The presentation above is a recorded version of the same one delivered at the 2018 VR Voice ‘VR in Healthcare Symposium’ held at Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.
Please follow the link below to access a PDF version of the full paper from the above presentation, including the results of the survey conducted on the experiences and awareness of VR and AR within the veterinary profession.
The list of probable detriments to one’s health of working nights makes for rather grim reading, from an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even accelerated ageing of the brain. I was vaguely aware of the research that supported the claims that working night shifts was ultimately bad for us back in the UK when I used to do a lot of overnight veterinary shifts for Vets Now, the out-of-hours provider, and always downplayed the message by telling myself that “I am only doing it occasionally.” The fact that I now find myself coming to the end of a 7-day run of 12-hour night shifts, again, in a veterinary capacity, has inspired me to revisit the subject.
The advantages of working nights – and there are some for sure – are compelling, in my current case the main one being that in exchange for working 7 days in a row (or nights if I am going to be accurate) I get 7 days off. For anyone who is used to working in a normal capacity that equates to having some decent annual leave every two weeks, which kind of rocks! I for one know that I can make really great use of that kind of continuous ‘free time,’ engaging in fun activities when the rest of the world is slaving away at the office and working on my own projects on a schedule of my choosing. Bliss indeed.
The main advantages of night shifts, specifically in the veterinary sector, are the following:
Autonomy & independence – the camaraderie of working with other vets during the day is great and it is always good to have others to bounce ideas off. However, long-term the danger is that always being able to “check things” with a colleague can lead to a slow erosion of the ability and confidence to truly think and act independently. With night shifts, where it is usually only ever a single vet in charge, there are no others to check in with. Assessments need to be made and decisions executed based on what I believe to be best practice. If I don’t know something then of course I can, and do, check in with trusted sources of information but ultimately I am the one who has to decide and act on a variety of unique cases and clinical situations. Although it can be scary at times, such as my first night on that saw me presented with an aged Boxer dog that seizured pretty much continuously all night, the confidence that gradually comes from relying on your own ability to process information, apply knowledge and skill and ultimately make decisions and take actions that have real outcomes is empowering. For this reason alone I think that doing some night work is very valuable for all clinicians.
Variety – we see and hear it all during the graveyard shifts, that’s for sure! From the full-on emergency requiring all hands-to-the-deck, to the varied hospital cases that seem to swing from one state to another almost by the hour, consults for ultimately simple complaints to downright bizarre calls, we do get variety in our lives. Often the main challenges presented during the night are the human ones, with the most unusual calls coming in, such as one we had at 2am from a lady concerned about whether her sister’s dog was in pain after having been neutered a couple of days ago. My nurse spoke for a short while with said lady before offering an appointment at which point she informed her that the dog was actually in Scotland! (nb: we are in Dubai!) Another classic night-time call is often from an owner who has been sitting on a pet health issue for the last week only to decide that now, in the wee small hours of the morning, is the time to seek advice and assistance and to then act surprised when the cost of being seen is pointed out to be higher than during the day. Just plain odd. Again, from a training in how to deal with people and communicate standpoint, night shifts are an invaluable learning environment. Either that or fertile anecdote-mining terrain for the next book!
Free time – some nights are literally spent working for the entire time, such as the aforementioned fitting dog scenario, whereas a lot of the time things do tend to quieten down after midnight meaning that there is an opportunity to catch up with paperwork, do some CPD or even just indulge in some more light-hearted pastimes such as reading. As someone who is generally busy working on all sorts of personal projects, having the time to sit down during the night is one of the main draws of working these shifts. Of course there is always the risk that a call will come in or something will change with an in-patient, requiring you to switch attention, but generally it seems that there is time available.
The filtering effect of the higher consult prices – it costs more to be seen out-of-hours, the reason being that our costs of providing a service overnight are higher than during the normal working day. The advantage of this fact is that it can, and does, serve as a very effective filter for those genuine emergencies versus those cases where the pet can either wait to be seen when the clinic is running with a full team and the real time wasters. It never ceases to amaze me how what is initially dialled in as a “real emergency” that simply “must be seen NOW” quickly becomes “oh, its okay – I’ll see how we go overnight and then see the vet in the morning,” once the cost of the overnight consult fee is made clear.
Leaving as everyone else arrives – despite being tired and very much looking forward to hitting the sack, there is a satisfaction that accompanies being able to head out the door, past everyone else in the world who is heading in the opposite direction to start their working day. One might call it a sense of smugness.
Time off – we touched upon this primary perk above, with the main point being that the reward for working a full week of long night shifts is an entire week completely off work. Brilliant!
The price? Well, there is the small matter of the week of night shifts to get through. No pleasure without pain, eh?! So what exactly is the “pain” of night work anyway?
Our bodies and brains just aren’t used to functioning optimally during the entire night and regardless of the amount of sleep one tries to get during the day it never feels as though it is enough, meaning that, for me anyway, I have spent the last week feeling somewhat jet-lagged. The worst periods are the hours during which I am actually writing this now: 2am – 4am, the real ‘dead of night,’ when every fibre of my being is screaming at me to close my eyes and just switch off. The evidence shows that the body and brain changes state during these hours, meaning that even the food we eat during the night is processed differently to if it was consumed during daylight hours. Increased long-term risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity are recognised sequelae. Although there are plenty of articles and sources of advice on how to “adapt” to night shifts, the truth is that you never really “adapt,” especially if you then adjust back to a normal routine. One of our nurses who works nights has actually converted to a pretty much permanent state of nocturnal being, continuing to stay up all night and sleep during the day even on her off weeks, so maybe she has managed to adapt over time but that is not something most of us would be happy to do.
