Top tips for being a grown up… - Veterinary Practice
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Top tips for being a grown up…

SOPHIE THORNTON provides some insights on her transition from being a student at Liverpool to becoming a fullyfledged veterinary surgeon and starting her career in practice…

Don’t panic about getting your first job!

Seriously – don’t. I know I did but it is not worth it. Work out what is most important to you – location, species, people, job prospects – and stick to it. It’s no fun being in a job you don’t like. Thankfully, the interviews I had gave me a better idea of what really was important to me.

Also, never under-estimate an interview and prepare properly! I prepped loads for my first interview, which was really relaxed and just a chat, so I was then complacent for the next one and fell on my face because I was asked proper interview questions. You learn fast from your mistakes!

Being called Ma’am is never a bad thing

After a week of placement last year, I was lucky enough to be asked to provide locum cover for the Household Cavalry for a few weeks.

Having never been involved in anything army-related previous to this, I was informed by the wonderful vet tech that as a civilian vet my equivalent rank was Captain and I would be addressed as Ma’am!

Common things are common, but you get the odd rare case too!

You’ll see lots of blocked anal glands, pus in feet, uterine prolapses and itchy skin, but just every so often you’ll get a case you want to tell everybody about (although pick your moments: my nonveterinary family don’t tend to enjoy farm chats over dinner!).

My example is a poor Limousin cow a month away from calving, whose calf had shoved its foot through into her rectum. That was certainly not what I was expecting to feel when I examined her! A polydactyly calf was a fun one also.

Always check the species of the animal you are about to call into your consult room

Week two, I was swapped on to evening consults last-minute at our branch surgery.

“What’s coming in?” I asked the lovely receptionist.

“Two vaccinations and itchy.” OK fine, so off I go. Just as I go to call said itchy patient in, I cast my eye over species and breed (I always get excited when I see a spaniel – they are my favourite!): Indian runner duck!

Enjoy the good days, as there are bad days

The case I am most proud of being involved in is a rat poison case. It took a team of three vets, three nurses and a vet’s dog to save a dog that had ingested rat poison. She had a PCV of 17 and a blood pressure of 45 at one point but Mac the ex-police dog gave us some blood for a transfusion and we got the dog back from the brink of death.

What a day. It’s important to remember such triumphs when you have to euthanase a gorgeous two-yearold Labrador with end stage kidney failure. Emotional fatigue hit that day. You do have totally pants days. Sharing stories, or wine and ice cream with friends/colleagues make a huge difference.

You are not alone!

This leads me nicely onto my next tip. Whilst wine/ice cream/chocolate (delete where appropriate) on your own provides some respite after a pants day, keeping up with your pals is so important!

A quick phone call after a horrendous horsey euthanasia (it death-rolled for a good minute), regular catch-ups with housemates or attending CPD – just don’t sit and sulk and worry you aren’t good enough on your own. We all know how horrendous the figures are about depression and suicide in this profession. Being a vet should be your job, not your life. There is life outside of work, remember!

Worry about the things you can control

This is a statement I learned during school and have definitely continued to live by! Waiting for exam results used to be excruciating; but worrying is pointless. You’ve left the room and handed in your paper, what is done is done.

Equally, if you can change something, get on and do it. I was lying awake at 2am worrying about a dog we had done an exploratory laparotomy on, even though I had checked him at midnight and he was fine. So I popped my jacket on over my PJs, went and had a quick cuddle with him and then went back to bed, as he was absolutely fine!

If there is something you aren’t happy with in any part of your life, either do something about it or stop worrying.

Every situation ends eventually

This is my mantra! However freezing cold, brain dead, anal gland/poop/ vomit-covered you are, every situation will eventually end and you will be able to go home and have a bath and remember what it feels like to be clean.

Adrenaline is wonderful at keeping you warm; a 6pm caesarean on a highland cow on a windy hillside in Norfolk (there are a few hills, honest!) was fine until we finished the job and were clearing up; my hands almost fell off as it was so cold and windy!

This is also true for weekends on call when at 7pm on a Sunday evening you want to throw your pager across the room when it goes off for the umpteenth time … your shift will end eventually!

So that’s me! I hope this can be useful to somebody out there in the vet world.

  • I would just like to thank all the wonderful staff and students at the University of Liverpool veterinary school who decided I was worthy of the Animalcare Final Year Student Award: it was a huge honour to receive it so thank you so very much!

I am working at a mixed practice in Norfolk and having a brilliant time. Hope to see lots of your faces at the VDS reunion in October!

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