Cutting Edge Reunion: Does the programme equip vets for life in ECC?

At the Cutting Edge: How well does ECC programme equip vets for life in emergency and critical care?

  • Cutting Edge
  • Working out of hours

Ten months after beginning their Cutting Edge journeys, our January intake of vets are now firmly established members of their clinical teams.

This month, they returned to the Vets Now support office in Dunfermline, Fife, to catch up with their peers, share their insights and experiences, and discuss some of the more challenging cases they’ve worked on.

We asked three of the team — Angie Karafokas (AK), currently working in our Ilford clinic, Fran Blake (FB), who is in Bournemouth, and Sarah Fiallos (SF), from Sutton — how well the Cutting Edge programme had prepared them for life as emergency and critical care vets.

How have you found working in emergency and critical care?

FB: I’ve really enjoyed it. Working in ECC has taken some getting used to as it’s quite different from first opinion practice, but in a good way. It’s been more interesting, and challenging, than I thought it would be.

SF: Yes, it’s been good so far. Although working night shifts can be a challenge, I’ve really enjoyed working in ECC.

AK: I’d echo all of that. Yes, there are challenges to overcome, and switching to night shifts has had an impact on my circadian rhythm, but it’s been a really positive experience overall.

How well do you think Cutting Edge prepared you for working in ECC?

SF: I found the programme really comprehensive. It not only taught us vital clinical knowledge, but also about health and wellbeing and what to expect in the first couple of months of working nights.

AK: The course prepared us well for ECC from a clinical perspective. Working out of hours, you have to delegate more than you may have done in daytime roles and shift management can be a challenge. As far as health and wellbeing is concerned, you really have to come up with your own way of dealing with night shifts. There’s not a blanket approach that works for everyone. But the tips we were given during Cutting Edge have certainly helped.

FB: It certainly prepared us with everything we needed to deal with ECC cases. There are differences between working in ECC and a first opinion practice. For example, shifts are structured differently and the working environment is slightly different.Image of Cutting Edge vets outside the support office during the reunion

Read more: Cutting Edge recruit Anna shares her journey from farm girl to ECC vet

What’s the most important thing you learned during Cutting Edge?

AK: The need to adopt an ECC mindset. There has to be a complete shift in the way you think. It taught us that handling emergency and critical care cases is completely different from first opinion, which I hadn’t appreciated before embarking on the programme.

FB: I agree with that. The course also provided us with access to a lot of valuable resources. Another important thing that was drummed into us was that even if you’re working sole charge in the middle of the night on a complicated case, help is always at hand. Support is only ever a phone call away, even at 3am.

SF: I’ve relied on many of the practical tips we were given from experienced clinical staff who lectured during Cutting Edge. They were all really important in teaching us how to think in an emergency.

What’s been your favourite moment working in ECC so far?

SF: I find it really rewarding when patients are admitted in a critical state and you help them pull through. It’s great seeing the look of relief on the faces of their owners when you return their healthy pet back to them.

FB: I enjoy doing caesareans. It’s very satisfying when everything goes well, the mum is healthy and there’s lots of puppies.

AK: You don’t really appreciate the good moments at the time because you’re so full of adrenalin. But one surgery I did when a dog had eaten four tea towels was very positive. At the time, cutting through the intestines and pulling out the tea towels wasn’t the most fun, but in retrospect it was a good surgery and the case went well.

Read more: Think you have what it takes to work in ECC? Take our test.

Where do you see yourself in two years’ time?

FB: I really enjoy working in ECC and I can’t imagine going back to general practice. I think I’d find it — for want of a better word— boring compared to what we’re doing now.

AK: I’d quite like to do a certificate in ECC. That’s part of my five-year plan. I’m not sure I want to work night shifts for the rest of my life so the ideal might be to work in an ECC setting during the day. I certainly can’t see myself going back to working in a first opinion practice. I’ll just have to see how it goes and take it one step at a time.

SF: I really enjoy working in ECC, it’s much more exciting than a first opinion practice although I’m not sure I want to work weekends forever. I’ll just have to see what the future holds.

Would you recommend Cutting Edge to others?

FB: Yes, definitely. If you’re interested in working in ECC, then this programme will prepare you with everything you need.

AK: Most recent graduates don’t have experience in ECC because so few practices do their own out of hours, so if working in ECC is something that interests you I’d definitely recommend signing up for Cutting Edge.

Finally, what are your tips for working out of hours?

AK: Knowing how caffeine affects you is important. I have a “no caffeine after 10 pm” rule because it affects my sleep patterns so much. I also use earplugs to get to sleep. Regular exercise helps as well.

FB: Just make sure you get good quality sleep in between shifts and make sure you eat properly when you’re on your shift — and not just biscuits, which are really appealing at 3am.

Read more: Our 19 top tips for working out of hours

The next intake for Cutting Edge is in January, and places are filling up fast. We are also recruiting for more experienced vets for Refresh Your Edge. If you, or any vets you know, are interested in applying, please call the Vets Now recruitment team for more information on 01383 841181.


Hey Kyle, Great article! I enjoyed it thoroughly. As someone who works directly with emergency care clinics I can sympathize with the stress of the job, especially working the night shift. For a number of years I worked the night shift. It takes a toll on your body. Great questions and thanks for posting your article. Dave -owner of
Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 03:06 by Dave Sullivan

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