The disruption to the normal rhythm of my life is the main thing I have noticed during the last week, with it proving difficult to really continue exercising normally. By the time I get home in the morning, all I really want to do is get some breakfast and get to bed. Even if I did decide to exercise in the morning, driving to the gym would be dangerous in my sleep-deprived state and although I could choose to perhaps go for a run outside, I feel that I am simply in danger of giving my body very mixed signals by elevating my heart rate whilst it is getting lighter to then expect it to settle into a state of sleep a short while later. As such, by the time I have managed a few hours of interrupted sleep, there is little real drive or time to exercise before grabbing some food and preparing to head back in for the next shift. One thing I am very much looking forward to with a return to normal daytime living is a normal exercise routine!
Socially, night shifts can be isolating with the fact that you sleep whilst others are awake and vice versa making it difficult to maintain a healthy social life during the actual night shift period. Of course there are your night-time colleagues to chat and hang out with but given that nights are usually staffed by a significantly smaller team – such as one vet, one nurse, one receptionist and one animal care assistant – and the fact that it is usually the same people who simply rotate, the truth is that you end up spending a lot of time with the same people. I am not saying that is necessarily a bad thing – after all, I work with awesome people – but given the rather carousel nature of night shifts, social interactions can start to feel very limited in scope. Again, there is the silver lining of the following week off but getting to see friends properly only every second week can, I can see, get testing for all parties.
Okay, so we’ve established some of the pros and cons of working nights. What about the actual logistics? How do you actually prepare for, manage and then readjust from working nights? All I can offer is personal experience and the tips that I have picked up from doing some independent research, but generally I find the following works:
PREPARING FOR NIGHT WORK:
Try to get a little sleep directly before the first night on duty, even if it’s only a couple of hours of rest, preferably in the dark. You’ll still feel tired during the shift, especially during the very early hours, but psychologically I find it better than trying to go straight from being a ‘day-walker’ into being a creature of the night.
Prepare some healthy, wholesome food to take in to work, preferably something you can heat up and have as a ‘proper meal.’ The temptation with night work is to snack, especially on the kind of crap that you wouldn’t normally indulge in often. Snacking on junk combined with the stresses of already being awake all night will gradually have a detrimental effect on your health. Eating decent food is one thing that you can control and giving your stressed body and brain the right kind of fuel will make the process so much less damaging in the long run.
Take something to do during those ‘quieter’ periods. I always go into nights expecting to be busy all night, with any ‘free time’ ultimately being seen as a bonus. I find this approach much easier to cope with psychologically than going in expecting to have free time only to get all pissed off when I find that 1am emergency rocking up. Whether you take in some reading, a movie or some project work to do, having something on hand to focus on during the occasional lulls will help keep you awake and stave off the attack of the drowsies!
Get in early so that you’re not rushing and feeling flustered before you start, especially if you then end up heading into a busy night. I personally like to arrive about 30 minutes before my shift, change into my work clothes actually at work and maybe even kick back for ten minutes before heading upstairs to find out what fun-and-games await me.
DURING THE NIGHT SHIFT:
Expect to feel tired at some point, even as you get further into the week. I have not had a single night over the past seven days where I have not felt the strong desire to curl up and sleep at about 2am. There isn’t really any way around it unless you choose to make use of stimulants such as caffeine, although I don’t recommend it as a) you simply end up elevating your heart rate, stressing your body at a time when every bit of it’s programming is telling it to be relaxed; and b) unless you process caffeine super rapidly you’ll likely screw yourself over for when it comes time to get your head down at the end of your shift. I do have a small coffee before heading in for my shift, as that would normally be part of my ‘breakfast’ routine, but otherwise I avoid caffeine for the rest of the 24 hour period.
Try and get some rest, even if it does just mean a 15 minute lie down. The restorative properties of simply remaining still and allowing the brain to rest, even for short periods, is established. It’s unlikely you’ll get to actually sleep so I wouldn’t bank on it and besides, any more than a 30 minute nap usually results in feelings of sluggishness and confusion when you come back around, so the apparent advantages don’t really seem to materialise.
AFTER THE SHIFT & BEFORE THE NEXT ONE:
Get a healthy breakfast, avoiding caffeine, and go through whatever morning routine suits you. I personally need about two hours to fully unwind from the shift, getting into bed by about 10am.
Assess whether you’re safe to drive. Extreme fatigue has been proven to have the same effect on driving ability, hazard awareness and reaction speeds as drinking, so if you do feel super tired in the morning then do yourself a favour and get a taxi home. Crashing your car on the way back home would be a really shitty way to end a shift.
GET SOME SLEEP! The bulk of the day should be given over to sleep, not to “getting things done,” as will be the temptation. Creating the right conditions for a decent sleep can help, from making the room as dark as possible or even wearing a mask, to turning the temperature of your room down a little. Even then, it is likely that you will not sleep as soundly, or for as long, as you would normally during the night but that is to be expected. I have aimed for at least 6 hours a day (10am to 4pm) and found that I have been waking naturally just before 4pm anyway. The first day of sleeping and then waking in the evening was odd and it took me a moment to remember what time of the day it was, which was a surreal, almost dream-like experience.
Turn off distractions such as phones. You’re much more likely to be disturbed by various notifications, messages and emails pinging continuously as they hit your phone during the day, especially given that you’ll likely be sleeping less heavily than normal, so turning off any such notifications is wise. Obviously the one notification you will want to ensure you hear is your alarm call and it is for this reason that I personally choose not to use ear plugs.
