Parliamentary veterinary intern Anthony Ridge considers his options once his internship ends.
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The New Year has begun and my second year as parliamentary veterinary intern is now well under way. In September this year my internship will finish and, while I plan to make the most of the nine months that remain, I have begun to think in earnest about my future plans.
So what next? By far the easiest step would be to return to clinical practice. There is certainly no shortage of work available and it could offer me the chance to have a well-respected full-time job, further improve my clinical skills and make a meaningful difference to the health and welfare of animals. But something would be missing. I was driven to become a vet not because of a particular longing for medicine or surgery, but more generally due to a desire to live in a world that appreciates the importance of animals and one where the relationships between people and animals are mutually beneficial. While these aims are certainly achievable in practice, I feel that a clinical path is unlikely to yield the types of opportunities I am looking for and I find myself increasingly drawn towards the world of policy.
Policy is an area that, until this past year, I knew little about. It is essentially the art of deciding the best course of action under a given set of circumstances, but while this can be simple at an individual level, applying it to a diverse group is a significant challenge. In government, policymaking is often designed to promote public goods.
The promotion of animal health and welfare is one such public good and this is a task for which veterinarians are substantially and uniquely qualified. We can offer not only our detailed understanding of the factors influencing animal health and welfare but also our rigorous, evidence-based approach to decision making. With so many differing opinions among vets, let alone in society as a whole, conflicts inevitably arise, making the process of policymaking at a national level both complex and time consuming, but, for me, the prize makes this worthwhile. A good policy decision can have a lasting positive influence on the lives of vast numbers of people and animals and the opportunity to play a part in this process is something that I find immensely appealing.
What opportunities are there for vets who are interested in policy? Policy is not in itself a veterinary specialty and, as such, policy positions are rarely advertised in the veterinary press but options are available for those who are willing to look for them.
Within the civil service, veterinarians are employed to provide advice for policymakers and there are options to apply for civil service positions both via the civil service jobs website and through the civil service fast stream. There are also opportunities in the private sector, working for professional bodies, charities and industry. Regardless of the sector, those I have met over the course of the past year have advised me that a period in clinical practice is greatly respected and, as I look at options for my future career, I am comforted by this fact. I don't know yet what my next step will be but I remain optimistic that my veterinary training and experience so far will stand me in good stead as I explore my options for the future.⇓
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