Tales from the Clinic: Reflections on my First Week as a Newly Qualified Vet

Jessica graduated from The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies this year, and has begun her first job as a veterinarian in a small animal practice. In this post, she reflects on her first week as a vet.

The transition from a student to vet is so abrupt, it almost didn’t feel real introducing myself to my first client as the vet! There can be quite a bit of self-doubt and not feeling good enough, but you have to own it! I had to remind myself that I have been studying for five years and I totally deserve to be here. Nonetheless, it suddenly felt ‘real’ when I introduced myself. I realised that much of the learning starts when you embark on your first job as a vet.

The initial challenges of starting a new job

As with any new job, I had to assimilate myself in the environment and understand the procedures and culture of the specific practice. Things like remembering names of new colleagues, getting to grips with the computer system and different pet health plans can be challenging! On top of trying to put five years worth of lectures into practice, whilst recalling the steps of a ‘perfect’ consult, it is all very overwhelming.

However, sometimes it’s not worth obsessing over all you’ve learnt through the course of your degree. Sometimes, you just have to go back to basics. The first week has really highlighted that as much as vet school can teach you the theory, it can’t really prepare you for the real world of owner expectations and the reality of a private sector business.

The consult

At present, good communication with colleagues and clients is paramount. Jumping into my first consult, I have found it’s also okay not to know everything off the top of your head. Taking a good history and relaying it onto more experienced vets to come up with a treatment plan is always an option if you ever get stuck or confused by something ‘out of the ordinary’. This is what I’m focussing on at the moment – taking a good history and communicating with the client effectively. It’s so easy to crack under the pressure when you feel like you have to know it all immediately. It’s also unrealistic. 

It’s the little things…

It becomes very easy to let all the little details set you back. I’ve found myself staring at the pharmacy wall trying to match up brand names to generic drug names, trying to hunt a drug and dosage in the formulary, or what blood tubes to use for sending samples off to the lab, for ages! It’s stressful and time consuming when you have perfectionist tendencies.

It’s important to take your time and not to set self-expectations too high. Colleagues will understand you’re a new graduate and everything is novel; of course you won’t be as quick as a vet 10 years qualified. Don’t let this get you down, instead, let it motivate you. Experienced vets can teach you how to do things efficiently and you can begin to master skills through observation and practice.

My advice: start everyday with a smile and take a minute to reflect on the achievement of starting your first job as a newly qualified vet!

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