RE-JOINING THE DAY-CROWD:
The end of the loooooooong week of nights is finally over! Hurrah! Life can return to normal as you transition back to your usual routine.
Get a good breakfast, as with any day.
There are two techniques I discovered during my research that can aid in transitioning back to a normal day-centric routine:
Sleep for a few hours (e.g. 10am to 2pm) and then get an early night later in the evening, with a normal return to daytime routine the following day. This is the tactic I intend to employ.
Sleep through for 36 hours and write off the first day in order to start the following day on normal routine day mode.
Expect to feel a bit out of sorts for a couple of days. Much as jet lag can leave you feeling a bit weird for a day or two after returning from a long-haul trip, coming off nights can feel the same. Not to worry though: it’s normal.
Plan some awesome stuff to do during your time off and enjoy – you’ve earned it!
And for anyone who has actually done nights already….. you’ll know this scenario :p
Sometimes things happen that just make you want to rush home, fire up the computer and start typing. Today saw one of those events: a visit to a chiropodist here in Dubai.
“Okay then….” I can hear you saying quizzically. The reason is that it drove home the very real value of experienced, confident healthcare and why paying for it is not something anyone should have any qualms about. I have been suffering, it seems, from a very common ailment, one that affects very large numbers of people, especially when of an active disposition: an ingrown nail. The problem, which seems to have selected my right big toe as it’s victim, started shortly before I headed to the US in 2012 to get my skydiving fix and continued to cause me grief upon my return. Repeated courses of antibiotics from the GP did nothing to alleviate the issue and it was only once I was considering the extreme option of surgery that I reached out to a chiropodist. Boom! One simple visit, a basic explanation of the problem, some accurate trimming and instant relief. Long story short, the issue had recently resurfaced and given that I have a rather big race approaching and do not wish to be crippled for it, or indeed for anything, I Googled ‘chiropodist’ in Dubai and found myself in front of the affable Jorg Stobel, of the Chiropody Center. One look, some even better explanations than before and fifteen minutes of trimming, smoothing, lacquering and general food TLC and I was as good as new. No need for drastic measures such as surgery after all. Awesome.
When presented with the bill of just over 800AED (£140 / $220) I was more than happy to cough up, which got me thinking en route back home about the value of healthcare and some of the issues we face in veterinary.
Why is it that a bill of that amount for what was essentially a fifteen minute appointment feels like good value whereas the same bill presented to one of my clients for a similar appointment would likely be cause for complaint? The answer, I believe, comes down to the simple fact that it was ME who was the direct recipient of the RELIEF that came with the treatment. I felt better, almost instantly, and so the fact that my pain and my problem was dealt with meant that I had a far greater appreciation of the real value of the services rendered. An appointment for a pet is clearly not going to have such a direct, personal effect as when you are the one receiving the medical treatment and so I would argue that the value is not communicated in quite as convincing a manner. What if a pet owner felt the effects of the fever and pain experienced by their cat with an abscess? What if that tooth with the resorptive lesion and tartar was our own, or we could experience the discomfort that our pet felt from it? Would it alter our impression of the value of the services performed by veterinarians and actually lead to the invoices presented being viewed as reasonable, if not cheap? I rather suspect they would. It would make for a fascinating study, don’t you think?
In December 2014 the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in the UK launched a consultation with it’s members, of which I am one, on the subject of whether UK-trained vets should be able to use the courtesy title ‘Doctor/ Dr.’ The main reasons, it is proposed, are that there is the risk of confusion among the public about the level of qualification of vets given that many non-UK trained vets do routinely use the ‘Dr’ title whereas we do not, and that people incorrectly assume that someone going by the title of Dr is clearly far more qualified than a professional who does not. The second reason is simply one of aligning ourselves with our fellow professionals internationally, most of whom do work with the title of Dr, as do I now that I practice in the UAE.
The issue of whether or not vets should, or should even want to, be addressed by the title of Dr raises questions of what exactly the benefits of doing so are. Does it confer any benefits to the holder? Would it be expected to change the professional standing or day to day life of UK vets if they were to suddenly be entitled to introduce themselves as “Dr So-and-so”? This is where the real interest lays in my opinion. The initial, knee-jerk response to the question is “well, of course we should! We ARE doctors!” But we’re not. We’re surgeons, which is traditionally why we never adopted the title. Look at our colleagues in the medical profession who do tread the surgical career boardwalk. They cannot wait until they qualify as surgeons and are able to shed the ‘Dr’ prefix. There seems, apparently, to be a certain degree of prestige associated with NOT being a doctor. Strange.
On the subject of whether it really makes a difference to our clients I question how much, if any, it really does. If the title were restricted to practitioners of the clinical medical sciences then fair enough, although it would still not differentiate between dentists, medical doctors and vets, or indeed any other practitioner who might make use of the prefix. The fact is that you go to physically seek out the services of one of the aforementioned, which then provides the strong clue as to what brand of ‘Dr’ you are getting – it is a context-dependent differentiation. If people are really that confused and that bothered – which I daresay they are not – then surely we should be proposing to make it really obvious that they are in fact dealing with a vet by adopting the professional title ‘Vet’ instead of ‘Dr.’ It would leave very little doubt in the mind of a client that you were in fact a qualified vet if you started your interaction with “Hi, I’m Vet Chris” as opposed to “Hi, I’m Doctor Chris.” To be honest, the fact that they were standing in my consult room in a vet clinic, probably with a sick animal in tow, might mean they get it regardless of the title used. Then, of course, there are all of the other non-medical peeps who are entitled to band about the ‘Dr’ title on account of having completed a doctorate at university. PhD in Political Science? You’re a doctor. Completed a thesis in Financial Modelling? You too are a doctor. Now that’s confusing!
