‘I qualified in Portugal and moved to the UK to improve my English and vet skills’

Diana Cavaleiro

As a child, I dreamt of becoming a vet. I studied veterinary medicine at the Abel Salazar Biomedical Sciences Institute in Porto, Portugal, and fell in love with it right away.

I love being able to help poorly pets and advise their owners, but what fascinates me is the opportunity we have to resolve a whole host of different clinical problems. That is definitely my favourite part of being a vet and I imagine many of us feel the same way.

After qualifying in 2018, I moved to the UK. It was hard to leave my family to move to a different country with a new culture and language, but moving here with my boyfriend made it easier, because I wasn’t doing it alone.

When I first arrived, I lacked confidence in my English language skills, and was unsure of the logistics and ways of working in the UK. For these reasons, I felt joining a graduate programme would be my best option, as it would help me to acclimatise and progress my career.

After looking into what was on offer, I felt the Vets4Pets’ programme would suit me best, and I subsequently joined the group’s practice in Maldon, Essex. From day 1, I found every member of the team supportive and patient, not only helping me clinically, but also improving my English and client communication skills. I never felt pushed into doing a procedure or a consultation I wasn’t comfortable with, and my mentors let me develop my skills at my own pace. During the past two years, I have progressed so much: I couldn’t have done it without the support of the team.

'I felt that joining a graduate programme would help me progress my career'

There are two key differences between practice in the UK and Portugal. First, pet insurance, which removes some of the stress from our work. Unlike the UK, very few Portuguese pet owners have pet insurance. Another big difference is the important role that vet nurses have in UK practice. I have experienced this first-hand in my team. In Portugal, the veterinary nursing profession is relatively new so many vets work alone without support.

Graduate programmes

I would recommend any newly qualified vet – particularly international vets – consider joining a graduate programme that suits them. I had little confidence when I first started consulting, but being part of the programme meant I was given lots of support – clinically and emotionally – from a great team. Everyone was dedicated to helping me develop and improve my skills.

The programme also offers a range of CPD for clinical as well as interpersonal skills. As a foreign vet, the programme has given me the opportunity to meet other people who are in a similar situation as my own. This has made the experience of moving to a different country less lonely, because I have had the chance to share my experiences with people who understand.

I am lucky to have an amazing practice manager, Jane Hayden. She helped me to complete a CPD course on ultrasonography, which is one of my key interests. I am now the practitioner that performs most of the abdominal and heart scans in the practice and it’s one of my favourite parts of my job.

I also recently won the 2020 Vets4Pets ‘Graduate of the Year’ award, which received more than 40 nominations. The award celebrates vet graduates who have overcome challenges and integrated themselves within their practice. I was incredibly happy to win, but recognise that this is something we achieved as a team.

What her colleagues say

Diana’s colleagues agree the award acknowledges her hard work. Emily Bridges, graduate programme lead, said: ‘Diana has worked very hard to earn this award, and we really look forward to seeing how she continues to develop with the support of her fantastic practice. It has been touching to see the whole team celebrate her win together.’

Vet colleague Emmy Greaves said: ‘I love seeing Diana’s confidence growing and feel so proud of everything she has achieved. She has gone from being guided by us, to suggesting new research and ideas to implement.

‘I realised how far she had progressed when recently she singlehandedly dealt with a traumatic face wound in a dog and managed to beautifully put it back together with incredible surgical finesse. I hope she knows how grateful we are to have her as part of our team. She is a real credit to our practice.’

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