Caroline graduated from Edinburgh Vet School in 2010 after a fun 5 years. Her first job was in Newcastle Upon Tyne in a large first-opinion small animal practice where she has remained ever since. She is now one of 4 clinical directors (all of which started at the practice as new grads). She has a keen interest in medicine and currently chairs the Small Animal Clincal Board of VetPartners
Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfilment?
When I leave work every day I try to think of three things that went well. It is so easy to concentrate on the things that worry us or don't go as we had hoped for. Although reflecting on challenging cases can be useful clinically, we should not allow ourselves to lose sight of how positive our daily contributions can be to our teams, patients and local communities.
What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success?
Two years into practice I applied for a residency, something I had thought I wanted to do since my final year at university. I wasn't successful. At the time I was disappointed however it really made me think about how much I wanted that life choice. Although I am sure that I would have enjoyed this path I have found a different road to follow. I am currently still working in my first job. I love the people I work with every day and we have built our practice up together. The large group I work for and my boss have been incredibly supportive in allowing me to develop my career within the general practice that I love.
When you start to doubt your own ability, or are having 'a bad day at the office', how do you get back on track? Can you give us an example?
Take a break. Have a cup of tea and a chat with a colleague or go and spend some time with one of the patients in our quiet feline ward! Often, I find that I just need time to refocus on the bigger picture.
What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?
Chocolate biscuits in the prep room! In all seriousness, this is actually a very difficult question for me. Improving food choices at work can be maintained through will power, but saying no to people is much more challenging behaviour to change. Having a concept of what is expected of me before committing to something is something I do try to do which is improving my time management.
If you could gift a book to all vets at graduation, what would it be, and why? (It doesn't have to be specific to animal health!)
I love Bill Bryson's "The Body". He delivers facts in such an entertaining way. It has actually given me new ways of describing things to owners in my consult room. It is also a huge advertisement for the benefits of evidence based medicine - describing the founding father Bejamin Rush treating patients during a yellow-fever outbreak: "he bled hundreds of victims and was convinced that he had saved a great many when in fact all he did was fail to kill them all."
Tell us about something you are currently a fan of? This could be anything; a person, trend, hypothesis, mindset, diet, activity, tech, hobby etc.
Kakuro. I have just visited Japan and this was a puzzle in some of the newspapers there. It is like Sudoku, but better - I would highly recommend it!
What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?
Audible. I love listening to both fiction and non-fiction books when I'm travelling for work. It is also allowing me to try to learn a new language which is very rewarding.
What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?
"Strive for a good work-life balance". This is a phrase where the good intentions are evident, but it implies that time spent at work is eating into our real lives. Our jobs can be the source of a huge amount of personal satisfaction and social interaction. I get more happiness out of removing a gastric foreign body endoscopically than going out for a fancy dinner. There are more and more options in our profession for different working hours and types of role which should be taken advantage of.
What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?
Spend time on building relationships within your team. These people are the family that will help you succeed.
Talk about your uncertainties - the more you do the more you will realise that almost every decision that any of us make has a level of doubt no matter how confident your colleagues may seem.
Organise fun things to do on your days off and keep in touch with friends.
If you could send a single text to every vet around the world simultaneously, what would it say? This can be one word, a message or an entire paragraph.
I think 5 year old you (auscultating their teddy's heart with a Fisher Price stethoscope) would be proud that you made it here.