Has it made any difference to me as a vet being able to introduce myself as a doctor? Personally, no. There was perhaps some initial feeling of pride at being able to do so and some clients do seem to respond to me and my colleagues with a degree of deference and respect that could be attributable to the title but my gut instinct says that these same clients would behave politely regardless of whether I was a Mr or Dr. They’re just nice, polite people who respect us for the professionals we are. I still get my fair share of difficult and downright rude and dismissive clients regardless of being known by the ‘Dr’ title. I suspect that my experience would mirror that of any UK colleagues, doctors or not.
So, are we really that bothered with the idea of being able to refer to ourselves as doctors? Sure, it’s fun in a smug, lets impress people at social gatherings, kind of way for a short period of time but it soon becomes just another unimportant thing that ultimately makes zero meaningful difference to our day to day professional lives. I would thus suggest that there are other more important things that we as a profession, and the RCVS as our governing body, could be devoting their time, effort and our money towards. For example, addressing the ongoing issues surrounding breed-related problems in dogs, or putting their weight behind campaigning for a fair milk price, or even just working more on educating the general public about what it is our profession does and it’s worth to society. Whether we call ourselves doctor or otherwise is not going to make these other issues go away. I have completed the RCVS consultation survey and made my views known. It will be interesting to hear the collective thoughts of the profession and general public in March, when the survey closes.
I have had a few people ask me about the exam that one has to sit in order to become registered as a veterinarian here in Dubai. As such I thought it would be a good idea to write a short piece on exactly that subject and hopefully answer many of the recurring questions that crop up.
NOTE/ DISCLAIMER: The following was correct, as far as I was aware, at the time that I experienced the exam process. Like much here in Dubai, processes are subject to change, often abrupt, and so no guarantees can be made on current accuracy or validity of the following. As ever, you are encouraged to do your own independent research and discuss your specific requirements with your employer (current or prospective) or to clarify matters directly with the relevant Ministry.
To become registered officially as a veterinarian here in Dubai, which permits you to work in a solo capacity in a clinic, the Ministry requires vets to apply for and sit the official exam. Eligibility for this is determined on the basis of having completed and satisfied all of the registration/ licensing requirements, such as demonstrating evidence of 5 years veterinary post-graduate work experience (for non UAE nationals).
The exams seem to run about once per month. There is little point, however, of applying to sit it until you are confident that you have all of the licensing requirements ticked off.
I sat mine at the Ministry that deals with veterinary licensing, which happened to be the Ministry of Environment and Water.
What does it involve?
It was about an hour in length, although it was easily possible to complete it in less time. There were essentially three sections:
1. Short questions on the relevant laws and bylaws, pertaining to the practice of veterinary in the UAE.
2. Short questions of a clinical nature, especially focusing on diseases of a zoonotic and notifiable nature. There were also some basic questions on subjects such as the TPR (temperature, pulse and respiration rates) for species such as dogs, cats, camels and cattle.
3. Long questions, of no more than a single side of A4. There were two of these in my exam, asking me to outline the signs, epidemiology, treatment and cause of certain notifiable diseases, such as TB. Having a basic overview of the various notifiables, as listed in the Ministry guidelines, is essential for passing this exam.
How hard is it?
Honestly? Not very. Assuming, of course, that you have actually bothered to do some revision and go in with the relevant knowledge, even if at a superficial level. Personally, I was not convinced that my answers were anything other than average at best when I left the exam, but I passed, so feel confident that unless you do no work in advance or have a complete meltdown in the exam, you’ll pass.
How quickly did you get your results?
I found out whether I had passed within two weeks, so very quickly.
Did you get anything after passing? A certificate?
Um, no. Just a feeling of relief that it was over and, once I had passed, that I was able to practice as a vet.
I have included a downloadable PDF here of the revision notes that I compiled and used to prepare for my exam. Again, I make no guarantees regarding this content and provide it merely as a learning aid. You are ultimately responsible for your own learning and preparation so if you don’t pass then don’t blame me 🙂
You can access it here: Dubai Ministry Vet Exam Notes
This week has made me realise something that I had long suspected: being a vet is very much like being a start-up entrepreneur, or certainly an employee of one. This idea crystallized in my mind after watching the fascinating and very motivating documentary “The Startup Kids,” which takes a look at a number of tech start-ups and their founders, a subject that I have always been utterly fascinated by.
What characteristics or features of working as a vet do I consider to be in parallel to being involved in a start-up? I reckon the following merit mention….
Multiple Simultaneous Roles – I have oft advised potential new vets that a career as a veterinarian is not simply a matter of wearing the “fixer of sick and maintainer of healthy animals” hat. The truth is that most days involve us having to swap our various hats more often than a lady at Ladies Day at Royal Ascot. In any given day we could act as doctor, negotiator, team-leader, social worker, financial planner, debt collector, psychologist, gymnast, electrician/ mechanic, inventor, problem-solver extraordinaire, confidante, sprinter, weight-lifter, endurance athlete, receptionist, diplomat, surgeon, clairvoyant, magician and, at times we are also expected to be both super heroes and miracle workers! Only the other day I found myself spending a good hour taking on the unexpected role of financial problem solver, empathetic negotiator and fiscal planner whilst carefully navigating the options for a possible payment plan structure for a client who clearly could not afford the required treatment for their pet but didn’t wish to consider euthanasia of said injured animal. I am no financial planner but found myself having to assume the role, liasing between various members of the clinic team and the client in the process. Fixing the animals, it seems, tends to be the easiest bit of being a vet.
