Easing the transition for young vets into independent practice

Lizzie Bewsey-Dyke

I'd often thought about becoming a teacher because I liked the idea of helping people to be the best they could be. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I set up Grads to Vets – a support service for newly qualified vets in independent practice.

What is Grads to Vets? 

Grads to Vets aims to make joining our profession a positive experience, helping equip new graduates with the necessary support and skills to let them thrive.

Lizzie's role 

Apart from being the managing director of Grads to Vets, I’m a first-opinion clinical vet. On a typical day I work as a vet, with the usual consults and ops, and a one-night-in-four on-call rota. Then I spend a few hours each evening replying to e-mails, updating the website and Facebook and processing new applications.

And I dedicate a day a week to visiting vet schools and talking to students, meeting sponsors or talking to interested practices.

I’m also learning about how to run a small business; for example, getting to grips with accountancy software, branding, insurance, GDPR legislation...the list goes on. I’ve benefited from lots of advice to help me navigate these necessities.

Growing skills as a general practitioner 

On a personal level, as a vet, I want to grow my own skills and knowledge as a general practitioner, through building a career that allows me to get satisfaction from work, while also allowing me time to spend with my family.

I hope to remain, at least to some degree, a practising vet for the rest of my career. But that wasn’t always how I felt.

Support during university

At university I became convinced that I wasn’t going to enjoy being a vet. There was a lot of talk about stress and disillusionment in the profession and I started to wonder if it was the right career for me. I spent my final years at vet school attending non-veterinary careers events and was close to applying for Teach First or a management consultancy graduate scheme.

"There was a lot of talk about stress and disillusionment in the profession and I started to wonder if it was the right career for me"

I’m sure that my director of studies, although he was always very patient, thought I was a lost cause. My parents persuaded me to try working in practice after graduating before choosing whether to pursue a different career. I’m so glad they did.

When I graduated from Cambridge in 2014, I could see the benefits of joining a corporate group’s graduate scheme, but I knew I wanted to work in an independent practice.

Working in practice

I found a job where I was well supported. I loved the atmosphere and working in practice. Although I was happy, I struggled to meet people that I could make friends with. This is something we cater for in the graduate scheme.

Some of my friends were less fortunate than me, starting in jobs where there was a lack of support and no directed learning. They quickly became demoralised and disillusioned.

Developing Grads to Vets

Hearing about their experiences led me to set up the graduate scheme. I’m excited about how it’s developing and I’m really enjoying working as a vet too; after all, it was my initial motivation.

"Almost everything about starting Grads to Vets has been positive"

Almost everything about starting Grads to Vets has been positive, but the three best bits have been meeting so many supportive people within the veterinary sector, receiving applications from final-year vet students who are genuinely excited about the scheme, and learning the new skills around setting up the business.

Work-life balance

Maintaining a work-life balance has been more of a challenge. My husband (also a vet) is extremely understanding and supportive. His tolerance knows no bounds – I’ve been known to glare at him over the top of my laptop if he plays music too loudly in the evenings and then insist he listens to my excited ramblings about some new aspect of the scheme, all while neglecting to do my share of the washing up!

I couldn’t have got to this point without his support.

Work-life balance is not something I’ve struggled with before, as I generally prioritise family life. I hope to regain the balance soon. One thing I’ve not given up is walking the dog. Escaping from work and getting some fresh air always lifts my mood.

My advice to current vet students would be to choose your first job carefully based on where you feel comfortable at interview. Try to speak to other assistants and nurses and spend at least a morning at the practice if you can.

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