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Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify LIVE Virtual Dreamcatcher

So if you were lucky enough to attend VSGD LIVE and have been inspired, the important thing is to take your dream and now catch it.

Download your virtual dreamcatcher below, type in your dream, then save it as your phone wallpaper, print it out and stick it to your bathroom mirror, or have it made into a fridge magnet.  Reminders area powerful!

Dream Catcher Yellow

Dream Catcher Pink

Dream Catcher Blue

Remember, the end goal can seem difficult, even impossible.  But start with step one, then step two… and so on until you get there.  Yes, there will be challenges, but they won’t be daunting if you keep them bitesize.

And ensure you have support.  In this age of networking you have unparalleled access to resources.  Make use of these, and connect with people who can help you.

If you’re not a member, join the VSGD community for ideas and support.

Dealing with difficult clients

Dr. Joanna Cates, clinical psychologist, writes for Vetsnet:

“It’s sadly not uncommon for veterinary staff to be on the receiving end of some pretty difficult behaviour from their clients – and I’m not talking about those of the animal variety. I mean the human ones!  Rude, grumpy, ungrateful – perhaps even aggressive. From time to time all vets know what it’s like to have to deal with clients whose social skills are less than ideal. Continue reading

Liz Barton

I graduated from Cambridge in 2004 and went up to the Lakes to work for mixed practice Frame, Swift and Partners.  I LOVED the job, but got fed up smelling of cows and was a bit lonely, so in 2007 started a small animal internship at Dick White Referrals where I started (and failed) the old style imaging certificate.  Referral practice wasn’t for me and I moved to Cromwell Veterinary Group as sole charge night vet working week on / week off for nearly 2 years.  I then worked a mix of days and nights before having my two girls, who are now 3 and 5.  I now work one late shift a week for Cromwells, as well as one day a week at Wood Green Animal Shelter (plus weekends).  My passion is diagnostics on a budget.  I’ve always been gifted at differentiating pinkish-blue blobs, so do a lot of in house cytology.  My failed cert attempt did provide me with the skills to perform competent ultrasound and radiology interpretation; useful for both ECC and shelter work, so I play to my strengths and have found my happy!

I created Vetsnet in 2016 in response to increasing awareness of the challenges faced by many involved in the veterinary industry.  I started looking into solutions and found there are a huge number of resources being developed at a rapid rate by a wide variety of individuals, organisations and businesses.  The primary aim of Vetsnet is to curate, summarise and signpost resources, in order to increase ease and efficiency of access to enable people to get the help they need.  Read more here

Aoife Bakonyi Byrne Dr.Med.Vet. Cert AVP MRCVS

Although I’m Irish I qualified from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Budapest in 2007 with my degree & a doctoral research thesis. My first job was an equine internship on the Curragh in Ireland for 12 months before working for an equine ambulatory practice for a further year. I wanted to gain equine reproduction experience so I followed this with a stud season beginning in Argentina & then at the Beaufort Embryo Transfer Centre in Gloucestershire. After that I worked at Rowe Equine incorporating the Equine Eye Clinic. After I got married I followed my husband (also an equine vet) to Norfolk where I now work for the Chapelfield Equine Clinic.
My areas of interest are equine first opinion/ambulatory practice, internal medicine, reproduction, ophthalmology & dermatology.

Rachel Tennant

I was brought up on a sheep and beef farm in Lanarkshire. I qualified from Edinburgh in 2011, and have worked in mixed practice in Cumbria ever since. I completed my RCVS Cert AVP (sheep) in 2016. I live on a Lake District fell farm with my partner, a flock of Herdwick sheep, Limousin cows and various dogs. In my very occasional spare time I try to ride my horse.


Resilience and Compassion Fatigue

Our emotions are powerful assistants, but dangerous masters.

Compassion fatigue occurs when we become too involved in our cases that our emotions are affected beyond the consult room to the point where our own reserves are eaten away.  The result is either switching off (becoming unemotional and disengaging), or emotional breakdown (where it all becomes too much), both of which are very damaging to ourselves, our relationships and our careers.

As a vet student, I was lucky enough to be taught by Peter Jackson, legend in the fields of reproduction and large animal medicine.  I am now privileged to work alongside him at Wood Green the Animals Charity, where he is one of the veterinary trustees.  His compassion towards patients always struck a cord amongst myself and fellow students.  His subtle tones whispering “Cush, cush chicken”, to a stressed-out cow never failed to settle them… and the students observing him.  I asked him to write a blog on how he maintained such gentle compassion after a lengthy career.  The answer… professional resolve and peppermints!:


“As a teenager I remember very clearly visiting the local doctor about a painful elbow.  In those days doctors had open house surgery with no appointments.  The doctor didn’t look at me as I went in but said ‘Sit down.  Tell me your name, address and age. Now, as quickly as possible, tell me what’s wrong with you!’