Small Dynamic Team Players – Most vets work in relatively small clinics as members of small, focused teams, with de-lineated roles such as vets, nurses and reception team. Working so closely with so few people in what is often a high pressure and rapidly changing environment is very akin to that seen in most start-ups and whilst highly stressful at times can lead to superb examples of team-work and extraordinary results. I think back to the example I had when a rabbit we were anaesthetising suddenly went into cardiac arrest (ie died!) and as a direct result of superb teamwork involving skilled, focused and motivated professionals we were able to resurrect said bunny!
Cope with Caos & Rapid Growth – Think that your vet spends their day floating along from one kitten consult to the next puppy on a cloud of serene tranquility? Think again. In many busy clinics the hectic schedule kicks off the second you arrive (usually early) to the minute you finally exit the building (usually late), with the spectre of the unexpected always lurking around the corner and with every phone call. This level of (organised?) chaos is amplified if you happen to be in a rapidly growing clinic, with new clients and their new and newer animals rolling in. Embrace the chaos! We do.
Work to Tough Deadlines & Multi-task like a Juggler – Can you spay a cat quicker than it takes to spell cat? No? Well you’ll quickly learn. Especially when you cop a look at the ops list for the day as it spills off the board and starts streaming down the wall. But no worries as you can just keep going as there are no consults in the afternoo….. oh, wait… yes, there are. Vets work to deadlines all day long and swap out roles as mentioned above like a juggler on a Red Bull infusion.
Lunch? What lunch?! – One really cool feature of most tech start-ups that I frequently read about is that many place real value on taking breaks, especially lunch, to catch their collective breath and hang out with colleagues, with many of their best ideas often coming out of this time. I make no secret of the fact that I value my lunch highly and can become a tad grumpy if and when I am denied it. The most productive people I know are those who are actively encouraged to tune out and re-fuel, even if it’s not for very long. Ironman races see athletes encouraged to re-fuel – in fact, not refueling would quickly lead to poor performance and probably failure. So I don’t see why it should be any different in our industry which has unfortunately seemed to collectively hold on to this “lunch/ breaks are optional” mentality. Start-ups know that rested, fueled team members usually perform awesomely and I am convinced that vets, nurses and the rest of the team are no different. When it does happen then I have seen how awesome team spirit and performance can be.
Super Flexible – Part of the excitement of being involved in a start-up is that it’s never always possible to predict exactly what is going to happen. Vet clinics are the same, as previously mentioned, with a new emergency or challenge literally a phone call or walk-in away. We have all been in situations where our manageable consult or surgical list has suddenly been thrown into disarray by an unexpected event and the ability to be super-adaptable and flexible to a dynamic work environment is key to being a successful vet, as it is to being a start-up team member.
I daresay that there are many other examples and feel free to add any you can think of. In the meantime I am off to grab some lunch.
The past two weeks have seen the launch of our 24-hour service, meaning that the clinic is now open round the clock, with a vet available any time of the day or night, much as we are used to having in the UK.
With two new vets enlisted to take it in turns being on overnight on alternate weeks, backed up by a night nurse and our existing night animal care staff, the service officially kicked off at the start of the month and has so far proven to be popular. There have, inevitably, been some adjustments to the way the rest of us regular day staff operate, such as some new shifts and a few later than expected or usual finishes, but we’re all optimistic that once the initial adjustment period is complete it will actually make our lives less hectic and stressful.
One of the changes has been that naturally we need to do a handover with the night vet going into the day shift, and so one of the vets is assigned to the hospital for the week. This basically means that they come in for an earlier start at 7am, which gives them an hour to effect a detailed handover with the night team, before being in charge of checking, planning, updating and generally doing what is required by the various in-patients. Given that our wards are usually pretty well populated, this can result in quite an intense shift, with the hospital vet then consulting from about half ten until their finish time at 4pm. The early finish clearly makes for a nice end to the day, although that does assume that they get to actually walk out at four, which so far I don’t think has really happened.
The other vets come in as usual for an 8am start and crack on as before with admitting surgeries and seeing consults, or getting on with the various procedures booked in for the day. Trying to get our full compliment of two hours of lunch (sounds like a lot but bear in mind we are in from 8am to 7pm) is still a challenge, although when it happens it really does help to set us up for the afternoon/ evening consulting period, which is usually pretty busy. One change that certainly seems to have occurred is that the couple of hours leading up to 7pm have become a lot busier, with more of what we can refer to as the genuinely ‘sick’ animals booking in. As such the final couple of hours have been, on the whole, very busy. With the consults being booked up to, and even beyond 8pm, it does mean that when 7pm, and hence our scheduled home time, comes round it is usually the case that we either have results pending for a case we have seen in the afternoon, or there are simply more clients waiting to be seen than would be fair to leave the late vet to deal with solo – after all, we’re all nice people and we’re not the kind of individuals who can knowingly walk out leaving both clients and our colleagues delayed and inconvenienced. That has meant several late finishes which, again, I am sure will even out as the new system becomes established and when we get some new vets on the team.
