The challenges and rewards of a career as a government vet
I wanted to be a vet from a very young age. I think this comes from my family background in farming and the meat industry, and I was always obsessed with dogs!
When I finished university, I was not sure if I wanted to specialise in horses or in public health. They are two very different fields, but they were what I loved the most, and during my studies I gained a lot of experience in both subjects. However, I knew that working in public health would give me a better career progression as you can work in so many different fields related to food safety or animal health in the private sector, universities or the government.
Having studied for my veterinary degree in my home town while living with my parents, after university I wanted to go abroad and discover the world. My idea was to come to the UK for six months to gain experience and learn a new language. That was nine years ago – time flies!
Why work as a government vet?
In my opinion, working for the Civil Service opens up so many more opportunities than other jobs do. Being a vet is a plus since you can work in the field applying your veterinary knowledge, but you can also gain experience in policy, project management and business, and acquire managerial skills. It is very difficult to develop this breadth of expertise in the private sector.
Moreover, working in government veterinary services is where I think we vets can make a big difference and protect public health, animal health and animal welfare. I also feel I work for the taxpayer and protect One Health.
'Working for the Civil Service opens up so many more opportunities than other jobs'
A day in my life
I love that my days are always different. Some days, I work from home, and I love the flexibility this gives me. Since I spend no time commuting, I can have a flexi timetable and adapt the day according to my circumstances. It is amazing what we can do with technology nowadays – teleconferences work so well that I no longer see the point of always travelling for meetings. However, remote teleconferences can be a bit lonely, so face-to-face meetings still offer benefits in other ways.
On other days I visit different food business operators that export to other countries. I help them to improve standards for export, but I also make sure that they comply with requirements from the importing country. Exporting meat to third countries means less waste, since most of the meat produced in an abattoir can be used for human consumption in other countries with different diets or culinary trends.
Another part of my role is accompanying ‘inward missions’ – visitors from countries that import products from the UK – all over the UK, inspecting slaughterhouses and cutting plants. This aspect of my job can be exhausting, working 12 to 14 hours a day and being away from home for the whole week, but it is often very interesting and I learn an incredible amount from international colleagues in a very short period.
The great things about being a government vet
The variety of all these activities is very appealing but one of my favourite aspects of my job is the challenge, dealing with different issues and stakeholders, including vets from other government departments and industry. I also enjoy the inward missions, because you see different points of view and procedures from various countries, which are sometimes totally different from our UK systems.
For me, working with Defra to open new export markets is quite a long process, but it is very rewarding since this means new opportunities for the UK.
However, my best reward so far was the award I recently received from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as Vet of the Year! I was not expecting this at all, since I feel there are so many amazing vets in the FSA. I guess that when preparing the inward missions, I had to work with several FSA colleagues to make them happen. Realising how my colleagues appreciate the work I do was the best thing that has ever happened to me at work.
Working for the government for almost nine years has given me so much experience in many different subjects. I have increased my veterinary knowledge but also I have learnt many other skills, such as working with different teams at different levels, dealing with different challenges under pressure, and being able to represent my organisation when working with different stakeholders in the public and private sector.
This article originally appeared as a blog on the Government Vets blog site.