Gaining confidence and competence as a new graduate

Rachael Riley new graduate

After an intense five years at vet school, I needed to take some time to unwind and switch off before finding a job, so my partner and I travelled around Europe. After this well-earned break I felt ready for my first job.

I knew I wanted to work in small animal practice and began looking for jobs, which included looking at various graduate programmes. The Vets4Pets Graduate Development Programme stood out to me.

Not only did it include extensive CPD, but the support network offered an avenue through which I felt any concerns could be addressed and dealt with promptly. This is an absolute must for any new graduate looking for their first job.

I submitted my application and was contacted the next day about a Vets4Pets practice local to me that was looking to take on a new graduate.

"Within the first hour at the practice, I knew I could fit right in"

I arranged a day-long interview at Vets4Pets Accrington, where I met the two vets, Robin Stratton and Becky Follows, and the rest of the team. Everyone seemed to work well together and the atmosphere was lovely – within the first hour I knew I could slot into life in the practice. After a chat with Robin, he offered me a job, and the rest is history.

My first few weeks at the practice were perfect for me. I wasn’t booked to do any consultations, but I shadowed the vets and carried out some surgeries. This approach suited me really well. It minimised the stress of starting a new job and learning practice protocols. I don’t think I would have enjoyed being ‘thrown in at the deep end’ and I am so grateful that my introduction to practice recognised my strengths.

It wasn’t long before I got into the swing of practice life and was comfortable to start consulting and performing more surgeries, building my confidence day by day.

Becky was my designated mentor, and she supported me throughout the initial stages of my development. I will be forever thankful that I had her there to help me every step of the way.

I gained confidence doing routine neutering surgeries quite quickly, which in part was because I had been lucky enough to attend a neutering clinic in India between my fourth and fifth years at Liverpool vet school. Thanks to that opportunity, within a month or so in practice, I was confidently doing cat castrations/spays and dog castrations without supervision.

Then, when a colleague fell ill, I started doing the odd sole-charge day. However, I couldn’t have done it without our fabulous team of nurses. Their experience was, and is, invaluable, and if I could give one piece of advice to other new graduates, it would be to never underestimate the value of your nursing team – they are heroes, especially for new vets.

One year on, I’ve taken on more complicated surgical cases, such as eye enucleation, and am keen to keep progressing my surgical skills. I’m a practical learner, so I’m willing to have a go, especially as I can always count on the support of the team.

The Vets4Pets Graduate Programme has supported me in a number of ways. I’ve had the opportunity to network with fellow graduates across the group, with whom I’ve shared worries about my progress or discussed different techniques that others are learning.

The CPD benefits have also played a big role in helping me progress as a vet, particularly in adjusting to different circumstances.

This year, I was nominated for the Graduate of the Year award at the Vets4Pets 2019 National Partner Conference. It was a complete surprise as my colleagues had nominated me in secret. I think one of the reasons they did so was because of the way I handled the ‘challenge’ of taking sole-charge quite early on in my graduate placement.

I was thrilled to receive the nomination, and I am quite honestly still in disbelief that I won! I would not have been able to achieve my development to date without the fantastic team I work with. I get on well with everyone at in the practice and we work well as a team to provide the best care for our patients. My colleagues look out for me and help me to be the best vet I can possibly be.

Vets4Pets Accrington’s joint venture partner Robin is proud of Rachael's progress. He said: ‘Rachael is confident and competent. She is by far the best new graduate I have ever worked with. She gets involved with her cases, showing care and passion while learning and advancing her knowledge. She happily uses more experienced colleagues to learn from, but also shares her knowledge and gets involved in clinical discussions about cases.

"She has the knowledge and science of veterinary medicine, as well as the art"

'Surgically, Rachael is ahead of where she should be and will undertake new procedures with confidence and appropriate guidance. She has integrated well with the team and is popular with clients who don’t even realise she is a recent graduate. During a period of illness, Rachael was the sole vet on a few occasions, but she ran the practice admirably. She already has leadership skills and qualities and can direct the team accordingly. Essentially, she has the knowledge and science of veterinary medicine as well as the art. Her New Graduate of the Year award is well deserved.’

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