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Life after graduation - Ellie Morris

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Life after graduation - Ellie Morris

3rd May 2018

It’s been a few months since I updated this blog - life gets in the way! Since I last wrote I’ve completed my PDP and ticked a few more 'first time' boxes at work - eg. first pyo, first cystotomy - it’s always exciting doing a new surgery, and there’s something cool about being able to fix something just using your gloved (not bare) hands! The BSAVA PDP resources have been really useful for preparing for new ops - there’s some really good videos on emergency surgeries such as the 'A-Z of GDV' videos.

I went to the Bristol BSAVA Student Conference last weekend to give a talk on my first six months in practice. I didn’t think I had much wisdom to impart, but it seemed to go well! At work we’ve had a new vet start who just qualified from a European vet school so I’m no longer the baby of the practice which is a bit weird. She is doing brilliantly but it does make me glad that my first few months are behind me and everything is a lot easier!

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15th January 2018

I’m six months in now and I feel like I’m starting to hit my stride - I might not look any different on the outside, but I definitely feel like in consults I’m usually genuinely confident rather than playing “fake it ‘til you make it”! I’m still learning a lot every day but I can manage most things without too much help. We’ve had a few quieter days recently where I’ve had chance to look at some of the BSAVA PDP resources - the “A-Z of GDV” webinars are particularly excellent and I feel much more prepared for that situation now having watched them. Take a look at the webinar here.

I had an interesting case this morning of a Yorkie which I suspect had tracheal collapse - I’ve not managed one of these before so after seeing him I needed to do some research and speak to my colleagues about the options and phone the owner back with a treatment plan. I think when I first qualified I would have expected the owners to think I was a rubbish vet if I didn’t have the answer to everything immediately, but I’m confident enough now to be able to manage people’s expectations. I think I must come across a bit more like I know what I’m talking about which also helps!

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14th December 2017

With the heavy snow this week it’s been a quiet few days at work - I’d like to say I’ve been doing CPD but I’ve mostly been eating mince pies and listening to Christmas music! We have had some excitement in the form of three very cute ginger kittens who were brought to us after being found dumped in a box in the snow. We put a few photos on our social media and by the end of the day they had been commented on or shared hundreds of times and had even made the local newspaper. The past few days has involved fielding dozens and dozens of messages and phone calls from people desperate to adopt them while I neutered them and liaised with the local branch of Cats Protection who are kindly arranging home checks and rehoming. I’m glad the kittens will end up in nice homes but I know that CP have lots of older cats who have had no interest for weeks so I’m hoping that with all the enquiries about the kittens they might be able to persuade someone to take an older moggy instead!

We’re recruiting for another vet at the moment as one of my colleagues is moving away - it’s strange to think that soon I won’t be the 'new vet' anymore, the past few months have gone so fast! I’ve got quite a few of my own clients now who have been coming back to see me and it’s really nice to have a relationship with people rather than starting from scratch in every consultation. It’s really rewarding to see patients who keep coming back doing well because of the medication I’ve prescribed or the surgery I’ve done.

 

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1st December 2017

It’s my day off today, and I’ve been to Birmingham to meet up with the rest of the BSAVA PDP Committee to go through plans for new and current content in the PDP Resource Bank. So far we’ve got sections on General Professional Skills and Emergency and Critical Care, and the team are busy reviewing the content which is lined up for Dentistry, Exotics & Surgery.

I’ve had a couple of slow afternoons at work recently where I’ve had chance to use some of the resources myself, and they’re fab. After watching the “Anaesthesia of the Caesarean Section” webinar, I discussed what I’d learned with my colleagues and how it compared to their approach. I’ve not done a caesarean yet but I feel a lot more prepared for when the time does come! Hopefully I’ll have had chance to watch the GDV webinars before one walks through the door...

I had my appraisal yesterday, which was a nice confidence boost. I’m lucky to have ended up in a practice with a balance of clinical freedom and support that really suits me - I’m trusted to get on with it but there’s always help available if I ask for it, and I think for me personally that’s helped me to develop faster than if people were looking over my shoulder all the time. Settling into my first job has definitely been made a lot easier by the fact that I had spent several weeks there as a student, and knew exactly what to expect. It also helped my colleagues, as they had a better idea of what skills to expect from me and how much support I’d need. I’ve managed to get through a lot of the PDP now, and my “to do list” of procedures to do or areas to improve before signing myself off is rapidly getting smaller.

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17th November 2017

I can’t believe it’s been six weeks since I updated this blog - where has the time gone? It’s been over four months now since I started work and the feeling of “imposter syndrome” has definitely faded.

It’s my day off today and I’m glad of it - it’s been a busy few days. Working last weekend had been fairly steady until Sunday lunchtime when everything went from 0 to 100, and before I knew it I was doing my first intestinal resection and anastomosis with my boss giving me instructions on speakerphone! By the time she arrived to lend a hand, I was finished and thankfully everything had gone well. Our student nurse and I spent the rest of the day racing around dealing with various inpatients, although I did just about find time to eat a quick McDonald’s sitting on the floor (desperate times call for desperate measures!). I made a point the next day of letting the student nurse know how awesome she’d been - really switched on, efficient and competent - I was really proud of how we’d both managed a really hectic but rewarding day.

