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Helping to make joining the profession a positive experience for young vets

Abstract

Hearing about the variable support given to new graduates led vet Lizzie Bewsey-Dyke to set up a service to help ease the transition to a career in independent practice.

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I’D often thought about becoming a teacher because I liked the idea of helping people to be the best they could be. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I set up Grads to Vets – a support service for newly qualified vets in independent practice.

Grads to Vets aims to make joining our profession a positive experience, helping equip new graduates with the necessary support and skills to let them thrive.

Apart from being the managing director of Grads to Vets, I’m a first-opinion clinical vet. On a typical day I work as a vet, with the usual consults and ops, and a one-night-in-four on-call rota. Then I spend a few hours each evening replying to e-mails, updating the website and Facebook and processing new applications.

And I dedicate a day a week to visiting vet schools and talking to students, meeting sponsors or talking to interested practices.

I’m also learning about how to run a small business; for example, getting to grips with accountancy software, branding, insurance, GDPR legislation … the list goes on. I’ve benefited from lots of advice to help me navigate these necessities.

On a personal level, as a vet, I want to grow my own skills and knowledge as a general practitioner, through building a career that allows me to get satisfaction from work, while also allowing me time to spend with my family.

I hope to remain, at least to some degree, a practising vet for the rest of my career. But that wasn’t always how I felt.

At university I became convinced that I wasn’t going to enjoy being a vet. There was a lot of talk about stress and disillusionment in the profession and I started to wonder if it was the right career for me. I spent my final years at vet school attending non-veterinary careers events and was close to applying for Teach First or a management consultancy graduate scheme.

What is Grads to Vets?

It’s a new graduate scheme for independent practices, offering new graduates a comprehensive 12-month support and CPD package.

It aims to give new graduates the skills and support they need to thrive in their first year in practice in the hope it will lead to a long-term increase in job satisfaction.

What does the scheme involve?

The scheme has four key components aimed at tackling the common problems – isolation, lack of directed learning, career progression and lack of support. Each young vet on the scheme gets:

  • A pastoral mentor (a recent graduate, working in practice) who can provide down-to-earth advice and support from a standpoint of recent experience.

  • A clinical coach – another vet within their practice who has received extra training in coaching skills.

  • A comprehensive CPD programme that involves three full attendance days of CPD on emergency and critical care; consulting and communication skills; and the RCVS professional development phase. Each graduate can also choose an online CPD course on a topic of their choice through CPD Solutions.

  • Regular CPD evening meet-ups for graduates on the scheme working in the same region, providing a ready-made local support and social group.

How is it funded?

Each practice pays an enrolment fee for their new graduate. Usually, this is instead of providing them with a CPD allowance in their first year’s salary package (the scheme provides approximately 40 hours of CPD in addition to the 35 hours that graduates can log from completing their PDP). The scheme is supported by organisations that provide CPD and support for a fraction of the usual cost.

Who can apply?

Final-year vet students can apply directly by sending a CV and covering letter to: lizzie{at}gradstovets.com. Graduates who have already been offered a job with an independent practice can ask the practice to contact us for more information about enrolling on the scheme. I’d also be happy to hear from forward-thinking independent practices that are considering employing a new graduate this summer.

I’m sure that my director of studies, although he was always very patient, thought I was a lost cause. My parents persuaded me to try working in practice after graduating before choosing whether to pursue a different career. I’m so glad they did.

When I graduated from Cambridge in 2014, I could see the benefits of joining a corporate group’s graduate scheme, but I knew I wanted to work in an independent practice.

I found a job where I was well supported. I loved the atmosphere and working in practice. Although I was happy, I struggled to meet people that I could make friends with. This is something we cater for in the graduate scheme.

Some of my friends were less fortunate than me, starting in jobs where there was a lack of support and no directed learning. They quickly became demoralised and disillusioned.

Hearing about their experiences led me to set up the graduate scheme. I’m excited about how it’s developing and I’m really enjoying working as a vet too; after all, it was my initial motivation.

Almost everything about starting Grads to Vets has been positive, but the three best bits have been meeting so many supportive people within the veterinary sector, receiving applications from final-year vet students who are genuinely excited about the scheme, and learning the new skills around setting up the business.

Maintaining a work-life balance has been more of a challenge. My husband (also a vet) is extremely understanding and supportive. His tolerance knows no bounds – I’ve been known to glare at him over the top of my laptop if he plays music too loudly in the evenings and then insist he listens to my excited ramblings about some new aspect of the scheme, all while neglecting to do my share of the washing up!

I couldn’t have got to this point without his support.

Work-life balance is not something I’ve struggled with before, as I generally prioritise family life. I hope to regain the balance soon. One thing I’ve not given up is walking the dog. Escaping from work and getting some fresh air always lifts my mood.

My advice to current vet students would be to choose your first job carefully

My advice to current vet students would be to choose your first job carefully based on where you feel comfortable at interview. Try to speak to other assistants and nurses and spend at least a morning at the practice if you can.

Seminar

A seminar entitled ‘Tourism and Animal Welfare: A 21st century dilemma for veterinarians, animal welfare organisations, tourists and the tourism industry’, organised by CABI and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), is being held on Wednesday, 13 June, at the South Bank University, London. It will discuss the link between tourism and animals, whether in zoos, marine parks, or on safari.

Although tourists encounter animals in many different situations and may benefit wildlife by funding wildlife animal conservation, or providing vital income for local communities, the exploitation of animals in animal entertainment can be a cruel and degrading experience for intelligent sentient creatures.

Experts from the tourism and veterinary worlds will examine the science, economics and welfare issues involved in the use of animals in tourism, and discuss how animal welfare in tourist settings can be improved. The seminar comprises presentations from recognised experts and a panel discussion chaired by Maria Diez-Leon from the RVC. It will be followed by a reception. Tickets can be booked at: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tourism-and-animal-welfare-symposium-tickets-42566164544

Course

Scotland’s Rural College has launched a new course this is a comprehensive introduction to genomics. Vetnomics is available online or as a two-day residential course, and aims to provide vets with the knowledge they need to help farmers optimise their livestock breeding decisions. The course lays the biological foundations for genetics, guiding participants through the evolution of available technologies, and emphasises the use of genomics in practice. This will include its application in disease as well as in the main livestock species. The course is also suitable for farmers, genomics service providers and those employed by feed and breeding companies. More information at www.sruc.ac.uk/vetnomics

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