Perhaps my doctor had compassion fatigue.  It’s easy to develop it as you fight against the clock in a ten – minute consultation with a complicated case history.  Your conscience reminds now or later that you have rushed your clinical examination and have been a bit impatient with your client.

If you feel compassion fatigue coming on think about why you became a vet.  Most of us decided to be a vet whilst at primary school.  We wanted to help sick animals and perhaps to be like that clever young vet on TV. We struggled to get a place at vet school, sat countless exams and eventually graduated.  On admission to membership of the RCVS we said  “I PROMISE AND SOLEMNLY DECLARE that I will pursue the work of my profession with integrity and accept my responsibilities to the public, my clients, and the RCVS, and that, ABOVE ALL, my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care.’

We became members of the veterinary profession and as such we must behave at all times, whatever the pressure, in a professional manner.  Our clients expect it and our patients deserve it.  A quiet few words as you handle and examine your patient and a friendly word with the owner set the tone for a good consultation.

I worked for many years in general practice where pigs formed a high proportion of our farm livestock.  Often arriving at a farm or smallholding there would be a note on the piggery door. “Peter – third sow on right, off her food and piglets hungry please leave note – please write clearly.’  You quickly learned to be stealthy with pigs doing as much as possible without disturbing them.  Stroking the sow’s udder and speaking quietly to her you can perform your clinical examination including looking at the feet whilst the sow lies happily there.  Far better than shouting ‘Come on get up let’s have a good look at you.’  Have a look at the piglets in their creep.  Pick one up by a hind leg to reduce the chance of it squealing.  The sow has diamond – shaped elevated lesions on her back and a very high temperature.  You quietly give her a s/c penicillin injection as you rub her udder again and tell her she’s a good girl.  She doesn’t notice the injection.

As you go out you write a little note ‘Bill, Sow has erysipelas, have injected her and will call again tomorrow.  Can we discus vaccination? Peter.’  You write carefully as you remember Bill saying ‘You vets don’t half write badly Peter. I don’t expect to be able to read it ‘cos you vets and doctors always write in Latin don’t you?

You suddenly see another note on the inside of the door. ‘Peter while you’re here can you have a look at the old cat – it’s in the kitchen.  She’s got a bad eye.  Oh and we found a couple of dead chickens this morning can you do a PM please.’   Your planned timetable of visits is compromised but you dutifully look at the cat and the deceased chickens  You radio the office asking them to tell your remaining calls you are going to be at least 30 minutes late.  You have a peppermint, take a deep breath and remember to be professional.”

Peter Jackson.

May you be happy as a pig in muck throughout you career!

The Good, the Bad and Ugly

Different career experiences, written by vets who have learnt along the way.  This page is a work in progress – email us with your story if you think it may be of help to colleagues.  Alternatively, the Veterinary: Stay, Go, Diversify Facebook community has career profiles and comments from vets in diverse roles.

Working for a feed company

Mixed Practice


Working for a feed company; pros and cons

The following blog was originally posted on the Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify Facebook page and has been reproduced here with kind permission of the author.  It provides an insightful look at the pros and cons of work outside practice within a large company.

“Having been in my current role as Vet and Equine Nutritionist at a feed company for just coming up to a year I thought some feedback for others considering such a career move from practice or elsewhere might be useful.

For: Working for a big(ish) company has its advantages – training in everything from sales and negotiation to presenting and excel to vet and nutrition CPD. Plus any memberships, registrations, subscriptions or anything else I need are paid for without quibble. Reasonable pay (circa 40-45k) plus benefits and car. Good support, regular appraisals and an emphasis on development.

And the role itself: massively varied with control of your own diary- mix of yard meetings, office meetings, business-to-business collabs, research and advising, teaching, lecturing and organising internal and external CPD. You need to have a commercial interest because any role in the commercial sector has that focus, obviously, but this is a great opportunity to develop your skill set and enough practice to gain some confidence – in proposals, pitches, negotiating, managing and setting budgets and targets, working fast and efficiently (doesn’t come naturally to me!), customer interaction and support, and even marketing, promotion and PR; what works and what doesn’t. There’s a lot do! And pretty much, if you have an idea or interest that you can pitch successfully internally (logistics, investment and returns etc) you have the opportunity to run with it and make it fly which is pretty cool (worry about pressure of making the predicted returns on it later…!). The prospect of working internationally – I currently advise where required from the UK because we have staff elsewhere but there’s definitely the option for more travel in this type of role.