Last night was a particularly intense affair, with both an in-patient requiring a blood transfusion at the end of the day – never a quick process – and a ‘sick, off-colour’ dog coming in which turned out to have some seriously nasty business going on internally and so required surgery that evening, including, again, a blood transfusion. As such we all stayed on until gone 10pm, well into the night shift, although sustenance was provided by a much welcomed, and oh so chocolatey cake, that one of my colleague’s clients had dropped off earlier.
The cases in question, for those of you with an interest in such gory details, were a cat with a severe immune mediated haemolytic anaemia, most likely secondary to tick-borne disease and not helped at all by being FeLV positive. A lovely little young cat, she was presented the evening before with, again, a history of just not being herself and was found to be very pale. Her bloods revealed the true extent of her predicament, as she was sadly diagnosed with FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus) and had both a severe anaemia, with a red blood cell percentage very much on the borderline of needing an immediate transfusion, and a raging high white cell count. Aggressive treatment was started but the response was not enough to prevent needing a blood transfusion last night.
The second case was that of a geriatric dog who, as with the cat, was presented with a history of just being quieter than normal. Again, pale and lethargic, bloods revealed a low red cell count and concerns about possible internal bleeding were confirmed by ultrasound, as we found her abdomen to be full of blood due to a ruptured splenic mass. As such, the options were starkly binary: euthanase or operate to try and save her. Her owners opted to try and save her so after bringing in a blood donor we took her to surgery and removed her spleen, complete with nasty, ruptured splenic mass which was the cause of her abdomen being full of blood. The surgery went well and at the time of writing the patient was recovering well, although is certainly not yet out of danger.
So there we have it…. the next chapter in the vetty adventures here in Dubai, complete with a new 24-7 element. Things should continue to be very interesting and, I daresay, remain intense.
If your pet does need to be seen overnight, then Al Safa Veterinary Clinic, on Al Wasl Road, Dubai, is now open 24 hours, 7 days a week, and can be contacted on +971 (0) 4 348 3799.
I have been asked a number of times how to go about seeking employment as a vet in Dubai. I have endeavoured to set out the basic process as I understand it, but it is worth bearing in mind that the processes and requirements are very much subject to change, and may indeed change very suddenly. Any good potential employer will be able to assist you in getting registered properly, and you should perhaps be cautious if they suggest that you have to do it all yourself.
So, how did I go about getting a job out here? Well……
1. I found the job advertised on a UK veterinary job agency – the job sounded interesting, Dubai sounded fun and I wanted to do some more skydiving. So I enquired. Simples. Another option could have been to send an email with my CV to the vets in Dubai, enquiring about any potential vacancies, although unless they’re actively advertising
2. Interview via Skype – once my CV was reviewed by the clinic, a Skype interview was arranged so that we could have a bit of a general chat initially. The registration process was explained to me in addition to learning about the clinic and, probably most importantly of all, just a chance to get to chat to the clinic owners.
3. Offer – I obviously did something right during the Skype interview as I was offered the position (pending successful submission of the relevant registration documents) and so the whole process of moving to Dubai began.
4. Registration – in order to work legally as a fully registered vet in the UAE, I had to complete various steps, which took a few months to complete. The first criteria, however, was that I had to have a minimum of 5 year’s experience as a veterinary surgeon. The process was:
– Notarise copies of my education certificates (from GCSE right through to degree), official university transcripts and letters from my previous employers over the past 5 years. This was done by my local solicitor.
– The documents above were then sent to the UK Embassy in London to be legalised by my home Government before being submitted to the UAE Embassy to do the same.
– Once legalised, the documents were sent to Dubai and I then traveled out to submit my education documents in person in Abu Dhabi. Once that was done, it was a case of waiting to hear that I was being granted my labour visa before flying out to start.
– After landing in Dubai, one of the first things I had to do was have a medical, which involved a blood test and chest X-ray. This is standard and was all ok.
– The final step in getting fully registered was to sit the ministry exam, a short hour long test sat in person at the ministry. Once this was passed then I was fully registered and good to go 🙂
As I have already said, the process that I went through took several months and the rules are subject to change, so I would thoroughly recommend you check things with any clinic that you are looking to be employed by. Also, I was not expected to do any of the registration myself here in Dubai, which was good as it is quite a confusing process and can involve a lot of back and forth between various ministries, something that as a new arrival in Dubai would have been very very stressful. Thankfully, my employers handled everything on my behalf and were really supportive, and guided me whenever there was anything that I had to do in person. I would therefore be a little cautious of any potential employer who advises you to head over to Dubai before a lot of the pre-registration work has been done or who tells you that you need to go over and do it all yourself, as at least one person I know had to do. It took her months and a lot of headaches to finally get registered.
Anyway, hope this is of help and interest. Good luck and maybe see you in Dubai 🙂
I have a taste of what weekends are likely to look like here in the Emirates and I have to say that I like it. As mentioned before, weekends officially start on Friday and run through to include Saturday, with the working week recommencing on Sunday. It was very novel to be able to lie in, albeit not much of one and nothing compared to the ‘norm’ which apparently involves staying up very late on Thursday and not surfacing from bed until the early afternoon on Fridays. I guess this Friday was a little different in as much as I had the car to collect, although the decision to elect such an early time to pick it up was a smart move as it meant I had relatively quiet roads on which to get used to driving here in Dubai. One tip I would certainly give any new driver here is to go and make a sat nav one of your very first purchases and definately have it on you before you head out onto the roads for the first time. The last thing you want to be doing on new and foreign roads is missing turn offs, cutting across busy intersections at the last moment and generally getting lost and stressed. For the sake of a hundred quid or so it’s small change and should keep you much safer. Besides, you’ll probably save the cost of the device in petrol not wasted by driving around getting aimlessly lost.
