Q&A: Nicki Grint on specialising in anaesthesia
As part of a series of articles on veterinary specialisms, My Vet Future is talking to vets about their route to specialisation, with the aim of helping vets better understand how they can become specialists
Name: Nicki Grint
Job title: Head of anaesthesia service
- 2000: Graduated as a veterinary surgeon from the University of Bristol
- 2000-2004: Residency in veterinary anaesthesia at Bristol
- 2002: Gained RCVS certificate in veterinary anaesthesia
- 2005-2008: Lectureship at the University of Liverpool
- 2005: Gained European College of Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia diploma
- 2006: Gained RCVS diploma in veterinary anaesthesia
- 2007: Gained postgraduate certificate in teaching and learning
- 2007-2008: Head of the anaesthesia division at Liverpool
- 2008-2009: Locum positions at the Animal Health Trust, the Royal Veterinary College and Ross University, and as an emergency vet for Vets Now
- 2009-2012: PhD in working equid analgesia at the University of Bristol
- 2013-present: Head of the anaesthesia service at Cave Veterinary Specialists
Did you have a career plan?
I had really enjoyed my anaesthesia rotations during my clinical years at vet school and had hoped to complete my RCVS certificate in veterinary anaesthesia while doing a small animal job after graduation. I was incredibly lucky to be offered a residency straight out of vet school – which would be unheard of nowadays – and have been in the specialty ever since.
When did you decide that you wanted to specialise?
Initially I thought I would undertake the residency to improve my skills not just in veterinary anaesthesia but also in a lot of related disciplines that anaesthesia touches on, and that I would be able to take these onwards into a practice job. However, I was quickly hooked and realised early on in my residency that I wanted to stay in this field of specialism.
How long did it take you to become a specialist?
Due to starting my residency straight out of vet school, I became a European specialist five years after qualification, which is the earliest the diploma can be taken.
Can you describe the commitment involved?
When it comes to the financial commitment of becoming a specialist, I think I did things the easier way round, starting out on a university stipend and then increasing my salary with every job since then. I can only imagine how difficult it is to manage finances going from a good practice salary down to a residency wage. I self-funded my PhD working as a full-time emergency vet, and so even though those three years of my life were incredibly taxing in terms of a work-life balance, financially I didn’t have to take the same hit as a lot of my colleagues have.
Other than those three years, I have always been an advocate of not putting life on hold for the sake of your career, although people taking certificates or diplomas should be prepared to ‘lose’ their summer before each set of exams!
"Take your time to pick the right subject to specialise in and ensure that you pick one that will keep you interested and entertained for years to come"
How do you maintain your specialist status?
Every five years you need to reaccredit by obtaining a certain amount of points showing you are active in your specialist field. These points can be accrued by spending time in clinical practice, publishing papers, providing or attending CPD, sitting on relevant committees, or writing and marking exam questions for your college.
Are you working in private practice or academia?
I’m currently working in private referral practice. There are things to be said for both private practice and academia; I have enjoyed working in both.
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
During my current role, I have gone from being the sole anaesthetist (and therefore staying late for any ongoing cases every night) to one of four anaesthetists as the hospital and caseload has grown. Also, three years ago the full-time position changed from a five-day to a four-day week. These two changes have made a massive difference to my work-life balance.
We also have a generous CPD and holiday allowance and since I have been in charge of the rota for the anaesthesia division, I have been really mindful of allowing for a decent amount of time off work regularly, to prevent any ‘burnout’ in the team – including myself.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a specialist?
Take your time to pick the right subject to specialise in and ensure that you pick one that will keep you interested and entertained for years to come. Studying to become a specialist takes a lot of time and dedication and it would be a shame to waste all of that by deciding at the end of it that it wasn’t the right speciality choice for you. I got lucky: I chose early, but anaesthesia was the right choice for me.