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My first week as a vet!

I’m only a month into my job but looking back the first week is already a blur. So much has happened in just a short amount of time and it still feels unreal that I’m finally doing what I dreamed of for so long. The 7 weeks of lockdown between finals and starting work, whilst not what I expected, gave me a decent break and a chance to enjoy having free time again – albeit under restrictions! Most of my friends planned to start work in September, but even in July I felt I had forgotten absolutely everything I knew in the time away from virtual Vet School.

When life as a vet becomes a blur

As the start of August drew nearer, I spent a lot of time thinking about my first day. I worried about not being good enough, not knowing enough and generally stressed myself out. Final year rotations had prepared me for going into new practices and meeting new teams, but I think I was even more nervous because this team knew me already. I had planned to spend the time between finals and starting work revising all my farm teaching, but that was an unrealistic aim. I needed time away from studying to clear my head and do the things I loved but had had less time for – reading, kayaking, seeing friends and family (from a distance) and exploring my local countryside. Talking through clinical cases with friends in the year above also helped refresh my knowledge without being completely overwhelming. The most important preparation though was baking brownies on Sunday night for the team – vet students know how to make a good ‘first’ impression!

Unsurprisingly I did not sleep well before my first day. Go to https://vetpursuits.com/2019/11/14/sleep-why-should-we-care/ to read our blog on sleep. My Mum dropped me off as I needed to drive my work vehicle home, and I barely spoke the entire way there. As you might expect the first day was spent at the office: sorting paperwork, stocking my van and learning how to use an Android phone. I always enjoyed ‘What do you need for this case?’ exercises as a student but stocking a van from scratch was a completely different task. Freedom to make prescribing choices is obviously important, but as someone just starting out the number of products and brand names was daunting. Thankfully a senior vet helped me pick out a basic set of drugs and equipment, which I’ll add to as I start seeing cases myself.

From my second day I was out on farm, shadowing colleagues and performing clinical exams and practical skills for the first time in 4 months. It felt surreal being introduced as ‘the new vet’ after so long as ‘the vet student’ – I still haven’t got used to it now. I went on calls with different vets every day that week, and spent the rest of the time doing my OV training and reading up on cases at the office.

My first week absolutely flew by – I’ve never been so excited and exhausted at the same time. I feel extremely lucky to be working somewhere I spent a lot of time as a student. Whilst the team has changed slightly, having a few familiar faces when I started made a big difference – I needn’t have worried about them already knowing me. Due to covid-19, most of the team were working from home as much as possible. This brought different challenges as a new starter, but I’m really grateful that my colleagues made the effort to welcome me as much as restrictions allowed.

Looking back, I know the pressure I put on myself leading up to my first day was unnecessary, and I hope I remember that in future. As it turns out, everything we get told as a student about working is true: It is both exhausting and exhilarating. Sometimes it feels like you know literally nothing, and the next minute you’re having a meaningful conversation with colleagues about treatment options. Those moments are what help you tackle imposter syndrome when it raises its inevitable head!

So, I’m a month in and what have I realised?

  1. It’s normal to have those first day nerves. The veterinary community, whether in your practice, friendship group or online, is so supportive – someone will always be there for you.
  2. The vast majority of clients are great and showing a genuine interest in their animals or set-up quickly establishes positive relationships.
  3. Pens are the highest form of currency. Never use a nice pen on farm, it will be stolen or contaminated to the point of no return.  

My first week was a blur and my first month still feels like a dream. But I love what I’m doing, and I can’t wait to see where this profession takes me.

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