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26th September 2017

Today was a good day.

My last consult of the day was with a lovely family with lots of young children who brought in their bitch for a pregnancy scan. Sure enough she was full of puppies and the kids were absolutely delighted to be able to see them on the ultrasound screen. Their excitement definitely helped to put a smile on my face for my whole drive home from work (although being on a 5 o’clock finish today didn’t hurt either!).

Reproduction is probably one of the areas I’m least confident with. In final year, I focused more on areas I was interested in like internal medicine, and by chance I didn’t get much experience with breeders on placements. I’m also still a bit hazy on the reproductive physiology I learnt in second year! Looking at what I’ve filled out so far on the PDP Skills Log, it’s definitely an area that stands out as something I need to spend time learning more about.

Another “good” part of today was two home visit euthanasias I did earlier. Although, on the face of it, it sounds awful to say putting an animal to sleep was “good”, but the term “euthanasia” comes from the Greek for “good death” and it can be a blessing to be able to end an animal’s life in a pain-free and dignified way. The two animals I put to sleep today were both much-loved family pets who had lived long, happy lives, and they died without any stress or discomfort surrounded by their family in their homes. I am much more confident doing euthanasias now, after almost 3 months working in practice, but I still breathe a big sigh of relief once everything is done and I know I gave the patient and their family as “good” a death as I could have done.
 

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15th September 2017 

After a really busy and full-on few weeks, things are starting to settle down and I’m getting into the swing of things. The majority of consults are much easier now that I have seen common presentations such as itchy skin, vomiting and diarrhoea, lameness and ear disease dozens of times, and have a well rehearsed script for explaining things like allergic skin disease or symptomatic treatment of diarrhoea. It’s nice to not have to think so hard for every single consult and to be able to get on with “bread-and-butter” work with more confidence.

On call work is tiring but really useful from a learning perspective, and I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my clinical reasoning and decision making. Once you’ve seen something once it’s so much easier the second time around - for example, on my most recent night on call, I was called out to see not one but two different diabetic cats who had gone hypoglycaemic. The first time I phoned my boss to double check I was on the right lines and get a bit of advice on giving IV glucose (and which cupboard it was kept in!). A few hours later when I was called out to another cat in a similar situation (what are the odds?) I was much more confident and was able to manage the case without any help.

Almost all of my friends have started work too now, and it’s been really interesting to hear how everyone’s been getting on. Generally everyone has been doing really well and enjoying it, but we’ve all had days when we’re absolutely exhausted after really challenging cases or busy workloads. I’m in a Whatsapp group with several of my uni friends where we often ask each other for advice or just vent about frustrating or funny situations we’ve found ourselves in. It’s been reassuring to hear that everyone has experienced a bit of 'imposter syndrome' - feeling like we don’t belong or know what we’re doing, and we are just pretending to be real vets. But every time a client listens to your advice or a case goes well, the 'imposter syndrome' slowly disappears, and we feel a little bit more like our degrees were legitimately earned rather than awarded by mistake!
 

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7th August 2017

I was quite nervous about my first night on call, but I only ended up getting one straightforward advice phone call that evening and nothing overnight. At one point I even phoned my on call phone to check that it was working!

My second time on call, however, was a baptism of fire!

Between 10am and 11pm on Sunday, I saw the following cases (and more!)…

•    A kitten with a rectal prolapse, who needed to be sedated for a purse string suture
•    A dog with a urinary tract infection, who later came back in because he was nauseous and not keeping down his amoxiclav tablets
•    A rabbit with a spinal injury, who was unfortunately put to sleep
•    A very sick cat who also unfortunately had to be put to sleep
•    A dog who had been attacked by another dog in the park, who needed to be sedated to have its wounds cleaned and stapled
•    A very dyspnoeic young puppy with pneumonia who needed to be hospitalised
•    A dog with profuse bloody diarrhoea, who then re-presented several hours later following a tonic-clonic seizure
•    A dog who had eaten its owner’s medication, who was admitted to induce emesis

The day was non-stop - I would just get home and be about to start making dinner when the phone would ring again!

Most of my diet that day consisted of shovelling crisps into my mouth in the car driving back into work. Thankfully I had plenty of support from a fabulous nurse and another backup vet, who were both brilliant, but I tried to push myself to be confident and decisive and take ownership of my cases.

I was very glad that the phone didn’t ring any more overnight as I was absolutely drained from all the running around and learning how to manage cases I’d not dealt with independently before. This morning, after checking my inpatients, updating their owners and making plans for them for the day, I was relieved and proud that everything had gone well and that in the heat of the moment I’d been able to step up and earn my keep as a real vet. I just hope my next on call isn’t quite as hectic!

