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Vets at the cutting edge
  1. Aoife O'Sullivan

Abstract

Vets Now's Cutting Edge induction programme is a launch pad for vets seeking a career in emergency and critical care medicine. The course leader is Aoife O'Sullivan

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I HAD been a practising vet for eight years and working in emergency practice for three when I joined pet emergency business Vets Now. Until then, I'd been reluctant to work in a corporate environment because I wasn't sure if it would be the right fit for me, even though I'd heard great things about the company's learning culture. Joining on a temporary contract gave me the opportunity to find out if what I'd heard was true. It was.

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I quickly realised that working in a large organisation resonated with me. I particularly liked the transparency, consistency and organisation, the guidelines and the hi-tech equipment that was available. Eight years on, I have gone from veterinary surgeon to senior vet to head of the Cutting Edge programme. The ‘Edge’ is our equivalent of a graduate trainee scheme. It is for vets who are keen to work in emergency and critical care (ECC), but who want to build up their skills and confidence before taking sole charge.

What is the Cutting Edge programme?

Cutting Edge prepares vets to work in emergency care. It is aimed at recent graduates who want to work in emergency practice, but who don't feel that they have the skills and experience to jump straight into a sole-charge role.

It incorporates lectures along with practical and experiential learning and mentored work in Vets Now clinics.

Who's it for?

▪ Vets with some experience of practice and who have mastered basic surgery.

▪ Vets with strong caring and responsibility values who are keen to help others and progress.

▪ Vets who are motivated to learn and share what they've learned.

What's the package?

▪ A starting salary of £35,000, plus a regional allowance where applicable.

▪ After 12 months, financial support to undertake a certificate in emergency and critical care (ECC), 100 hours of CPD study per annum, and a bonus of £2500 on successful completion.

▪ Lectures, practical and experiential learning and mentored work in ECC clinics.

Vets who are thinking about applying for a place on one of our programmes must have a passion for ECC work and enjoy the pressure of teamwork in an emergency room environment. They also need to be empathetic communicators, as emergency situations are often a time of great stress for pet owners. In addition, they need to be receptive to change and happy to adopt innovation as we are always looking for new ideas and better ways of doing things.

There's also a lot of satisfaction to be gained from managing emergency cases, both medically and surgically. It's sometimes difficult to get this in daytime practice as cases typically present at night time and weekends. While we can't change this, we can assure vets that no shift will ever be the same and there's no such thing as a routine.

Selection process and induction

Those who meet the initial criteria are interviewed via Skype and, if that goes well, they're invited to a clinic to meet the staff.

If selected, they spend their first three weeks at Vets Now's support office in Scotland covering the fundamentals of emergency practice, with some practical work. After that, they go to an out-of-hours clinic where they work alongside experienced emergency clinicians for a month. They then return to Scotland for a further three weeks to solidify their knowledge and learn from the cases they've treated.

One of the highlights of the programme is the practical surgery weekend in Swindon where the vets get to perform the typical abdominal and medical procedures they're likely to see in the clinics. This is designed to build their confidence.

Once the 10-week induction is over, the graduates return to their clinics to embark on the next stage of their careers. In their first year, they will work closely with their principal vet. They will also have lots of CPD opportunities, including a free 12-week online course called ‘the emergency patient’, which all new staff can sign up to.

As for the main challenges, some vets express concern about having to make significant decisions by themselves, but they quickly discover there are procedures in place to ensure they can access advice, no matter what time of day or night.

Career success

I have helped train, mentor and inspire almost 80 vets to become highly skilled ECC veterinary professionals. Some of them have gone on to successful careers elsewhere in the profession, while others now lead and manage one of Vets Now's 53 out-of-hours clinics.

Every candidate is different and every vet has a different background with different strengths. It's imperative that everyone gets to develop at the speed that's right for them. In one group there may be highfliers who need a challenge and others who require a bit of additional support from time to time.

Other programmes

Vets Now also runs two other Edge programmes. ‘Refresh your Edge’ is for more experienced vets who already possess a substantial level of knowledge, but feel they'd benefit from extra training and support before taking a job in an emergency setting.

‘Nursing Edge’ is for vet nurses who want to do emergency work but want some extra training first.

Further information can be found at www.vets-now.com/jobs

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