Dr Louisa Graham BVM BVS BVMedSci PGcertVPS CertAVP(SAM) MRCVS, is also known as ‘Louisa The Vet’ on Instagram, where she shares her cases and patients in informative and educational posts aimed at her fellow professionals. She is a Clinic Director of a busy small animal practice, where she leads a motivated and happy team. In her personal life she has two young daughters, a three legged cat, a busy spaniel and a lovely husband!
Where it started
I studied at the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine. In 2013 I started work at a small animal hospital in Lancashire where I found my love for Internal Medicine and mentoring. After a couple of years, I was appointed Senior Veterinary Surgeon and a mentor where I spent time doing some in house CPD for other vets and supporting less experienced vets with their GP cases or out of hours emergencies. I also completed my certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice in Small Animal Medicine.
After almost 4 years (of blood, sweat, tears, severe sleep deprivation and various tantrums), in my first job, I decided to leave. It’s quite a long time to stay in your first job, but I was lucky to work with a lot of wonderful people (some of whom are my closest friends still) and I gained an immense about of clinical experience as well as confidence (it was a bit of a ‘sink or swim’ sort of place to work at that time), and I loved where I lived so it was hard to leave. When I left, I set up my own limited company and locummed for a couple of years. I needed a break, to re charge, spend time with loved ones and experience other veterinary practices (and their teams) before I committed to something again.
I moved to North Yorkshire with my (now) husband, gained a spaniel and decided to make the leap and take a role as the Clinic Director of a busy small animal practice.
Why did I choose to be a CD?
Locum work was a short-term solution for me, but I wanted more than my last (and only!) permanent job. I wanted a challenge and a job with a path to progress my career. I also had a vision surrounding the standard of care I wanted to offer and I wanted the clinical freedom to do this without my thought and suggestions falling on deaf ears. I had also felt so disheartened with the way the profession was feeling at the time, I just desperately wanted to help others reach their potential and create a positive working environment and help them see the positives to this profession again. All of these are difficult to achieve as a locum! I wanted to be someone who could nurture a team of like-minded veterinary professionals, to support, inspire, encourage, and motivate them. I have always believed in sharing knowledge, there is no reason to be selfish with it. Imagine what we could do for animals all over the world if we all shared knowledge between us.
I suppose actually a lot of these reasons are also the reasons for creating ‘Louisa The Vet’.
As a CD I practice all aspects of veterinary GP (with a small amount of time for some administrative things!) but my main interests are in Internal Medicine, Diagnostic Imaging and mentoring. I’m not a CD that sits in an office looking at figures (I don’t even have an office anyway!), I’m into the nitty gritty with the team as that’s where I thrive. So I do lots of ultrasound scanning including cardiac scanning and I am the sounding board for any stressful medicine cases! I have started a diagnostic imaging certificate so I can hopefully focus on this and the medicine (they go hand in hand) and offer this a specific service for clients! I also really enjoy ophthalmology so love managing non healing ulcers and doing eyelid surgeries. Aside from that, I consult and operate most days although I tend to hover in the background and let the team get on with most things and be there for them when they need.
Vet Life and Mum Life
I have a daughter, Lily who is 1 so I am now, like many others trying to find my way into the veterinary world with children! I work 3 full days a week rather than 4. These are full days, so I often don’t get to see lily when I come home but, I love having more full days away from work where I make sure we do quality things together.
I take on a lot but at work I am really disciplined to get things done. I have my ‘to do’ lists, write down who I need to call, I know what results I need to chase or report. I book my own revisits for my case continuity, make plans for patients when I’m not there, and I stay focussed and delegate things where I can. I try and make sure we all leave on time by managing the diary and just generally being organised.
I think to make things work with work and family life I have had to come to terms with the fact I cannot do it all. I felt guilty returning to work until I realised that for me to feel like myself and be the best version of myself, I need to be a vet too. Everybody is different. I do enjoy being a vet, and have no shame in saying it makes up a huge part of who I am. So, without it, I wouldn’t feel myself. That said, my family and daughter are always the priority and if I felt like I was neglecting this side or had the balance wrong, I wouldn’t hesitate to change.
I’m new to this mum and vet game and I’m sure when I need to do a school run or collect sick children from school things may get a bit more complicated! Until then….
The Things I’ve learned, What I love, and My Advice for You
I think it’s important to be frank and honest about our jobs and careers, as I openly talk about still enjoying and actually *cringe alert* loving my job. It’s legitimately true for the most part, but it wasn’t always like that (and there are days I don’t love it at all – quite the opposite). I didn’t have a supportive or even nice Clinic Director in my first job, (we clashed and didn’t share the same values), worked ridiculous hours (full day and night weekends) and amongst other stressful things I received my first (and only) ever RCVS complaint. The complaint, whilst I won’t go in to too much detail wasn’t about a specific case or pet, it was to do with my thoughts / beliefs on a (still current) animal welfare topic that got taken out of context. It’s now my badge of honour but, at the time it was highly stressful and really knocked me.
I’ve had complaints, some good ol’ social media bashing (which even included a Facebook live which was interesting…), I’ve made mistakes and I’ve lost patients sick and ‘healthy’.
I’ve done and seen it all and I still look forward to work. I often remind myself if I’m having a wobble about the power of the human animal bond; it’s one of the strongest, most humbling attachments I’ve ever witnessed (that I mainly see during or after a euthanasia when you see what that pet means to someone), and that bond is what motivates me every day.
There will ALWAYS be cases you can’t find the answers to, missed diagnoses, pets that get worse or die under your care, accidents that happen, clients wanting to complain and pass blame or even a dreaded RCVS complaint. In the grand scheme of things these make up a tiny part of what is a really great career. Most, if not all issues, clinical or not, can be resolved if you find somewhere that supports you. And by support, I don’t just mean an experienced vet supporting a new graduate. We ALL need support and encouragement. You need an entire team that supports you.
For me, I love the challenge, the learning, the fulfilment, the variety, the potential. I love watching and witnessing what a dog, cat, rabbit or whatever means to somebody. I love the cliché of making a difference to pets but also to other vets or nurses with teaching. To me, if you work to the best of your ability, know your limitations, reflect, improve, and work with honesty and integrity then you cannot ask for anymore of yourself.
Thank you VERY much to Louisa for writing such an amazing blog! Has this helped you? Let her know on her Instagram!