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Ben Sweeney is our next Vet Mentor!

Ben graduated from Liverpool University in 2008. He has spent time in mixed, equine and companion animal practice. The last 5 years have been spent as a locum and being a setting up Simply Locums who have recently merged with The Webinar Vet. He is now MD of Simply Locums and very excited to be a disruptive innovator for the profession moving forwards. His professional passion and ambitions are to help every vet and nurse find their own #vethappy and find a way to make a life as a vet work for them.


Away from work, he is regularly seen with his slightly intellectually challenged Locum Labrador Max, and the famous Secretary Spaniel Monty. He is a keen triathlete and runner although has accepted that middle age has turned him into more of a hobby athlete now.

Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfillment?

I can honestly say that I don’t think I have a particular habit or routine, but to me the most important thing is to be in the right headspace to actually do my work. I tend to exercise to clear my head, I have quite bad dyslexia and those who know me would suggest I am borderline hyperactive/ADHD, so keeping still, focusing and switching off is a challenge for me. Whether it be throwing weights around the gym or running/swimming/cycling, I go where the mood takes me.


Everyone is different, so you have to find what works for you as an individual and focus on that.

What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success?

When I left equine practice after 5 years and gaining my certificate, I took a job local to where I was living on a good salary with no OOH and a half day off a week. The job that I took wasn’t what was advertised and I was left alone a lot with not a clue what I was doing.


Ultimately, this could have destroyed my transition to companion animal practice and I was made redundant after 3 weeks but by the end of the day I had an interview lined up at a practice that turned out to be the making of me, my career and my transition to smallies.


The most successful failure in my life to date. You WILL have setbacks and challenges throughout your career, roll with them and learn from them.


When you start to doubt your own ability, or are having 'a bad day at the office', how do you get back on track?

I give myself some time, maybe that is taking myself off for 10 minutes and having some quiet time but equally sometimes it’s finding the nearest cardboard box and punching it. Indeed, on some days I just put stuff down for the day in my non-clinical work and say that’s me done, I need to switch off. The hard part in clinical practice is that we simply can’t just disappear off home even though we may want to.


My biggest frustration is often cases where clients have no money and I know that it is something that we can fix but end up having to euthanise: don’t get me wrong, this is often much more of a hard decision for owners but it does impact on me. Ultimately the next cases we see have nothing to do with that one so we need to be able to put it down and move on quickly to offer other clients the best of us as it were, which is not easy.


Talking to your team is key as they will share the burden and most of the time make you feel better.


What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?


Cake, its ok to say no to cake! Only joking, why would you say no to cake? That would be insane!


In seriousness, you can’t do everything well. I generally don’t say no to things, but more of an ‘I don’t think that is a topic I can do justice to’ or,’ I don’t know enough about that so let me connect you with….’. The best example for me would be that I have got better at saying no to work.


A colleague once pointed out to me that I was trying to be all things to all men, which is simply not possible and that was the eye opener to me. I learnt to trust others to do the things I needed them to do.


I used to work all the time, but as life and family life get busier, it is important to value those things and not neglect them, there are other vets and nurses out there who can work shifts, there are others who will appreciate the chance… especially on your recommendation, so why not let them have it?


Now I tend to say “I can’t do that, but I know someone who is great and would love to.”


If you could gift a book to all vets at graduation, what would it be, and why?

Given my lack of grasp on reading, I love a good audiobook as it takes me a lot less time. And, frankly, I would recommend anything from Roald Dahl. Not because it will help you develop as a professional, not that it will teach you something mind-blowing about yourself, but that it is something fun and enjoying. You spend your life as a new grad ‘being a vet and living as a vet’, so why not switch off and not be a vet for a few hours in a good book?


You cannot spend all of your life working hard and developing yourself: sometimes you just have to be happy to let yourself switch off, let your imagination run wild and unwind.


Don’t be limited by conventional thinking, don’t worry about things unnecessarily, just take it a day at a time.


Tell us about something you are currently a fan of?


I am a die hard Everton Football club fan. Those of you who know anything about football will realise that this has been a lifelong time of suffering and struggling, managing my expectations and settling for what I have; an empty trophy cabinet.

Indeed, our club motto is ​Nil Satis Nisi Optimum​: ‘Nothing but the best is good enough’. But let me be clear about this. Nothing but the best FOR YOU. Do not compromise yourself, do not settle for second best in life, do what YOU want to do. Nobody is stopping YOU.

If my mother wouldn’t batter me for getting a tattoo, I would have this emblazoned somewhere without doubt.


You may never win the league, but if you do OK by you and those around you then surely that’s a win?


What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?


I don’t tend to buy much stuff for myself to be honest, I sent my wife to the spa for the day for £79 and she came back relaxed, de-stressed, happy and didn’t want to kill me! Sometimes, investing in others can have a massively positive impact on you without you even knowing about it.


What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?


We did it in my day so why wouldn’t you? What the heck!!!!


They used to burn bags of cats in France for good luck in the 17-18th Century but we don’t anymore because it was wrong!!!

Times have moved on, move with the times and embrace change!!! In this gig economy age the pace of change is phenomenal, granted it isn’t all good, and we do need to retain some of our traditions, but come on… be reasonable. Change is often borne out of a desire to improve things for the current and next generation within a community and profession: give it a try!

What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?


Enjoy it! This is a brilliant profession, and the possibilities you have with a veterinary degree are literally never ending. The world is your lobster!


Remember, you are not a tree-If something isn’t working you can leave and try something new, BUT do discuss it and try to make a situation better before just jumping ship.


Things will go wrong, and at some point it will be your fault: that is a harsh reality, but ultimately these mistakes are truly how we learn. Take them on the chin, don’t suffer alone and in silence-talk to others and you will be amazed how many silly things those of us who have been at it for a long time have made!!!


YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!


Don’t think of your career as one long 40-50 year endeavour: that is scary! Think of it as multiple episodes of 2-5 year stages. You will grow and change as a person, your life will change, your expectations and desires will change: go with them. Be true to yourself and you won’t ever go far wrong!

If you could send a single text to every vet around the world simultaneously, what would it say?

"Someone else is covering the on call this weekend, you have 72 hours… do what you want and switch off! Make it count #vethappy"


Have you been inspired by someone in your career? Or know someone in the veterinary profession who has made a positive impact on you?


There are no strict criteria for contributors or mentors, other than that they are positive, supportive members of our profession.


If someone you know springs to mind, or you have any feedback or ideas relating to our Vet Mentors project, please get in touch - info@vetled.co.uk

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