Jenna Hill qualified from the University of Bristol in 2013, having graduated from an intercalated degree in 2011. In her first job in practice, she has followed CVS's two-year new graduate programme; here, she explains what it involves and how it has helped her
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I HAVE wanted to work with animals for as long as I can remember. I have a real affinity for them and for the natural world generally. With the added impetus of watching veterinary television programmes and reading James Herriot, it is no surprise that veterinary medicine became my career of choice.
As we entered our final year of vet school, the university helped us prepare for finding a job by holding talks from potential employers and interview workshops. One of the talks was an optional evening talk from CVS about its new graduate programme. I was interested in going into small animal work so I attended and I soon realised that joining a programme like this could help ease me into my veterinary career. The programme seemed to offer good support and CPD opportunities in a variety of practices. The aspect that most appealed to me though was being part of a new graduate ‘community’ – I was only too aware that it wouldn't be long until I had to leave my vet student friends behind, along with the support they provided.
I applied directly to CVS's Studley Road Veterinary Surgery in Luton as I wanted to have access to London without living in the city. I was fortunate that the practice had a vacancy at the time and I was enrolled onto the new graduate programme in September 2013. At that time I was one of about 50 new graduates, although the numbers are increasing every year.
At the core of the programme is a series of CPD days consisting of seminars and practicals. Training is geared specifically towards new graduates and only those on the programme attend. This makes it easier to ask ‘stupid’ questions that you might not want to ask with more senior vets present. It also ensures that the topics covered are relevant, with many sessions including a recap of things that perhaps you feel you ought to know. Some of the courses last for two days, providing opportunities in breaks and during the evening to chat with colleagues who are in the same position. In my experience, this is the best way to relieve stress, to learn from others and to remind yourself that you are definitely not alone!
My first year in practice was tough. It is such a steep learning curve – and it didn't get much easier in the second year. Fees, time, responsibility and clients are almost completely new pressures that you don't really have to think about when you are training. With the right support though, you do get through it and can feel really proud when you diagnose an interesting case or cope on your own with something that you never thought you could when you started out. With the right team, support and a good work-life balance you can deal with anything. Two years on, highlights of my working day come in so many different forms, from having a day where the team has worked really well together, to signing off long-term patients that have made a full recovery. Grateful owners always make the job worthwhile. The toughest moments are when there seems to be an endless list of things to do and limited time to get them done; but with my team's help, we always do.
The CVS new graduate programme has supported my transition into the workplace and my learning in practice with CPD that was relevant and aimed at the right level. It also gave me regular opportunities to take time away from the practice and to catch up with others who were also starting out on their career. This extra layer of support has been invaluable. Accessing CPD that is company-organised and funded is also a benefit in that you don't have to look for it all yourself and sort it out. This is something I have found really helpful as I had quite enough on my plate when I started work, without thinking about organising and funding CPD. Perhaps a down side for some could be that they couldn't choose their own CPD if they had a specific interest. This hasn't been an issue for me, however, as I have been able to do additional CPD. Attendance at the London Vet Show or BSAVA congress is included as part of the programme and at these events you can attend the lectures you want to.
Having now completed the second year of the new graduate programme I am keen to start the certificate in advanced veterinary practice because I want to continue learning and developing. I am ambitious and feel encouraged in this goal, and I plan to join the certificate programme shortly.
My message to fourth and fifth year students is to start thinking about what will be important to you when you start out in practice, and to do your best to ensure your first job can deliver it. The best way to do this is to attend all the careers talks your vet school sets up and take a detailed look at the different options and the pros and cons of each. A good support network is something I would strongly recommend you look out for.
And, once you actually start work, remember that if you're feeling worried or stressed, you must talk to someone. It can be your boss, your colleagues or friends and family. You'll be surprised at how much it will help and how willing people are to make changes to support you. We've all been there and you are really never alone.