On being a vet

As some of you know, Angela and I had a baby boy around a month ago. We’ve been asked a couple of times if we’re going to train him up for the surgery, and this set me thinking as to what it takes to be a vet- so this is for anyone who’s considering it as a career. I’m going to take it as read that you love animals!

There’s no doubt that the science of medicine is advancing at an ever increasing rate. As we understand more, we realise just how much we don’t know. The double blinded placebo controlled trial has wrenched medicine away from eminence based to evidence based. However, the art remains; the ability to understand, explain, guide and comfort is as important as it always was. You need all the skills of a counsellor, and make sure you deliver your best time after time to your patient and their owner. Of course, you need to have an affinity for animals to give you a complete understanding of their problems.

The art of applying science is a craft, and craftsmanship takes a long time to perfect. As my old surgical lecturer told us when we graduated “you all know it up here [indicates head], now you need to know it down here [wiggles fingers at us]”; so new vets need to be patient. Not only that, as experience increases the temptation to hold on to outdated techniques grows, so an open mind and a willingness to embrace new methods is essential.

A good hard slog through school to get perfect grades precedes five or six years at University. University needs to be funded somehow, so expect a debt at graduation of £50K+, and expect to carry that for at least 10 – 15 years. Then just when you clear that, expect to put up more money to buy into a partnership, and be prepared to learn how to run a business. Respect for the professions has all but disappeared, and if you want to be rich then you’re better off working for a bank!

But you know what? It’s totally worth it!