Academy for two years, working at Barrow Hill Vets in Ashford. When there were emergency cases, like a dog that had been in an RTA, it really got my blood going. I cope well under pressure, and I felt I turned into a Vets Now vet as I ran through what I needed to do.
When did you join Vets Now and do Cutting Edge?
That was in March 2023, and I absolutely loved the mix of the time at the Dunfermline support office, in clinic shifts and online learning.
Was there one particular thing that sticks out?
So much! I suppose if I had to pick out one thing it would be the POCUS workshop where we had a lecture and then the practical to put it into context. While I’d done ultrasound in first opinion, this was very different. The value of it in emergency situations really clicked for me, and I have employed it usefully back in clinic. I use it all the time to look at the lungs – which I’d never done before. One case comes to mind where I had a cat which was struggling to breathe. It had a pleural effusion, and while it’s not uncommon I wouldn’t have known that or been able to treat it without ultrasound.
How have you taken to life at Ashford?
The confidence Edge has given me has been massive in helping me settle in. I have a natural confidence that I do know what I’m doing and I can get on and do it, within my skill set of course. But I’m also aware that I don’t know everything, and there is always help on hand. I’ve found being here a lot more empowering than day practice.
You mentioned your mental health, is that something that’s better now?
It definitely improved after I sought professional support, and I don’t think I’d be where I am today without that. It was important for me finally having confidence in myself and it has made me a more empathetic and resilient vet. It’s okay to struggle sometimes and help is out there if you need it.
How has work-life balance been for you?
It’s been so much better. My team let me try a couple of rota patterns and then pick the one that suited me best. So, they were very open to feedback. I like being off during the week and I love going to see the two ponies of my Principal Nurse Manager Laura. Chilling out by sitting brushing them is very relaxing and therapeutic after a busy shift.