I was reflecting recently on what I’ve learnt as both a permanent vet and a locum. I’d never want to change my journey, but it made me think about when lessons I’ve gleaned from over seven years in practice. Here is what I decided I’d want to tell my new graduate self:

1. Don’t take a job just for a pay cheque, it might be well-paid, but support & team dynamics are so much more important. I went in to my first job blinded by the huge wage, but later realised that it was much busier than expected, a sole-charge branch practice I didn’t know about and no qualified nursing team.

2. You won’t know everything. Ever. However, whatever you don’t know, someone else, somewhere, probably will. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Referral centres, Veterinary Information Network, experienced colleagues, travelling specialists; they’re all there to help. I keep my smartphone on me at all times, take photos of cases to help illustrate your point when asking for help (with permission, of course).

3. Everyone has the same negative voice in their head that tells them they’ve made a mistake, they’re not good enough & that they’re a fraud. That voice won’t ever go, but you can discredit it. This was the biggest lesson. I let this voice run the show for years.

4. Please don’t forget to have a life away from work, you’re SO much more than a vet. Don’t let work consume your hobbies, or fall into the trap of “I’ll just work hard for the first few years and pick these sports back up again later.” I’m telling you, you need that outlet.

5. Make time for friends & family. They are your number one supporters, & have been all through vet school. Don’t lose touch, don’t get so busy with work that you forget. Don’t be a stranger.

6. Connect with others in the profession. There’s a big, wide network of support groups, ideas generators and contacts accessible. Sometimes you need a vet friend out of the situation to have a chat with. The regional Young Vet Networks and BSAVA are brilliant for this.

7. Unproductive worrying helps nobody. Talk to yourself kindly “everyone genuine mistake is simply a good intention that didn’t go according to plan”. Talk about concerns if you think they’re genuine, go to a senior member of staff. Don’t let “mistakes” eat away.

8. Self care is not just binge watching a series on Netflix. Self-care is eating well, looking after yourself, getting regular exercise, going outdoors & looking after your health. You’d get pet owners to check out minor worries, do the same yourself. I invested in private healthcare and income protection, which was money well spent in my eyes.

9. Learn to love yourself. Learn about your quirks, your strengths and spend time on your own mental wellbeing. I hated myself at one point. Once I realised about that pesky negative voice, I gave myself another chance.

10. Don’t ever think you can’t do something. Your brain is such a powerful tool. Find a mentor, become accountable. You can do ANYTHING you want, you just can’t do EVERYTHING.

I hope that someone in the JHP community finds these tips helpful!

By Katie Ford