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Making the transition from vet student to a vet

Qualified Vet

Rory Cowlam MRCVS Jobseekers, General

Congratulations! You’re a vet.

(How good does that sound?)

Looks like all that hard work paid off. You’ve done it. Years of stress, never ending revision and too many exams to count have finally got you to this point…

But what’s next?

When I came out of vet school, everyone said to me that your first job can “make or break” you. Now, a year down the line, I only half believe that. I have definitely been lucky with my job, but I like to think that you can have a big influence on your own success as a young vet.

One of my favourite things about our profession is how closely we work with nurses, receptionist, technicians and a whole host of other people on a day-to-day basis. I am lucky enough to spend my days with some of my favourite people, however, this can oh so easily go the other way. If you’re going to take one thing from reading this, please let it be:

Help your colleagues out and they will help you (generally).

If your colleagues like you and respect you for pulling your weight around the practice, then they are much more likely to help you when you have that case that you have no clue about. Trust me. I don’t even mean seeing more consults or doing more ops. Just be there to lend a hand, be proactive, tidy up after yourself (if any of the nurses I work with are reading this they’re definitely laughing). Even sometimes something as simple as making a cup of tea!

Hopefully, your fellow vets and nurses are as nice as mine. Never be afraid to ask for help, and definitely don’t think you know more than the nurses… you never will.

Okay, so colleagues are half the battle… now for the clients!

Dun, dun, duunnnn

That first consult is scary. I still remember mine:
The awkward introduction, “Hi I’m Rory, I’m the vet”… It takes a while for that to sound right in your head.

If you’re lucky, it will be a booster or a general health check with a lovely smiley client.
If you’re not so lucky it will be the client that no-one else will see after she kicked off in reception last month and her dog has eaten a corn-on-the-cob and not stopped being sick for a week.

Let’s hope it’s the first one.

I think the only advice I can give you here is just to be yourself. Unless you get a genuinely nasty client (and I’m not denying that it happens), most people respond well to a friendly greeting and a willingness to help. Now I know that sometimes that is going to be the last thing you want to do, but come on, it’s your job.

No matter how hard your day has been, put your best smile on and pretend you’re boss is watching.

If you do get that client that thinks you can do nothing right, take a deep breath, it’s honestly not you. Father Christmas could have been the vet in that consult room and the client would still be complaining, don’t take it personally.

You’re going to have all sorts thrown at you in the first year of veterinary, but embrace it.

Try and be the person you would like to see on the other side of the consult table if you were taking your pet in. If you’re in the same position as me, you will have your own vet at home as a role model.
Now I know it seems scary, but you have worked so hard to get here. What is the point in putting so much effort in to get to a place you are too stressed and worried about to enjoy?

So promise me one thing.

Once a week, on your way to work, just take 2 minutes and think how long you’ve wanted to be where you are right now. No matter what is waiting for you at the surgery and no matter what happened last week… you’re a vet, and that is seriously cool.

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