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An internship in private practice
  1. Silas Goldsworthy


Traditionally, internships were offered via veterinary schools, but increasingly, places are available at larger referral practices. Silas Goldsworthy, one of six interns at Davies Veterinary Specialists in Hertfordshire, discusses this career option

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HAVING qualified from Edinburgh in 2009, I spent the best part of a year in mixed practice in Scotland, where I enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time working outdoors, especially on warm summer days. However, I then took up an internship at Davies Veterinary Specialists (DVS), where there are 30 clinicians providing multispecialist care in the fields of anaesthesia, cardiology, diagnostic imaging, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedic surgery and soft tissue surgery.

After working with the surgeons on rotations during my final year at vet school, it had been my ambition to do an internship. I find the surgeries interesting and challenging, although I have not ruled out ultimately pursuing other specialities. This is something I will decide on nearer the end of my internship.

When I considered an internship, I was under the impression that it would involve attending a university. I was, therefore, quite surprised at the number of private referral centres offering internship programmes.

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One advantage of a private practice internship is the level of access it presents. There are no large groups of students, and interns have more scope to be directly involved. It also allows greater opportunities for one-to-one discussion with the clinicians.

Another advantage here at DVS is that the interns are scrubbed into the vast majority of surgical procedures as assistant surgeons, as opposed to being a ‘fly on the wall’. This doesn't, however, limit the opportunities to observe other surgeries.

Once a fortnight we have journal clubs, similar to those you would expect at the universities, as well as access to a variety of external CPD courses, many of which are presented by the clinicians here at the practice. The interns also have fortnightly lectures specifically for them. We are encouraged to undertake a project during our time here, which is supervised by the clinicians.

From my experience, the quality of case care and knowledge of the staff at a private referral centre is as good as you would find in a university environment. The facilities we have available to us are extremely impressive. They include on-site computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, intraoperative fluoroscopy and five fully equipped operating theatres.

Finding a place

There are a growing number of referral centres that offer internship positions. Some of these centres are truly multidisciplinary, while others focus on a smaller number of specialities.

As well as private practice internships, there are also more traditional university-based programmes. As not all internships are advertised, it is worth asking around as to what might be available, or getting in touch with suitable practices.

Caring for a West Highland white terrier following an endoscopic procedure

Stepping stone

An internship can be viewed in a couple of ways. The majority of people undertaking one will plan to use it as a stepping stone to a career in referral veterinary practice, with the next stage being to secure a residency. For others, it is a chance to continue learning and developing skills with access to the knowledge and skills of highly trained and experienced vets. I am told that three-quarters of DVS interns who aim to go on to do a residency achieve their ambition.

Typical rota

A standard working day starts at 8.00 am and finishes at 5.30 pm, five days a week. At DVS we rotate through a six-week block, doing two weeks of orthopaedics, a week of medicine, a week of soft tissue surgery and a week spent on a mixture of the services of our choice or where we are needed. We also do a week of nights.

A typical working day on a surgical week would begin with preparing for the first surgery of the day – anaesthetising the patient and then scrubbing in on the surgery. Throughout the rest of the day we are normally scrubbed in with the same specialist surgeon and working alongside them through their surgical list.

On a non-surgical week, our role is to be involved with the medical clinicians, ophthalmologists, neurologists and anaesthetists to ensure the day's procedure list is kept on schedule. This can often be a good chance to see consultations and follow cases, assisting the clinicians as required.

Looking ahead

I am enjoying my internship and would recommend it. My future ambition is to secure a surgical residency, with my main area of interest currently being soft tissue surgery.

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