Tag Archives: career

Rediscovery

OryxQuite an adrenaline fueled episode of Safari Vet School this week with stress levels at an all time high as the students tackled the task of darting and then transporting a number of Oryx to be loaded on to a trailer and sent to another reserve. The main danger, as I could tell from the safety of my comfortable armchair, were the HUGE horns that these animals have, and which more closely resemble fencing foils than anything else, with the very clear potential to impale anyone unfortunate enough to be found on the end of one. I would say that the plastic tubing used by the team was probably one of the best inventions ever, in that particular moment!

I did wonder whether it would have been an idea for them to get intravenous catheters in place in the animals’ ear veins at the outset, given the fact that they needed to be transported what seemed to be a reasonable distance, and would have provided much swifter and safer venous access to allow the repeated top-ups of medication that the animals ended up requiring. Needless to say these would then be removed prior to the animals waking up. Perhaps that is my small animal logic and experience coming into play as I don’t have any direct experience of managing wild large animals. Feel free to shoot down my idea 🙂 Or should that be dart down?

One very interesting part of the show for me was the segment at the end on Tom’s rediscovery, if you will, of his desire to continue in veterinary. He is certainly not the first vet student who nears the end of the course feeling disillusioned and doubtful about whether a life as a vet is the path for them after all, nor will he be the last. The facts are these: veterinary is a very demanding and intense course, often with little opportunity to really disconnect, step back and take in the wider picture of what it means to be a vet and of the opportunities, including globally, that being qualified offers graduates. Due to the huge body of knowledge that needs to be imparted to veterinary undergraduates it can at times feel as though we spend the course having to rote learn huge volumes of knowledge, with the result being that the theory and the practical ‘magic’ of the course and profession – the primary reason many of us choose veterinary as a career option – become disconnected.

Vets are by their very nature the type of academic high achievers that are always seeking mental stimulation and a challenge. This, again, is one of the reasons why veterinary, with its “hardest course to get onto” label, is so attractive to such students and why occasionally the trudgery of endless rote learning can grind us down and leave us feeling somewhat uninspired and seeking professional and academic gratification elsewhere. Its a very real shame and unfortunately something that needs to be addressed at the training level. After all, how is it that you can start five years training with a hundred or so super motivated and über enthusiastic individuals who have dream’t of nothing other than becoming vets, to find several of those same people seriously questioning their path and looking for an alternative one by the end? It’s not really as though they didn’t have some idea of what they were letting themselves in for, as the vet schools do expect applicants to to demonstrate work experience.

Aside from the fact that many vet students realise that they are smart enough and qualified enough to do anything they set their minds to, including in careers that pay considerably more than veterinary does, two of the main factors that I can personally identify as being important in the feelings of disillusionment felt near the end of the course are a) a sense of feeling like a trained chimp, having to plough relentlessly through swathes of endless course material and ‘lists’, with no real requirement to engage the brain and really think about a problem, and b) the fatigue, both physical and mental that sets in by the end of the course. The fact is that very little of a vet student’s time at university is truly their own, with term time a busy blur and “holidays” anything but, as you are expected to complete a lot of EMS placements. There is very little opportunity, in my opinion, to just take some time to explore yourself, try new things and connect with people and experiences truly outside of the confines of the vet school and profession as a whole. It is often the students who do “venture out” of this circle, for example by intercalating, that are the ones to start questioning their ongoing interest and desire to stay within the profession, often as a result of them being able to take a year out to “exercise their grey matter” in a completely different manner and to expose themselves to ideas beyond veterinary ones. There will, of course, be those students who intercalate and re-enter the vet course rejuvenated and full of fresh motivation and enthusiasm for their veterinary career, and this is excellent. I believe that this kind of motivational shot in the arm is just what’s needed during the latter stages of the course.

I personally wish Tom all the very best whatever he decides and it is especially important to remember that just because we happen to be doing one thing today, there is no reason why we have to be doing the same thing tomorrow – people change, careers change, lives change. Embrace change.