Against: the hours (45+pw plus driving time, usually averages out at a 12 hour work day), driving (500-1000 pw though would depend on where you live and specific role of course), staying away (1-4 nights a week, every week, averages at about 2 pw, with the odd weekend night unavoidable). Sales chat! Quite a time waster. Some internal meetings inevitably end up with a lot of it however. The inefficiency of endless internal admin and reports which divert from doing the actual job – quite similar in other companies and similar roles probably but I have little to compare with in the commercial sector. It is certainly much more than in practice. The inefficiency of a larger company – gaining approval for plans or investments from multiple departments can take a very long time and if you don’t shout loud enough can miss the boat on whatever opportunity you were working on as a result which is frustrating. This is a very competitive sector, which is good sometimes and bad at others! Makes for quite a pressured work environment. There’s positives and negatives to working with big yards – they can be variable to work with, some great and others less so (as vets in practice will know about as well of course).

Overall, this is a great role to broaden and develop your skill set which is increasingly important in the inevitable changes in work force requirements in the future. Whether this role will even be relevant?! But it has been a step in the right direction to develop further after leaving practice. I was certainly not expecting to use my clinical knowledge and skills to the extent I have and having left practice rather demoralised it has reminded me why I wanted to be a vet in the first place, which is quite a relief! I won’t be staying in this role for much longer for the reasons stated above (the driving mostly) but it has provided a good focus for what to do next and, importantly, some great opportunities and contacts for future roles.”


Getting a job in Australia… or two

Writing a travel blog is important. I recently sat down and read my diary from my trip to Thailand over three years ago and was warmed by the memories I thought I had forgotten. For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to travel. I love seeing new cultures, finding quirky bars and shops, meeting new people, sharing stories, making memories.

My training as a Veterinary Nurse has opened a lot of doors for me in terms of working whilst travelling and I’ve come to realise the saying ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’, rings very true! Australia is a country in which, being a UK qualified Veterinary Nurse means that getting a job should be easy!

I plan to do volunteer charity and wildlife work as I travel as well as paid work, in Australia and then Asia. This blog will act as an opportunity to document how nursing abroad has changed my view, and share my experiences with other Veterinary professionals. (And maybe even help people who are looking at taking on the same challenge! Feel free to comment or start a discussion – I’d love to hear about your ideas or experiences 🙂

I arrived in Melbourne, Australia on the 18th of March with a job prospect lined up at the University of Melbourne. Unfortunately, after realising how naive I had been with the distance of the city in comparison to my new place of work, I had to turn the job down, and search for one closer to the city centre. I now have a job at a non-for profit organisation, which I love.

(I need to thank a fellow UK nurse for helping me get this position – like I said, it’s who you know!) The clinic treats companion animals, as well as having a decent exotic caseload, and treating Australian wildlife.

The clinic itself is large – it has around 80 nurses, who work on a shift pattern as well as a roster system for covering extra shifts due to sickness etc. There are several wards, separate for dogs, cats and exotics, as well as a large treatment room, theatres etc. that you would expect to see in a vet clinic.

So far my experience has been similar to UK nursing. Many of the same drugs are used, with slightly different trade names, and the techniques are pretty similar. A good example of this is the common use of Pentosan in Australia – a drug I thought I had never seen used in the UK. After some research, I’ve realised the same drug is branded as Cartrophen in the UK!

‘Cartrophen Vet (100mg/mL of pentosan polysulfate sodium or PPS) is a treatment for osteoarthritis and related musculoskeletal disorders in dogs and horses. It provides pain relief by acting on the pathology within the joint that causes pain and lameness. It is… classified as a disease modifying osteoarthritis drug (DMOAD).’

It acts by stimulating cartilage production, improving the quantity and quality of synovial fluid, as well as increasing blood flow and therefore nutrition delivery to the joint. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties.  The nurses here run pentosan injection clinics; since the course of pentosan is generally 4 injections which are 5-7 days apart, the nurses tend to administer the middle two, whilst gaining a progress report on how they believe the medication is or isn’t affecting their dog.

This works well and feels like a good use of nurses time. I feel trusted to get a good client history, communicate with the client and report back to the vet if necessary,

I believe a positive note of this clinic is the use of nurses for triage. Everything that enters the practice on an A&E basis is first triaged by a Veterinary Nurse. This means that everything can then be given a status depending on how critical the case is and a TPR can be taken, to save the vet time during the consult. It also means that if simple things come through A&E, these things can be dealt with and sent home. A good example of this recently was a cat with an overgrown claw – this was cut, the hole in the pad cleaned with betadine, a consult vet grabbed to eyeball the case, before sending it on its way with betadine to clean it at home. A simple yet effective way of utilising nurses. I was surprised that this kind of trust was put in nurses here, as the Australian nursing qualification is less in depth in comparison to the UK qualification.

I (probably wrongly) assumed that less trust would be put in nurses. After talking to a few of my new colleagues however, I was informed that life as a Veterinary Nurse in a small private practice is very much as I was imagining. This is something I hope to investigate further as I travel Australia.

I hope working abroad is only going to widen my views and open my mind and I’m looking forward to it.

Until next time!

Travelling Vet Nurse