Will Bayton, Nottingham

I had a bit of a shock yesterday. I was checking Facebook on my phone, listening to the rain pouring down outside in mid-June, and an app delightfully reminded me that ‘a year ago today’ I had been on a beach in Rhodes, surrounded by my closest final year veterinary friends drinking alcohol in the sun without a care in the world. This got me thinking, “Has it really been a year!?” A part of me feels like that incredible holiday was just last week and yet I have learnt and changed so much this past year that it almost feels like I am an entirely different person now. I haven’t seen some of my closest friends in months due to difficulties organising work rotas, and my weekends mostly consist of recovering from the overload of new information I have absorbed the previous week! It seems like a stark change when I compare it to those photos of my friends and I in Greece last year.

My first year in small-animal practice has been full of ups and downs, but I have loved it. I remember my first day, I thought I knew it all! Fresh from exams my head was full of information and I felt totally prepared. That quickly changed! I don’t think anything can really prepare you for life in first-opinion practice, and not a single day has gone by where I haven’t come across a new or difficult case. At times this has frustrated me, sometimes I just wanted to have a quiet day with easy cases and nothing too difficult, and yet I know deep down the reason I love this job is because of the variability! You literally never know what you are going to see on a day to day basis! It’s such a privilege and quite easy to forget how lucky we are as vets to do the things we do. It is fantastic to be challenged, to be pushed out of your comfort-zone and this happens almost every day.

I was immensely lucky to be in a very supportive first job and I have always had someone to ask for help. I know my year would not have been as enjoyable if I hadn’t had such a supportive team of vets and nurses around to help when I was out of my depth. I remember in my first month being utterly terrified of bitch spays. I did a couple with a colleague and absolutely hated every minute. There was so much fat, everything was slipping from my fingers, I couldn’t see what I was tying off…I convinced myself afterwards that I had accidentally tied off the ureters or cut into the intestines and was certain that the following day those patients would be back in with septic peritonitis. That didn’t happen, they were fine like the many other spays I have done this year and now I actually really enjoy the surgery! I never would have thought I’d say that but it just goes to show that as your experience develops so does your confidence and that is the same with all aspects of your first year in practice. Seeing anything new for the first time is scary (well it is for me anyway), I always have so much flying around inside my head and it gets hard to actually see the wood from the trees. What test should I do first? When do I start treating!? How long do I treat for!!? When should I see them back!!?? What if they sue me!!!!??? Sometimes you just need to take a breath, calm down and think logically, and if that still doesn’t work then ask someone else for advice! That has got me through the year and has really helped me to enjoy my work rather than stressing about everything all the time.

I have seen some hilarious things this year, and I have seen some pretty horrible things to. I have met some really lovely clients who write you thoughtful cards to thank you, and I have met some clients who expect the world and don’t even give you a smile. I think we are all hugely critical of ourselves as vets, we always dwell on the things that haven’t gone well. I was talking to a current final year student last week who had just taken her finals. All she did was moan about the couple of questions that she hadn’t answered correctly and I felt like shaking her to remind her of the remaining 90% of the exam which probably went very well! We all focus on our weaknesses, it’s a flaw that I am sure we all have, and yet it is important to learn how to deal with this. Clients complain about you, it’s a fact of life. Cases don’t always go well regardless of what you do. You can’t beat yourself up about the minority because otherwise you will resent the job. I think life as a vet can be hugely rewarding, not only from seeing cases go well but also my stash of wine and thank-you chocolates from clients will quite easily get me through the rest of the year! I am very excited to see how things have changed in another year, and I must admit it will be nice to not be the ‘new-grad’ anymore! That being said I still have so much to learn, and the whole job is just a continuing learning curve so who knows what things I will have seen in a year’s time! It is an exciting time to be a vet, there are always new developments in medicine and surgery and if you embrace change you will never have a dull day.