Veterinary still a very popular career choice

An interesting article caught my attention recently that suggested that in spite of the increase in university tuition fees this year to £9,000 per year, which includes veterinary science courses, application numbers to study to become a vet have actually risen, thus bucking a general trend. Data from UCAS revealed that in spite of a 12.9% drop in year-on-year applications for all degree subjects, veterinary courses actually saw a rise of 6.7%. Why, I wonder, would that be the case?

It has always been known that a degree in veterinary science is an incredibly good degree to have, regardless of whether the holder eventually enters, or indeed stays in, clinical practice, due to it’s high standards of training across a multitude of subjects and skillsets. It could be expected that with degrees becoming significantly more expensive, and graduates facing being saddled with such debt for many many years, a lot of students are looking a lot more carefully at which degrees they actually apply to in the first place. It may be simply that a veterinary degree, and subsequently a career in veterinary, is valued as a good, professional option as opposed to some other degree options available. I am sure such students are going into their applications with a good understanding and appreciation of the huge costs involved, with the projected cost of tuition fees for a standard 5-year course alone coming to £54,000. If they are not then that needs to be addressed, especially when you then factor in the total likely cost of completing a veterinary degree which, with living costs and the fact that much of the vacation time other students are able to use in order to work in paid employment is occupied with compulsary, and necessary, work placements, is very high. Latest figures put such a final figure at around about £78,000. A truly staggering amount of money!

Of course, the fact that students are not being put off veterinary as a career option is a wonderful thing as it is a truly unique and rewarding career, in many ways, but one concern is that students applying for and studying veterinary medicine have a clear and realistic appreciation and expectation of the salaries, and earnings that they can expect as a vet. I know for a fact that many students have wildly unrealistic expectations about veterinary remuneration and have heard of students even halfway through their courses expecting to start their careers commanding salaries of £60,000 per year. If they know of graduate vet jobs that are paying that then I would love for them to get in touch with me as I will be sending my CV over immediately!

Another ongoing concern for the profession is the issue of widening access, with the RCVS and the vet schools actively engaging in ongoing activity to broaden the appeal of and access to veterinary as a career option among the under-represented demographics. Are we seeing a rise in application numbers from such students or are the increases coming from the more traditional camp? These are interesting questions and do have ramifications for the future of the profession as a whole.

The main point, however, is that veterinary is clearly still a popular career option, and rightly so, and the buck in the general trend should be applauded and celebrated as a sign of the veterinary profession’s bright future.

Two of the most motivating words ever: “Can’t” & “Never”

LionManaged to catch up on Safari Vet School thanks to the good old ITV iPlayer (did I mention how much I love my iPad?!). This week’s episode saw the team of vet students and safari vets take on darting and surgically implanting a tracking device into a lioness, which was pretty nerve-wracking stuff, and then finish up with a mass capture of Zebra, who apparently can kill with a single kick, something that anyone who has worked with horses will appreciate. Of course I’m not saying that rounding up a herd of Zebra is anything like working with your standard hack but the power and innate unpredictability of large animals – well, in fact ANY animal – is something that’s important to always have in the back of your mind as a vet.

One of the stand-out parts of the show for me was the point at which Charlotte was recalling the advice she received whilst at school, regarding her ambitions to become a vet. She was advised to “have a plan B” and to “give up,” something which I hear a lot of from prospective vet students. Yes, it’s a tough course to apply to and yes, it’s not a bad idea to consider, even for a fleeting moment, what you might do if, all things going awry, you don’t succeed with applying, but to be told to give up just seems ridiculous. One of the main issues I have identified through advising prospective vet school applicants and through my book is that many careers advisers (I use the term in the very broad sense to include teachers who are not necessarily careers ‘specialists’) don’t fully understand the unique nuances of preparing for and applying to vet school and as such, rather than seek to fill the gaps in their knowledge so that they can better inform and guide their students, it is often easier to revert to the assumed misconceptions about veterinary being “impossibly hard” to get into and to thus encourage other career options to be pursued. I wonder how many really fantastic vets we may be missing out on simply as a result of a student being told at that critical point in their young lives to “give up.” It’s something to ponder. Good on Charlotte though for sticking to her guns and focusing on her ultimate aim of getting to vet school – if she hadn’t been so determined then darting lions in Africa would have been but a hazy daydream!