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Taking the leap into first opinion practice

 The jump (or should I say gargantuan leap) from university life into your first veterinary job is an absolutely terrifying, but also an incredibly exciting prospect. It's one others can do very little to help you prepare for and it is a different experience for absolutely every new graduate vet out there. It would be stupid for me to try and write a blog post with a list of advice on how to settle seamlessly into practice; every experience is different and there's no 'one piece fits all' advice that I can share. What I will do however is share with you my experiences and the tips and tricks that have helped me settle into practice life. Hopefully that way you'll have an insight into the difficulties I have faced and what I have done to overcome them.



Before starting...
My first practice is one that I didn't have any exposure of before taking the job. Lot's of people will advise you to perform EMS at a place before you apply and yes, I agree, this is fantastic advice; it's unfortunately just not always realistic. Therefore, to try and compensate for my lack of specific practice knowledge my bosses kindly allowed me to visit the practice on a regular occasion prior to starting work. These visit days allowed me to get to know the rest of the team, learn where things were kept and understand how the practice runs from day to day! It wasn't a huge commitment from myself (I went for 12 hours in total, split into 3 hour blocks) but it made a world of difference when it came to my first day (and I got paid as holiday in lieu - BONUS!).


As well as trying to learn some more information about the practice before I started, I also prepped my self in other ways. I made 'my bible', which for the first 2 weeks of practice life I wouldn't go anywhere without. This contained a short and simplified version of all the practice policies (for vaccination, neutering, repeat prescriptions, the pet health club and the approach to some of the more common cases) and my very own personalised formulary (with all the trade names of drugs the practice stocked, their use and the doses). Now this may seem like a lot of work (it took me a whole day to write and formulate) and I do understand this approach isn't for everyone but it worked well for me and really helped me make a more confident approach to consultations.


My first week...

For my entire first week of practice I was just running on an adrenaline high. You can read about my first day (and the mistakes I made) here: https://www.dogtorsmith.com/home/2018/11/28/dogtor-smith-is-ready-to-see-you-now, but to summarise I learnt, I made mistakes and learnt some more and then I had huge highs and learnt again... I don't think there's a real rule on how to settle into practice during your first week and if I'm being honest I don't think I really settled for a good couple of weeks. All I tried to do in those first few weeks in practice was take as much on board as I could and give myself the time to catch up, learn and recuperate. 


Finding my feet...
Once those first few weeks were out of the way I could really start to try and find my feet. Wherever possible I would follow up cases or check in with colleagues to see if I could have approached a case differently, get a better outcome or simply to see if I had ever missed anything. When I saw drugs for repeat prescriptions on the diary I would look up the drug to find out it's use and the disease process behind it. I would watch any surgical procedures when I had time and I would be forever asking people to show me how to do even the most simple of tasks (3-way taps used to blow my mind)!


I really tried to push myself (and still do). I loved getting the more confusing medical patients and although I was never sole-charge of inpatients in my first few months I would always go to inpatient rounds and formulate my own plan in my head, checking to see if the more senior vets had suggested something similar. I also found OOH cover and branch practice sole-charge was a brilliant way to push myself in these first few months. Yes I always had back-ups and someone on the other end of the phone, but by being the first point of call you're forced to take responsibility and make decisions. Although this was slightly scary at first, it's definitely helped me rapidly grow as a vet.


So, that's my story on how I initially settled into practice life. What I would really like to stress is that this is a continuing process and as I'm sat here writing this, I'm currently  4 and a half months in with a mountain of learning ahead of me. The only thing I would say to finish is that I am absolutely loving every second of working vet life. So even though the days and long and the constant learning is exhausting, it's also exhilarating because I'm finally doing it. I'm finally a vet and I can't wait until you all get to join me in saying that too!


As always, don't hesitate to get in touch or take a look at my blog and Instagram.

Over and out,

 Dogtor Smith

If you would like to talk to our dedicated Vet Team about life as a new graduate or you’d just like to chat through where you’re up to at the moment and how best to prepare for your next veterinary role don’t hesitate to call on 01423 813 453 or email vets.info@prospect-health.com 

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