It’s gone down in history as one of the biggest waves of migration in Europe.
In 2004 when Poland joined the EU, the UK opened its labour market to the country's workers.
The UK government expected around 15,000 Polish people to come and build a new life here, but over the next 14 years almost one million arrived — collectively contributing up to £2 billion a year to the economy.
At Vets Now, 17 of our staff are Polish — with dozens more from other EU countries. Among them is senior vet Lukasz Rybczynski.
“I came to Britain to develop my veterinary skills and to experience a different culture,” said Lukasz, who joined Vets Now through our Refresh Your Edge programme.
“My original plan was to return to Poland after gaining some experience but I enjoyed life so much I decided to stay and start a family.
“I just really like being in this country — living and working here.”
Lukasz, 32, grew up on a dairy farm in south-east Poland, near the border with Ukraine.
After graduating from university in 2010, he moved to Poznan where he worked in a variety of private and public sector veterinary roles, involving both small and large animals.
“I didn’t feel suited to working with large animals, and there were limits to what I could achieve in small animal practice in Poland,” Lukasz explained.
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“I desperately wanted to experience more subjects to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything.
“I decided to move to the UK and was accepted on to an internship at an emergency vets in Brighton. After that, I switched to a first-opinion practice in Dover where I stayed for almost three years.
“It was a great place to work but, for me, the job was a little too routine and lacked excitement.”
In search of something more fulfilling, Lukasz started doing locum shifts in Vets Now in Canterbury.
It was a life-changing move. He found out-of-hours emergency and critical care work so exciting, he wanted to do it permanently.
“It was such a friendly environment in Canterbury,” he recalled.
“The cases were always wide and interesting, and every shift I did was busy and exciting. I wanted to become a full-time member of staff, so I applied for Refresh Your Edge.”
Refresh Your Edge is a 12-week distance learning course for experienced vets who want to build their confidence before working sole-charge in ECC.
Lukasz said it provided him with the perfect route into Vets Now. He particularly enjoyed the practical sessions and in-depth webinars.
“While I’d already worked as a locum for Vets Now, the Refresh Your Edge programme gave me a lot more confidence in my abilities and the specialist webinars, in particular, taught me so much.
“I also learned a lot of surgical techniques, and my medical knowledge was refreshed. It’s a great course and something everyone with an interest in ECC should consider."
Lukasz has gone from strength-to-strength since completing Refresh Your Edge and has recently been promoted to the role of senior vet in our Portsmouth clinic.
He said the secret to his success is making the most of every shift.
“Every night presents a new challenge,” said Lukasz, who is currently doing his AVP and ECC certificates.
“After a day of working on vaccinations or skin scrapes in a first-opinion practice you are worn out, whereas at Vets Now you may only see a few cases in a night, but it’ll be fast-paced and exciting.
“Working in ECC challenges you to use all of your skills and experience to make a big difference to the patient’s life. It’s a great feeling when you go home after a shift thinking ‘if I hadn’t been there tonight that animal would not have survived’.
“That’s the best part of being an ECC vet.”
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In recent months, Lukasz has entered another new and exciting phase in his life by becoming a father.
It’s a role he’s revelling in and one that’s benefitted from the family-friendly hours he works.
“My wife and baby go to bed when I’m doing my shift,” he explained.
“I come home, get some sleep and then get up to look after the baby, which allows my wife time to go to the gym, etc. It fits in perfectly with our lifestyle because it lets us share our parenting responsibilities.
“The shift pattern also gives me time to fit in my own hobbies, which I found difficult working Monday to Friday.
“All in all, Vets Now is a great company to work for. They really take care of their employees. Even my wife noticed a difference in me after I began working here — saying I’m more relaxed, better rested and smiling more often.
“I look forward to working here for the foreseeable future."
If you would like to follow in Lukasz's footsteps, you can find out more about the distance learning Refresh Your Edge programme here and our fast-track AdvantEdge induction programme here.