The International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium is one of the biggest events in the veterinary calendar. This year IVECCS is taking place in Nashville — home of country music — and the theme is “fluid therapy in emergency and critical care”.
Vets and vet nurses who join Vets Now receive VECCS membership as part of their benefits package and scores of staff are in attendance. Among them is Belfast senior vet Natasha Melbourne. Here is Natasha’s IVECCS diary.
Sunday, 10 September
So this is Nashville, Tennessee, home of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. Today our focus is on travelling, finding our hotel, keeping our phones charged long enough to ensure Google maps is always open and not dying (as Americans appear to drive on the wrong side of the road). Our other big challenge is to find some food that is more fresh than fried. Easier said than done.
Monday, 11 September
IVECCS is due to start in a few days, and we're all stricken with jet lag. But we try to make the most of being wide awake at 3 am by getting in some early morning sight seeing. We head for Kentucky, about 30 minutes north of Nashville. On the way, my IVECCS partner in crime asks if we can make an impromptu stop at Kentucky Downs race course. The reason for this is she wants to have a sticky beak at the turf track. Yes...we stop to see how the grass grows. As a result, I learn more about rye grass vs fescue tracks, drainage and divot prevention than I ever thought I needed to know. Actually, I still don't 'need' to know but every day is a learning day. Right?
Continuing north, we eventually reach Mammoth Cave National Park where we spend two hours walking two miles underground in what’s described as the world's longest cave. Given the drizzly, wet, positively Irish weather that prevails, underground is the place to be. Afterwards, we agree to head back to Nashville for some food, beers and live music.
Read more: Aoife tells how Cutting Edge programme provides perfect launchpad for career
Tuesday, 12 September
It’s the last day before the conference so still a little more time to holiday. First up is a loud, orange blast from the past that takes me straight back to my childhood. We’re visiting Cooter's Dukes of Hazzard museum. It features a replica of The General Lee, Cooter's tow truck, Daisy Duke and every other piece of 1970s Dukes of Hazzard paraphernalia you could imagine. Be still, my beating heart.
Our next stop is Nashville city centre. Thankfully, we avoid the worst of the rain (thanks Irma). We take a stroll along Broadway, soaking in an atmosphere that reverberates to the soundtrack of live country music and honky tonk. It would be rude to not partake and enjoy the hospitality on offer...so we do. In the afternoon we head for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It gives me some tips on what I might need to do to get inducted (besides having some musical talent). Seems driving a blinged out Cadillac, wearing a white Resistol hat along with your body weight in sequins are all prerequisites. The day ends with food, beers and live music. Can you see a pattern forming?
Read more: Breaking through the glass ceiling: Vets Now leads the way for gender equality
Wednesday, 13 September
It’s finally arrived. The first day of IVECCS. We turn up bright and early to soak up the atmosphere. As a reasonably new senior vet, I know I’ve a lot to learn, so attending the four-hour session on leadership by Charlotte Lacroix is a no brainer. It’s great to see the lecture theatre so busy, and Vets Now represented so well. One of our district vets Lara Wilson is a moderator and Aoife O'Sullivan, Kate Pickering and Gemma Nelson are also present. The lecture has given me so much inspiration so beware my Belfast colleagues! In the afternoon I attend a talk on leadership development.
The evening is a reunion of sorts — the international attendee reception. It’s sponsored by the fantastic Woodley, and the food, beers and live music are flowing. It’s great to catch up with so many friends and colleagues from both the UK and my home country of Australia. It really does feel like a big family reunion. I particularly enjoy hanging out with Ava Firth, Wendy Busby, Chris Gray and Glen McIntosh, who have all left the Vets Now fold but not our hearts (take a moment to choke on the emotion). After some more food, beer and live music, I retire to bed. The jet lag is lingering, and I’m conscious tomorrow will bring another full day of learning and gaining inspiration.
The second instalment in Natasha's IVECCS diary will be posted soon. Keep an eye on our blog for the latest updates. Would you like to be part of Natasha's team? Visit our vacancies page to find out your options.