This month Laura Colley shares her experiences throughout the last two years; balancing her working life with her personal life whilst undertaking the Small Animal PgC Surgery programme.
Laura begun her Veterinary experience aged just 13; “it was a vet named Birgith who inspired me to pursue a career with animals.” I enjoyed the week so much that I continued working at the practice with her for the next six years after school. After school there was only one option for Laura; The Royal Veterinary College fed her passion and soon after graduating Laura’s drive and determination landed her a practicing position at Parkside Veterinary Centre, a first opinion, small animal practice in Surrey. Laura has been practicing now for 5 years, her focused area of expertise is in Surgery and Ultrasound as she enjoys being practical and hands-on. Laura loves a challenge especially when it involves an obscure surgical case “the more complicated the better” exclaims Laura.
Hi Laura, which practice do you work at?
I‘m one of the vets at Parkside Veterinary Centre. It’s a first opinion, small animal practice in Carshalton, Surrey. I’ve been there for five years since I graduated.
What is the team at Parkside like?
Really good, there are 6 vets and we’re all in one building so we get to follow all our cases through and get lots of opportunity for surgery, which is great. There are lots of chances for learning and progression.
What is you area of expertise?
Surgery and ultrasound.
What inspired you to become a Vet?
I always wanted to work with animals, I practised with a vet when I was 13 and she really inspired me to take it further. I practised with her until I went to vet school, all the way through until I graduated.
What is the most exciting part of your job?
I like the interesting surgical cases or medical cases and the more complicated challenges.
Where there’s a problem to be solved?
Yeah, where it comes out with a good result or when you do something and it makes a difference.
What are the downsides of being a Vet?
Sometimes you get treatment constraints that can reduce your clinical freedom, financial constraints and things like that. You can’t always do what you would like to do, so you have to work within the constraints to work out the best option for everybody.
What inspired you to continue your professional development?
I knew I wanted to progress in surgery, I felt that I’d reached a level where I was good at all the basics but I wasn’t able to progress further; either from lack of confidence or experience. I could have attempted some procedures but I didn’t feel like I had the knowledge to back it. So the decision to register on an Improve programme was an easy one in the end.
Where do you see your career in veterinary practice taking you?
Hopefully I’ll be able to offer clients and patients more things and be able to become comfortable in more complicated procedures.
I’m not sure I want my own practice but I was thinking about going to work for a charity and using some of my surgical skills there, because there’s less of a referral environment.
So how do did you find a programme right for you?
I looked into all the courses available (not just from Improve), flexibility was key as I work a lot of evenings. Improve offers 1-day a month structured learning which fit perfectly around my schedule.
Having face-to-face lectures was also important, along with working in a group environment. I wanted the ability to speak to lecturers and discuss cases whilst I was still practicing.
Attaining RVCS Advanced Practitioner status was of course very important to me, I was initially concerned that the Improve programmes were not accredited but I later found that they were.
Which training centre did you go to and what did you think about the location and facilities?
Swindon, it was great, it had everything we needed.
What did you think about the team at there?
Very good, very friendly and approachable. I chatted with a few lecturers outside of the course if I needed help. There was one that I phoned on the day of a surgery, he gave me some help. It’s nice to have access to them.
How was the balance between work life and the programme?
Pretty good. I had to do less than I’m sure I would have done in a lot of other courses, but now I’m revising I think it’s going to be a bit busy in the next few months!
What did you take away from your time at Improve?
The staff were great – very friendly and approachable. The lecturers were more than happy to help outside of the course, even after I graduated. There was one lecturer at Anderson Moores whom I called on the day of a surgery for advice. It’s really great to have access to such experience like this.
The location and facilities in Swindon are great, Alexandra House had everything we needed.
The practical sessions were fantastic. We performed spinal surgery last which I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy, but surprisingly really did! It a lot was simpler than I thought it was going to be.
Did you have any concerns/trepidations about the programme before you started?
Not really, when I started I wasn’t sure if I would be able to use it for Advanced Practitioner status, but we found out that we can which is really good. I was worried that it wasn’t RVCS accredited when I took it on, but it is which is good.
Were your concerns alleviated during the programme?
Yes, we found out six months ago that we can use it for Advanced Practitioner status.
Have you been able to put your new skills and knowledge to good use?
I had a case, a 4-year-old cat that had an obstructing gall bladder stone. I had just completed my liver surgery training and was able to remove the gall bladder, which is something I wouldn’t have done without the course. The cat is now doing really well.
I’ve also used skin flap and skin graft techniques to help with tumour resection, which help to improve margins and long term prognosis for the animals.
The course has definitely improved my confidence in completing more complicated procedures.
What has the course meant for your practice?
I’ve been able to gain confidence in cruciate and patellar luxation surgeries, so I’m now able to do them at my practice, reducing the need for costly referrals.
What would be your advice to other vets thinking about joining a CPD programme/course?
The work/life balance is really more manageable than a lot of people would think, I know this is a concern for lot of vets. If you’re questioning who to do your CPD with then I can tell you that Improve have really good resources, and great lecturers. I can say from personal experience that completing the Small Animal PgC programme will give you confidence to take on more complicated surgeries when referrals are not possible.
I definitely think it’s given me the encouragement to take on a lot more complicated surgeries when referrals are not possible.