Helping new graduates find their feet

Graduate with feet on the ground

Every year the arrival of summertime brings with it specific changes in our practice: staff room conversations begin to revolve around holidays, Wimbledon and how good (or bad!) the weather is and there is a seasonal shift in caseload which sees our diaries flooded with itchy dogs, wandering grass seeds and various other outdoor related injuries. One of the changes I associate most with the summer months is the arrival of the practice’s annual intake of new graduates. Each year we have at least two new graduate vets join our team, sometimes they have been vet students with us for many years, sometimes they are completely new faces meeting our staff for the first time.

I always look forward to the newly qualified vets starting as I find it fascinating watching their progress and discovering what they bring to the team. I love to see them grow in confidence over time and I often find their enthusiasm for their new role refreshing and energising.

The learning curve

When you first qualify as a vet, each day in practice is a very steep learning curve. I remember finding every day exciting and terrifying in equal measure. At the end of each week I’d feel like a completely different vet to the week before because of the number of new experiences I’d been exposed to.  5 years on, I am still continuously learning but I don’t think the learning process has ever been quite as intense as it was during those first few months in practice.

At the end of my second week as a vet, I remember my boss telling me that one day most of the things I was worrying about would become second nature to me. At the time I found this incredibly hard to believe but, looking back now, I realise he was right.

For me, the arrival of our new graduates acts as a reminder of how much has changed in my own career and that of the other recently qualified vets in our practice. It always amazes me to think that those vets completing their first year of work were new to the team just 12 months previously.  They have gained so much experience that it is hard to remember them being ‘the new vets’ and difficult to recall the practice before they were a part of it!

Reassurance and reflection

Every year I go out of my way to reassure our new graduates that they will find their feet in time and every year I almost stop myself as I remember how much I struggled to believe those vets who said the same to me. However, I always decide that I genuinely consider this to be the case and that no amount of reassurance can be a bad thing.

"If you have new graduates starting in your practice this year, please do your absolute best to make them feel welcome and support them"

Of course, everyone expands his or her comfort zone at a different pace, and the type of support each newly qualified vet requires is unique. I don’t think there is a ‘one size fits all’ new graduate support style as each individual will find different aspects of life as a vet challenging. Everyone’s personality is different as are their strengths, their weaknesses and the way that they work. However, one thing I think is important to all new graduates is having colleagues who are patient and understanding.  It’s easy for us to forget just how anxious many new graduates can feel initially, particularly as our early years in practice become an increasingly distant memory. Summertime is always busy and it can be tricky to set aside time to chat to and help out new graduates but it’s incredibly important that we do so.

So, if you have new graduates starting in your practice this year, please do your absolute best to make them feel welcome and support them, it will make the world of difference I’m sure.

Help and support for new grads

BVA recognises that the transition from student to qualified vet can be challenging, so we offer a number of benefits specifically to help members in their final year at vet school through to the time you have been graduated for eight years. You can also join the Young Vet Network - BVA and the Veterinary Defence Society (the VDS) support YVN groups around the UK. The groups are run independently by volunteers and provide young vets with the opportunity to meet up, discuss the pressures and the pleasures of the job, and enjoy social and CPD events together.

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