At Vets Now, we encourage and support our vets to get involved with mentoring
the next generation of emergency vets. We have a fantastic pool of mentors throughout our clinics who are passionate about student development and take every opportunity to get involved. Among them is veterinary surgeon Alison Patrick, who is a firm favourite with students and is always striving to help them master new skills and achieve their goals. In this blog we ask Alison, who is based in our Liverpool clinic, 10 questions about her career and why she enjoys mentoring the next generation of vets who have embarked on our popular EMS programme
Who are you and how long have you worked for Vets Now? I graduated from Liverpool University in 2002, I'm a mum, and I have five cats. I've worked for Vets Now for eight years.
Why do you enjoy working for Vets Now? I love that I'm encouraged to continue learning and get to feel part of the Vets Now family. I also like that Vets Now have opportunities for people to get involved outside of their clinical work, so individuals can utilise their skills in a broader context across the company if they want to.
Why do you enjoy emergency medicine? It is exciting, we get the sickest patients and get to see the results quickly when we treat them. I enjoy the challenges of the cases — it feels good to be able to make a difference.
How did you get into mentoring students? I have always seen mentoring students as part of my role as a veterinary surgeon, so I have encouraged students alongside my clinical work ever since I graduated — many of my past students are now my current colleagues.
What do you most enjoy about mentoring? I enjoy helping the students master new skills or gain understanding in a concept they were struggling with — I love seeing their sense of achievement.
Why do you think Liverpool is a
great EMS clinic? There is a big and varied caseload with plenty of things going on for students to get involved with. Also, our staff enjoy hosting students and welcome them as part of the team. There are lots of opportunities for practising skills like placing IV catheters and blood sampling as well as gaining new skills like learning focused ultrasound techniques.
What do you think is important that students take away from EMS placements? An understanding that the approach to emergency cases is different from what they are used to seeing in day practice or on rotations. That the focus in an emergency is on identifying and stabilising the most life-threatening conditions in order of priority, rather than the traditional nose-to-tail exam and detailed history, which we leave until the animal is stable.
What do you think makes a good emergency vet? The ability to think quickly but rationally when under pressure, and the ability to prioritise. Also, excellent communication skills - the clients are often upset, and we need to gain their trust rapidly so we can get on with treating their pet.
What advice would you give to students who want to get into emergency medicine? Firstly, it is important to learn how to recognise what is normal by getting some general practice experience and gaining competence in basic surgical skills. There are several routes available — intensive training courses like Cutting Edge and internships, and having a mentor to debrief with is useful, to learn reflectively from challenging situations and how to manage them successfully.
How do you manage your work/life balance? I love dance. I am involved with a local community dance group. We get to learn dance styles from around the world, de-stress, and get fit all at the same time. They are also involved in local mental health initiatives, so it is also about giving something back to the community at the same time. Besides dance, I enjoy travelling and learning languages — I went back to university and did a degree in Spanish and Italian a few years ago while working for Vets Now, and now I'm studying Mandarin and Japanese.
The Vets Now EMS team send out a monthly newsletter to undergraduates and regularly participate in career fairs. If you're interested in finding out more about the EMS placement programme, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.