I had been reading Outdoors UAE magazine, which Kevin had in the villa, and had picked up the November issue, which had a focus on climbing. As a much enjoyed past-time back in the UK I had wanted to keep it up out here and so searched for the options. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem as though there is a huge amount of choice as far as indoor climbing goes, with most of the action occurring outside and in the winter, when it is warm as opposed to uncomfortably hot and humid. There are, however, a couple of places to get some indoor wall climbing fixes and I headed off to The Pyramids, opposite Wafi Mall and the Raffles Dubai hotel to check out what they had on offer. I booked an hour’s slot with one of their climbing instructors and found they had a couple of relatively high faces and some bouldering set in a corner of what is actually a health centre/ gym. Thankfully I was able to find some shoes that (just) fit me, although I did have to change into one that was a little too big for my right foot midway through climbing as I was actually in agony. Basically, my instructor, a lovely lady originally from India, acted as my belay partner whilst I top-roped a few of the routes that she suggested, starting off relatively easy and getting progressively tougher as the hour wore on. I felt quite pleased by how swiftly I got back into the groove and climbed pretty well, even if I do say so myself. The penultimate route did, however, prove a little tough and I had several false starts as I just failed to keep good traction on the wall, owing in large part to the small, fingery holds and features being something that I am not overly keen on, preferring the bigger, meatier holds and overhanging routes. Still, once I got into it I managed to do a pretty good job of navigating the route and descended hot, sweaty and tired but ultimately happy. I was able to wear my GoPro during the session as well, meaning that I got some fun footage of the routes being scaled and which I daresay I will never get around to editing – much like my snowboarding clips!
Wafi Mall itself was pretty much deserted, something I found odd considering it was the weekend, although it did mean that there was not much in the way of competition for seats at a cafe I found for a spot of dinner, a drink and some much needed web surfing and Facebook catch-up. A good first day to the weekend I would say.
As I had a car I was pretty keen to get out to Skydive Dubai in order to kick start my freefall account as a new resident. As I wasn’t sure when they would be sending loads up, and mindful of the fact that the weather can often change quickly ending jumping early, I set the alarm for 6am, promptly snoozing it for an hour, and decided to head out after confirming that they were in fact jumping. The journey proved to be a little bit of a challenge, especially as the skydive centre in the desert wasn’t actually on the sat nav, and with no obvious landmarks coming up I had to use some initiative and guesswork. The first attempt to head to Al Ain, the road to which the drop-zone is located, felt wrong, as I ended up on the motorway towards Abu Dhabi, which I was fairly certain was incorrect. In hindsight, based on the way I returned home, it may well have been ok but I wasn’t really prepared to take a chance, not this time anyway. A quick call to the DZ whilst driving back through the Marina proved less than helpful and so the next plan was to aim for a landmark that I recalled seeing en route when Chandy drove me out in November: the Meydan racecourse. This got me as far as the cycle track, which I will definately return to try out, especially given the fact it is free to use, and after getting some directions from a friendly cyclist, found myself on the road I knew I needed all along: the E66 (route 66), otherwise known as the Al Ain road, which I knew for a fact would take me directly to the DZ.
The drive out along Route 66 takes you past some of the major local landmarks including the Meydan Racecourse, the venue for the richest horserace in the world, the Sevens stadium, which was built as a venue for the Rugby Sevens tournament which is run each Winter and also is used as a venue for a number of other events, including music concerts. The road also drives past the camel racing track, which made for some double taking the first time I passed it. The sight of camels running along with people on their backs was not one I was really prepared for, in spite of being aware that camel racing was a big deal here in the UAE.
The Skydive Dubai desert drop zone looms out of nowhere and is in a state of constant change as construction continues on the wind tunnel and hotel which are being built and which will make the site one of the premier skydive resorts in the world. The DZ itself is lovely, with some fantastic landing areas, fringed on all sides by the desert, and first class facilities, including two huge packing areas and a cafe. As this was my first trip back since my day of helicopter jumping back in November I requested a re-orientation and was shown the important areas and talked through the landing patterns and DZ rules by Ivan, one of the instructors.
As we were walking outside a sight that I was certainly not expecting met me: there in front of me stood none other than the F1 Champion and all time motor racing great, Michael Schumacher! There was absolutely no mistaking the guy and it turned out that he was out with his family getting some jumps in and, by the looks of it, putting his son through the AFF course. In many respects it makes sense to see F1 drivers involved in skydiving – they are, essentially by virtue of the job they do, adrenaline junkies and so skydiving must be a perfect release for them. After all, what other activity is going to come even close to the sheer on the edge thrill that you must get from racing at the speeds they do?!
I saw Michael a few more times during the day, including finding myself standing right next to him and his two sons and daughter (I am assuming thats who they were) whilst I removed my chute following my second jump. In hindsight I should have just been bold and said hi, instead choosing to act as though he was just another regular skydiver, which I told myself he was. I guess the reason I didn’t say anything was that I wasn’t sure if he would have found any approach annoying, considering that he must get gushing fans hounding him all of the time and was likely just looking to spend some time out with his family without being bothered. I realised after leaving the DZ that, in actual fact, the worst that could have happened from being polite and saying hi was that he didn’t say anything back and ignored me. I could have lived with that. In hindsight I very much doubt that would been the response, as he seemed to be in very good spirits, and I am still kicking myself for not seizing such a great opportunity. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that I now have something in common with one of the greatest F1 champions ever, and that is really cool 🙂
My jumps were fun, as expected, and saw me complete two solo belly skydives, focusing on just getting back into the swing of freefall and canopy control, something that felt awesome to be back into. I ended the day having completed jump number 49 and feeling ready to get my B-licence nailed. Unfortunately, the Palm DZ is still on a D, or 500 jumps, limit whilst construction continues, but I am hoping that it will revert back to a B-licence DZ soon as it is most definately the Holy Grail of DZs to aim for. The ultimate aim is to be able to jump with either my little bro or dad whilst they do a tandem, which I reckon would just be such an awesome experience.
