A Career in the Veterinary World

Nurses in a row

‘Being a vet is a life style, not a job.’  Elizabeth-Ann King, Branch Partner, Medivet Canvey Island

We’re often asked what it’s like to work in veterinary practice. The truth is that, just like any job, it has its positives and negatives.

Life in modern veterinary practice is a long way from the idyllic country vision of working with animals many people still have.

The reality of daily work with animals is lots of effort and lots of mess. You’ll need plenty of energy and a strong stomach, as well as the tolerance to put up with the odd scratch from an unimpressed cat!

You also have to consider the emotional toll of being around death and how upsetting it may be if you have to deal with upset owners or animal cruelty.

However it can be hugely rewarding and fascinating for those who are dedicated to helping animals and love the feeling of doing some good over the course of a day. I think the majority of our staff would agree that there’s no greater feeling than nursing an animal back to health and sending them home to their delighted owners with a spring in their step.

But what does it entail working in practice? And how do you get there? Here’s a handy guide, along with some input from those in the know…

Veterinary Surgeons:

‘The best vets combine a depth of knowledge, surgical aptitude, and problem-solving abilities with excellent communication skills. Explaining complicated medical topics well enough to allow the owner to make an informed decision is not always easy, but it’s what we’ll always aim to do.
My favourite part of vetting will always be the “baby animal” consults. It’s a unique opportunity to discuss the current recommendations in preventative medicine (a lot might have changed since your last pet was young), and to give pets a really positive experience at the vets, allowing them to keep visiting in a stress-free way as they grow up. Mostly, though, I get to cuddle baby animals.
In the long run, the best part of being a vet is that you never stop learning. Every day can present new challenges, and the CPD* requirements mean that every year I have to work to better myself. This means my patients will always receive the excellent care they deserve, from the best vet I can be.’ 

Marianne Thomas, Head Veterinary Surgeon, Eynsham

What you’ll do:

Being a vet is often like being a great detective – your patients can’t necessarily tell you what’s wrong so it’s down to you to find the source of the problem. This can involve a multitude of investigative and diagnostic means, before devising a treatment plan for that case.

Vets are also dedicated to stopping problems developing – you’ll find that the bulk of your days will be spent on preventative healthcare such as administering vaccinations and performing neutering.

Surgery will be a key element of your work so it’s important that you are comfortable with delicate procedures which require dexterity.

Days are long and busy, and can involve a huge selection of problems and pets – from fielding queries about why someone’s cat might be pooing in an unusual place to dealing with a dog involved in a road traffic accident. You’ll also be in charge of managing a dedicated support team and making sure that your practice runs smoothly.

Because of the depth and breadth of knowledge needed to work as a vet, you may identify a specialism you wish to focus on alongside your more general work. This will allow you to achieve a greater depth of knowledge in a particular facet of veterinary work that interests you, and also become a ‘guru’ for other vets to refer to.

How to get into it:

To achieve a place on a course to study to become a vet you’ll need top grades as there is huge competition and a limited number of places to study. Most institutions will also want to see evidence of extra experience – have you completed work experience at a vets, volunteered at an animal rescue centre or helped out during a lambing season at your local farm?

This experience will also get you used to handling and being around animals all day before you embark on years of study.

What you’ll need:

  • Academic aptitude
  • An analytical mind and problem solving ability
  • Energy and dedication
  • Communication skills – can you explain complicated scientific concepts to an owner and help them understand their options?
  • Compassion

Veterinary nursing:

‘Being a head nurse within the veterinary field is the most rewarding job in the world. Leading a great team of staff and working so closely together to give our patients the highest standard of care is the most important part of the job. I love being able to provide our clients with excellent levels of customer services and ensure peace of mind that their pet is going to be treated and loved as one of our own. I couldn’t imagine being in any other job.’  Katie Shine, HVN, Greenwich

‘I have recently joined Medivet as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA).  I had worried that I would find it difficult to study, given that it has been over a decade since I completed my degree, but Medivet offer a lot of support to all students.  This is a great place to work and train and I am looking forward to completing my PCA training and enrolling as a Student Veterinary Nurse’.

Aryldi Moss-Burke, Patient Care Assistant, London

What you’ll do:

Working as a nurse involves a great deal of variation. You might go from monitoring an anaesthetic to running a puppy clinic, to filling out insurance claims, to cleaning the consult room to…well, you get the picture. No day will be the same, although most practices will have task lists to complete each day. Primarily, you’ll be dedicated to supporting your vets and their cases, as well as helping to make things run smoothly.

Once you’re an experienced or head nurse, you may also be asked to help train junior nurses or explore your own projects, in addition to your normal duties.

How to get into it:

There are two routes to becoming a qualified veterinary nurse – through a degree or through vocational training. If you’re eager to get ‘hands on’ then vocational training is probably the best way to go. A degree qualification will also involve placements in practice, but these will normally be in blocks. Training and qualifying takes 3 years.

At Medivet we employ people as Patient Care Assistants before they start their training. This means that you get ample chance to decide whether this is the career for you before starting training, whilst picking up the basics about life in practice.

The RCVS asks for students studying on a veterinary nursing qualification to have a minimum of a C grade at GCSE in English language, Maths and a Science. However, there are some alternative routes in – check the RCVS website for more information.

You’ll need to be:

  •     Patient
  •     Calm under pressure
  •     Confident and assertive dealing with people
  •     Flexible
  •     Ideally have some experience with animals

Veterinary Receptionists:

‘After 17 years of being a vet receptionist (CCA), I really can’t imagine doing anything else.  What do I like best about my job?  Of course, it’s lovely making a fuss of kittens and puppies – as well as the older animals, but my answer to that question would have to be the people.  I get great job satisfaction from supporting the clients – it’s not just talking to them when they are stressed or upset in a crisis, but also chatting and getting to know them when they come in for routine appointments.  Building up the relationship is very important so that in times of stress clients feel they can trust you, and the clients in turn really appreciate this.  Lastly, there are some real characters – and it’s great to share a laugh with these clients.’ 

Julie Brown, Client Care Assistant, Faringdon

What you’ll do:

Veterinary receptionists (or client care assistants as we call them at Medivet) are the vital first point of contact for our clients.  You’ll spend the majority of your time answering the phone, helping clients and dealing with queries.

Whether you’re calmly dealing with an emergency, soothing the nerves of somebody bringing in their pet for a first operation or helping a client find the correct food, you’ll need to be engaging, warm and knowledgeable. You’ll also need to be able to cope with the odd mess and being welcomed with enthusiastic dog kisses!

How to get into it:

There are no specific requirements, although you may need to show evidence of prior work with customers, and previous experience with animals is always a benefit.

You can also now study for a certificate in being a veterinary receptionist if you decide to pursue a long term career in it.

You’ll need to have:

  •     Friendly personality
  •     Good phone manner
  •     Organisational skills
  •     Confident dealing with transactions
  •     Calm under pressure

Other jobs:

Those who want to work with animals but do not want to train as a vet or a nurse might consider an alternative path, such as being a kennel or cattery assistant.

If you’d like to work in the veterinary industry, but not don’t necessarily want to work with animals, then why not consider a support vacancy? Companies like ours often have vacancies at their support centres, where you can use your skillset to find your perfect job.

Want to be part of our team? Visit www.medivet.co.uk to check out our current vacancies and find your dream job in the veterinary world.

For more comprehensive information about becoming a vet or nurse, please visit http://www.rcvs.org.uk/education/

*Veterinary surgeons and nurses must complete a number of hours of continuing professional development, which is further study beyond their initial training.

Posted March 9, 2015 in Vet Professionals

Share this post: