Principal vet Katie Smith shares her journey to a new career in out-of-hours emergency and critical care
After qualifying from Cambridge in 2012, I spent two years working at a busy small animal practice with frequent sole charge and a traditional on-call rota. I had good support, but still often felt like I wasn’t doing the best for my patients or managing to work to “best practice”. I loved the emergency side of my job, but often felt out of my depth and was sometimes uncomfortable leaving patients unattended overnight.
I considered applying for an internship but having just got married, bought a house and rehomed a puppy, I couldn’t reconcile what I wanted from my home life with the demands of an internship. I started looking at other training opportunities and came across the Vets Now Cutting Edge programme. It sounded ideal: the thrill of emergency work backed up with the training, knowledge and facilities to excel in this area. Plus the promise of no more dentals or dermatology work-ups – I was sold!
The Cutting Edge training was exceptional and changed my whole approach to emergencies. After a series of interactive sessions taught by leading ECC diplomates, I started my mentored shifts eager to put into practice what I’d learnt, and had great mentors and a brilliant caseload to allow me to do so. Then, after further seminars and a fantastic practical surgery weekend, I felt well prepared for my first sole charge shift. I found the night work less gruelling than I’d anticipated, especially once I’d worked out what sleeping and eating patterns suited me best. Despite working sole charge, I felt supported by my clinic team and the wider Vets Now community, particularly the friends I’d made during the Cutting Edge course.
I spent the first year focusing on developing my clinical skills. Having seen one GDV in the two years I worked in general practice, I’d seen nine in my first year with Vets Now (including two in one very memorable night!). Septic peritonitis, Addisonian crises, pleural effusions and trauma became my new normal, and I loved it. Because of the training I’d received on Cutting Edge, I genuinely felt like I was doing a really good job with my patients.
A year in, the role of principal vet became available at my clinic, and I felt ready to take on the challenge. As well as continuing to find excitement and satisfaction in my clinical work, I am enjoying the added responsibilities the role brings, particularly coaching and mentoring new vets and developing relationships with our member practices.
Would I recommend the Cutting Edge Programme? Absolutely. It is a great route into ECC for enthusiastic vets looking to pursue a career in this developing area. The course is the best teaching I have ever received, and it culminates in an exciting job with excellent progression opportunities. I don’t know quite what the next few years hold, but Vets Now is a dynamic company that has always been at the forefront of ECC, so I’m sure there will be plenty of exciting opportunities.