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26th July 2017

I started my job two weeks ago and so far it has been fab. I knew the team quite well already as I’d done placements at the practice during my final year, which meant I could get stuck in on my first week and not have to worry about remembering names or figuring out the computer system, plus I was much less nervous about starting. I’ve been eased in quite gently, starting with a day of shadowing and mostly doing boosters and other simple consults during the first week, which was great while I found my feet.

I’m starting to see more interesting cases now and it’s been quite satisfying to be able to make plans and decisions without someone looking over my shoulder (although at times a little bit scary!). One of the highlights so far was pulling a 22cm grass blade from the pharynx of a young cat with a 3 day history of retching - it was like a veterinary magic trick - the novelty of fixing a real animal won’t wear off for a while I don’t think!

I had been worried that clients might not be impressed with seeing the new vet, but so far I’ve found the opposite - many people have been really interested in chatting about where I went to university, how much they like the practice and even how lucky I am to have started my career somewhere so good (which was reassuring to hear from a client who had been bringing her dogs there since before I was born!).

One of the most useful things a friend told me before I started was how to phrase that you’re going to ask a colleague about a case in a way that sounds like the client is getting two vets for the price of one rather than that they’ve got the rubbish vet!

A novice breeder really appreciated my honesty when I confessed that I had limited experience with breeding but would be happy to talk to my colleagues and email her some Kennel Club resources and breed-specific health screening information, which ended up being very useful for both of us.

I had a few days off last week to go back to Bristol for my graduation which was lovely. Everyone had a great time catching up and enjoying the sunshine.

The RCVS President did a very good speech about creating opportunities during periods of change and continually improving the profession. It was a fantastic day and it will be exciting to
see where the rest of the Class of 2017 will end up.

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7th July 2017

Only a few days to go until I start my first job!
 
This week I’ve mostly been enjoying my free time and exhausting Netflix. However, I have tried to do a little bit of reading to refresh some of the things I’ve forgotten since finals and get ready for starting work next week.
 
When new graduates renew their membership and buy First Year Qualified membership in late 2017, we’ll get a free BSAVA Pocketbook For Vets as one of the membership benefits (although if you want one sooner, you can get one with your BSAVA member discount for £15 via the online shop).

I’ve borrowed a friend’s who graduated last year and added a few of my own annotations (eg. the dosing table from the datasheet for metronidazole, some important phone numbers, a few facts I can never remember like the length of the different stages of the oestrus cycle in the bitch). It looks really useful - there’s things like body condition score charts; a table of all the ectoparasite treatments including how frequently they’re used and their spectrum of activity (next week I’ll highlight the ones my practice has on the shelf); flowcharts with approaches to problems like head trauma and PU/PD; dosage of various commonly used drugs (including the dosing tables from datasheets, which aren’t in the formulary). Hopefully it should be helpful next week (or at least give me some peace of mind knowing it’s in my pocket!).
 
I’ve also started reading Clinical Reasoning in Small Animal Practice by Jill Maddison, Holger Volk & David Church. I went to a BSAVA Regional CPD day by Jill Maddison & David Church a few months ago, and found their problem-solving approach really helpful. A few of the vets attending the day recommended their book to me as they’d found it really useful as new graduates to bring a structured approach to challenging cases. I’ve read a few chapters so far and I’m sold! It’s very good for getting you to think in a logical way and be able to come up with a plan for your next step. Plus it’s a bit more pleasant and probably more useful than cramming facts (which I’ve done enough of for the past 5 years!).

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26th June 2017

My name is Ellie Morris and I’m graduating as a vet from the University of Bristol in July 2017. I’ve wanted to be a vet for pretty much my whole life except a brief period during primary school where I was torn between being a vet and being a Spice Girl.

I’ve had an absolutely fantastic time at uni, made some amazing friends and loved living in Bristol & North Somerset for 5 years. Bristol is a beautiful city and I’ll really miss it but I’m excited about the next chapter! During my 4th & 5th year, I was the BSAVA Student Rep for my university, and now I’m graduating I’m staying involved with the Association through the West Midlands committee and the PDP committee.
 
I’ve just had the news that I’ve passed my finals! So I’m all ready to start my new job in a few weeks - I’m working at an 8 vet small animal practice in the West Midlands. I did 6 weeks of EMS placements there during my final year so I have a rough idea of what to expect but I’m still a little bit nervous. The week before I start I think I’ll have a read through my BSAVA Canine Practice & Feline Practice manuals and listen to a few Congress podcasts on topics I’ve forgotten since finals.
 
Over the next year I’ll be blogging about my experience completing the PDP as a newly qualified small animal vet.

The BSAVA launched their PDP Resource Bank in 2016, starting with General Professional Skills and with Practical and Clinical Skills due to be added mid-2017 - perfect timing for those of us graduating this summer. There’s also a section for our bosses and colleagues with guidance on how to support new graduates.
 
Once I start work, I’ll aim to post every 1-2 weeks with examples of challenges I’ve faced and different resources I’ve found useful. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my last few weeks off - which started at the weekend with Glastonbury Festival!

 

 

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