Skydives complete, it was back to Dubai and The Springs for a spot of afternoon chilling by the pool and getting some reading done. I am now convinced that it is so much easier to study having taken a refreshing dip in a pool and to sit and read whilst baking in the sunshine than it is sat at some dull desk someplace, and found the task of reading my CPD notes a pleasure. Go figure!
The evening’s entertainment choice was to head along to Safa Park, a fantastic expanse of well maintained and beautiful parkland in the centre of Dubai and overlooked by the beautiful downtown skyline, including the truly mesmerizing Burj Khalifa, which twinkled away like an icicle in the sun, to watch Majid deliver a talk. I had initially expected the talk to be given in a lecture theatre and for Majid to be the only speaker. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the venue for the event, known as Pecha Kucha, was The Archive, a charming little library-come-cafe near Gate 5 of the park – the opposite end, incidentally, to where I had parked and entered, not that it mattered as it mean’t I got to stroll through the park itself, which was lovely at night.The format for the event was that there were a number of speakers during the evening, all with twenty slides that stay on the outdoor screen for twenty seconds, meaning that the presentations were all pretty slick and short. The topics ranged from subjects as diverse as ‘Moving Art’ to Majid’s talk on ‘The Secret Lives of Vets,’ focusing heavily on the important work of vets in protecting us humans from the very real threat of zoonoses. The atmosphere was really chilled, with everyone sat outside either on standard chairs, which were arranged in an amphitheatre style set-up, or on one of the beanbags, cushions or carpet that were to found at the front. Food was available in the short interval, with the burger I got being too big to finish, and as already mentioned, the atmosphere was just really great, with a very impressive turnout and a pretty eclectic crowd.
Majid introduced me to some of his good friends, and I also had the pleasure of meeting his beautiful new wife, which was a real honour. One of his friends, Paul, was the person hosting the event and I offered to give a talk myself at the next event, something that I reckon would be a lot of fun and for which I already have an idea.
Overall, as far as weekends go I can say that my first official weekend in Dubai has been brilliant and I know that I have barely even begun to scratch the surface of what is on offer here. In fact I have already been identifying events and concerts that I fancy going along to, including some pretty tempting acts coming up at the venues on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, including the legends of rock, Metallica, who I definately have to see! One of the challenges, I reckon, of living here in Dubai is working out how I am going to fit in all of the fun whilst also having to work. Ah well, not a bad ‘dilemma’ to be faced with.
Talking of work, I’d best log off now as its an early start to head to the clinic for the first day of the working week tomorrow.
I am currently writing this whilst sat in one of the Ministry offices whilst missing my veterinary exam and whilst Monique bangs her head against a proverbial brick wall. The issue, it seems, rests with my experience, in as much as it has been decided that the small gap of about two weeks that I appear to have in my employment record last August means that I am ‘under-experienced.’ Poor old Monique is doing her best to explain things and highlight the fact that I have more than enough experience but what can you do? Oh, and whilst this is happening I am currently missing the exam. Couldn’t make it up 🙂
The exam itself is the one that all non-UAE vets must sit if they wish to be licensed fully, meaning to work in a solo capacity. I could, it transpires, be registered as an assistant, which means that I wouldn’t have to sit the exam at this stage, but eventually I would need to do it. The exam itself is apparently about an hour in length and is a mixture of short answer and extended answer questions on everything from Ministry regulations, such as “what is a vet’s responsibilities”, to notifiables across the species, material that I honestly didn’t think I would ever need to look at again. According to one of the new vets who came out last month and already sat the exam, it is quite a relaxed affair, with candidates free to talk amongst themselves and even ask the invigilator for helpful pointers and explanations (not the answers, of course). All the above seems *cough* academic, however, at this stage as I daresay I will not be sitting it for another month given what I have told you so far. Yep, it is now 11am so that’s pretty much the exam over. Ah the joys of moving overseas!
Yesterday saw me move to my new home for the next couple of months whilst I search for a more permanent option. I am staying in an area of Dubai known as The Springs, which is a large development of villas kind of behind the Marina area. The guy I am renting from, a triathlete and captain, as it were, of the Dubai Pirates club, is originally from the UK and has been out here for about ten years. He’s a really cool guy by the name of Kevin and has kindly offered me a room in his villa for a few months whilst I look for something more permanent, which is awesome considering that a) you need to pay all of your rent in advance – or in four cheques if you’re able to negotiate such an arrangement. One thing to note, however, is that over here, writing a cheque means that you have to be absolutely certain there will be funds available when it is cashed as a cheque that bounces is a criminal offence and will land you in hot water. As such, finding the cash to stump up rent is a bit more of a big undertaking than it is in the UK. In the meantime, my villa pad will do very nicely, although the absence of an internet connection means that I am going to have to go cold turkey on the old digital surfing for a bit (I am posting this from my boss’ house).
Right, got to go…. more to follow on this relatively eventful and insightful day so watch this space 🙂