Taking my ECC specialism from academia to private practice
I have spent much of my working life in academia. In fact, I always felt that my career would be in postgraduate teaching. After five years as a senior clinician in emergency and critical care at Langford Vets, Bristol vet school’s referral hospital, I was approached to take on my current role. As clinical director at Paragon Veterinary Referrals my role is to develop internships and residencies, as well as putting our people at the centre of our business – something that particularly attracted me to the job.
Deciding to specialise in emergency and critical care
I knew during my third year at vet school that I wanted to be a specialist, but there wasn’t much information about how to achieve it. The internet was in its infancy and there was no clear pathway – internships and residencies were hard to find.
As a student, I loved anaesthesia and cats. I applied for, and was successful in getting, an internship in anaesthesia at Bristol vet school straight after qualifying. At the time I hadn’t heard of emergency and critical care, but before long I met Dan Holden, who ran the intensive care unit (ICU) at Bristol. He was inspirational – his influence led me to rethink the direction of my career. I looked for a broader internship that would let me pursue my new interest.
"My role is to develop internships and residencies, as well as putting our people at the centre of our business"
As my own career developed, helping my colleagues to also grow their skills became a theme of my work. At the Royal Veterinary College and at Langford Vets, I was involved in training at least 20 specialists and more than 100 interns – many of whom have gone on to develop amazing academic and clinical careers. I was also involved with mentoring and upskilling the nursing team at Langford. I am enormously proud of all of them all.
Happily, in recent years the prospects for developing specialist veterinary careers outside of academia have changed and developed considerably, with opportunities to complete internships and residencies in practice.
Currently, we have six interns on our staff – four rotating interns and two specialised interns in medicine and surgery, and we expect this figure to grow.
My role at Paragon
I am still finding my feet in my new role. The job has been largely administrative so far, looking at procedures and protocols and reviewing them with the help of our vet nursing and clinical leads. I am also working on developing the ICU, with the aim of delivering a nurse-led, vet-supported unit offering first-class care.
On a typical day, I start work at just after 8 am having taken my son to school; it begins with attending ward rounds with the nurses and the overnight intern. I then walk around the hospital, saying hello and making sure everything is okay before catching up with the medicine team to discuss the hospitalised cases.
"As my own career developed, helping my colleagues to also grow their skills became a theme of my work"
The rest of my day involves dealing with emails, looking at our protocols, meeting with team members and leaders, discussing cases with the clinicians and consulting on trickier cases where my expertise can be helpful.
We have a great team of people and we work well together. We currently have around 90 staff and we are looking to increase our nurses by 30 per cent and our vets by two to three in some specific areas, namely neurology and medicine. My aim is to develop a balanced team, and to empower our vet nurses and inspire everyone to be the best they can be.
I love my job and although I work hard, we still manage to make it fun and we laugh every day. I realise that not all jobs are like this in the veterinary industry and I have been lucky to be able to follow the path I wanted to.
Work-life balance as a specialist
My husband Mickey Tivers is also an RCVS Specialist (in small animal surgery). We worked together at Bristol and we continue to do so at Paragon. Obviously, taking on my new role involved relocating from Somerset to Yorkshire and we moved here shortly before taking on our new roles.
In my spare time, I enjoy creative hobbies such as cooking and baking, especially bread because I have no eye for decoration or neatness! I enjoy knitting too, and prefer something challenging like Fair Isle, lace work or, more recently, cable-knit Aran. Come to think of it, I could be happy teaching knitting – perhaps in a bookshop or a café where the cakes are homemade.
As a family, we spend a few weeks abroad together each year, away from everything, especially the Internet! We haven’t had a lot of chance to explore since we moved to Yorkshire as it’s still winter. But we are in the middle of the rhubarb triangle and I love rhubarb.
Also, West Yorkshire is on National Geographic Traveller’s Cool List 2019 of must-see places, so we’re looking forward to finding out what it has to offer.
1999: Qualified from Liverpool University vet school
1999: Internship in anaesthesia at the University of Bristol
2000: First-opinion mixed practice and small animal charity work
2001: Internship in small animal medicine and surgery at the Animal Health Trust
2002: Residency in emergency and critical care (ECC) at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC)
2005: Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency Critical Care
2005: ECC lecturer at the RVC
2009: ECC RCVS Specialist
2013: Senior ECC clinician at Langford Vets
2018: Clinical director, Paragon Referrals