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Equipping veterinary graduates with the skills for partnership
  1. Colin Moffatt


Companion Care's graduate programme aims to develop the business and clinical skills of vets, equipping them to become future partners, explains the group's training and development manager, Colin Moffatt

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COMPANION Care Vets launched its graduate development programme last year. Seven graduates have joined the scheme: five from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh, one from the Royal Veterinary College, London, and one who studied at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Each candidate was put through a rigorous recruitment process which was devised by the group's human resources team, and has been placed at one of Companion Care's established and modern surgeries. They work as part of a small, dedicated team providing a personal and professional service to patients and clients in local communities. Their placement will equip them with an understanding of the entire business, from clinical to personal aspects, commercial to management.

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Jane Balmain, the managing director of Companion Care Vets, explains: ‘This programme is about finding and developing people who will become the future partners of our business – graduates who are passionate about providing the best level of pet healthcare and customer service. Our new graduates are working alongside experienced veterinary professionals and are offered the opportunity to put into practice the theory learned at university.

‘A big part of the scheme is to help graduates obtain and develop a rounded view of the business by exposing them to different experiences and day-to-day work activities that are designed to enhance their skills and develop personal attributes.’

Learning and development

The programme will help the graduates to develop their veterinary, personal, commercial and management skills in a structured yet flexible way to meet their individual needs. The placement will last for three years, and each graduate will be closely mentored throughout that period.

All the graduates are placed in a practice from day 1 to build up their clinical experience. Their clinical learning follows the framework developed by the RCVS as part of the Professional Development Phase. Coaching and support are provided by an experienced veterinary surgeon.

Business support is provided through secondment to the group's support services departments, as well as through theoretical learning in the form of classroom-based management training courses. Every graduate is assigned a dedicated management mentor. The extensive training includes:

▪ Resourcing;

▪ Performance management;

▪ Coaching and mentoring;

▪ Regular assessment and reviews;

▪ Extensive, structured clinical CPD aligned with Companion Care competencies.

After the programme

Once the graduates have completed the three-year programme, they will have the opportunity to take on a permanent full- or part-time position. There is also potential to open and manage their own practice, with full clinical freedom and the added benefit of the support of expert teams in human resources, information technology, finance, marketing, practice resources and operations. These practice opportunities are available inside Pets at Home stores or on a standalone basis.

‘Being a vet affords enormous opportunities to build a successful business that provides satisfaction, financial reward and work-life balance. Our graduates will be given every opportunity to blossom as an integral part of our team,’ Jane Balmain says.

▪ More information about the Companion Care Vets Graduate Development Programme can be obtained by e-mailing: graduates{at}

Graduate profile

Katie Denholm is a graduate of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. She began her placement with Companion Care Vets in Chelmsford in September 2011.

Katie wanted to be a vet ever since she was a child, and says she is thrilled to be working in a small animal practice. Her primary interest is in rabbit and exotic animal medicine and her placement within the surgery, which is located within a Pets at Home store, has already given her the opportunity to work with some of the exotics that are for sale within this environment.

Thinking back to the interview process, Katie says, ‘My interview was the day after I received my final results so it was something of a whirlwind week! I had seen the programme advertised at university and, although I hadn't previously considered working with a corporate, the variety and focus of the programme appealed to me, so I applied.

‘I was lucky enough to get through to the interview stage, and when I met with the team from Companion Care and heard more about the company and the opportunities available to me I was very interested … and so was thrilled to be offered a position.

‘I started work with vet Simone Dent and her team in Chelmsford in September 2011, and I see a variety of animals each day – both from client consults and from animals within the Pets at Home store; I have got to work with rabbits and exotics already, which has been great.

‘A typical day is busy and varied. From a puppy or kitten consult to carrying out neutering and routine procedures and shadowing Simone on more complex cases and surgeries.’

‘The team of nurses and support staff is small and everyone knows each other well – working as part of a team like this is a great way to learn about the day-to-day running of a practice and I am enjoying this part of my job as well as the clinical side.

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‘As for my future ambitions, I am looking forward to getting involved with more complex cases as my time here progresses and to working more with my specific interest – exotic animal medicine.’

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