Helping overseas graduates to succeed - Veterinary Practice
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Helping overseas graduates to succeed

CHRIS WHIPP discusses the ever increasing number of graduates from overseas joining the profession in the UK and the difficulties they may face in making a new country their home

THE UK veterinary profession attracts increasing international interest from graduates, but more than a third return to their home country within two years, at great cost to themselves and their UK employers.

Typical challenges of change from university, plus financial pressures and cultural hurdles, play their part. Vet Learning Ltd is seeking to turn this tide by providing access to coaching services for overseas students to build resilience and smooth the transition to Britain.

The everincreasing number of overseas graduates joining the veterinary profession in the UK bring their rich diversity of experience, skills and knowledge to veterinary medicine in this country and play a key part in shaping the profession for the future.

However, in addition to typical career development challenges for all students on the path from leaving university to practice ownership, overseas graduates are also faced with the complexities of integrating into a new way of working, a different culture and making a new country their home.

In adjusting to the highlydeveloped field of veterinary medicine in the UK, overseas graduates not only have to get their heads around differences in clinical practice, like variances in medication, equipment, procedures and diseases, but also the myriad of regulations and their legal implications.

Equally challenging, but more subtle, is the task of adapting to a new working culture. Overseas graduates often have to learn new ways of interacting with team members, their managers or practice owners and, most importantly, clients.

How to deal with conflict suitably, making sense of nuances in humour and language, as well as balancing assertiveness with the appropriate level of politeness might seem obvious to those born and raised here, but is frequently experienced as a minefield by non British vets.

The financial pressure of relocating to a new country means that overseas graduates commonly focus on finding a job as soon as possible and getting ahead fast. This has implications for their career path and how they adjust to life in the UK.

A job chosen under pressure might not be best suited to the individual’s current skill level, nor aligned with where he or she would like to be in five years’ time, which has a significant impact on job satisfaction for individuals and attrition rates for employers.

It might also mean that the person lives in a town or city not of their choice, or a location that is perhaps more difficult for friends and family to visit. Lack of work-life balance due to financial pressure commonly leads to participation in social activities within their new communities not being prioritised, contributing to a sense of isolation or alienation.

Lack of balance also leads to existing close relationships, for instance with a partner who has followed to the UK, not being sufficiently nurtured.

As a result of these types of challenges, almost a third of overseas graduates and vets return to their own countries within 24 months of registering with the RCVS.

However, there are various avenues of support such as CPD events, referral clinics, university support and online courses for those looking to work in the UK, covering legal, professional and other issues important to know about when working in this country.

An organisation particularly dedicated to supporting overseas graduates to turn this tide is Vet Learning Ltd, which is committed to providing the veterinary profession with academic courses and professional services that enhance professional practice. With its partners, Vet Learning Ltd aims are:

  • to encourage the development and recognition of the unique skills of GP vets;
  • to support the development of evidence-based work-based learning for the veterinary profession;
  • to empower the development of both individuals and practices.

Vet learning is launching a new coaching service specifically for overseas graduates. This service offers graduates the opportunity to explore their challenges with an impartial and nonjudgemental trained professional in one-toone coaching sessions. Details are available at

The aim of this coaching is to support overseas graduates in dealing effectively with the anxieties of change by assisting them to:

  • refine and implement fulfilling career development plans;
  • enhance their cultural intelligence for effective transition into a new work culture;
  • develop mindfulness and resilience to successfully navigate change;
  • increase resourcefulness and initiative in order to build a supportive professional and social network in a foreign country;
  • explore key issues impacting on their personal development.

Vet Learning recognises that the landscape of veterinary practice is continuously evolving and changing in the UK and is interested in learning more about the challenges and needs directly from overseas graduates and their employers.

Therefore, in order to adapt and tailor the coaching service offering, included below are links to two short questionnaires for both overseas graduates and employers.

The questionnaires can be completed anonymously and should not take more than 10 minutes. Your views will help Vet Learning to shape this service and ensure its long-term value to the profession.

For more information about this new service, e-mail

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