Emily finished her degree at Massey University in 2003, and then worked in mixed practice in New Zealand before moving to the UK in 2007 for a 2 year “OE” (Overseas Experience). 12 years on, she is still here, and while happy as a small animal locum, her aim is to build and offer tools to improve staff morale and retention in practice.
Outside of work, she is passionate about food, travel and dance and spends as much time as she can making all 3 a part of life.
Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfillment?
I have prayer bracelets from a monastery in Mongolia. I’m not a religious person, but each day I go through each bead and think of things that have happened in the day that have been positive, of people I appreciate, and things that make me smile. There are 22 beads, so it makes me spend time thinking positive thoughts and can really turn my mindset around.
It’s too easy to let a single negative experience ruin an otherwise good day, and I’m now consciously focusing on the positive - even if it comes down to macaroni cheese and cuddling kittens!
What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success?
I developed a severe vitamin D deficiency. I took the supplements and I did what we all do, because “vet is a vocation”, I worked through it. Turns out, that’s a bad idea! My vitamin D levels normalised but I was still physically and emotionally exhausted, I’d tipped myself into adrenal fatigue and finally burnt out and had to take time off. I recovered, then sped towards burn out again. I was miserable, but it was a catalyst for change.
While my career is still important, I now prioritise my health and the things that make me happiest first.
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’m not the most confident vet, and regularly “phone a friend”, even if just for peace of mind. Teaching and mentoring junior vets reminds me just how much I do know, because so much of what we learn throughout our careers becomes ingrained and accepted as given and we just don’t appreciate it. As the old adage says: the more you know, the more you know you don’t know! And if I’m telling vets they should never expect to know it all, why should I expect that from myself?
What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?
To the idea that being a vet is a single path vocation. I’ve spoken with people about my desires to change the direction of my career path and without fail there is a shocked “but you’re a vet”. Yes, I am a vet, and there is an identity we hold in that, but I’m getting better at telling them, and myself (and finally believing it) that while I will always be “a vet”, my veterinary degree is a passport to so many different avenues and it’s OK, and actually quite exciting, to explore them.
If you could gift a book to all vets at graduation, what would it be, and why?
This is going to sound all kinds of wrong, but I would gift Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho.
Yes it deals with the subject of suicide, but it’s also about the concept of sanity and the perception of what that is. It’s about the pressure to conform to society’s expectations. And ultimately it’s about living a meaningful life, allowing yourself to feel emotions fully, without caring about how other people might perceive us
Tell us about something you are currently a fan of?
My big release is dancing. I get to challenge myself in new ways both mentally & physically. I’ve never been sporty, so this is a way for me to be active, and get my endorphins going while doing something fun. I get to dance to music I enjoy listening to, there’s a whole community of diverse people who dance, it’s social and tactile. I follow so I don’t have to make any decisions, I just react to my partner and the music.
Everyone needs an off switch and I get to completely escape my thoughts 3 minutes at a time.
What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?
My travel tea press… Sad but true!
What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?
Your first job will probably not be the one you’re working in 10 years time. Most of us start in clinical practice, there are good jobs and bad jobs, a bad job doesn’t mean you’re a bad vet or that clinical practice isn’t for you. Maybe it isn’t, but if you’ve lived with a dream of being a vet don’t let a bad first job kill your dream. Instead define why it wasn’t right for you and try another which provides the things that were missing.
What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?
“Don’t let it get to you”
It’s dismissive of people’s feelings, usually at a time when those feelings are being felt strongly. We want advice that’s constructive, not placatory or belittling. As a profession we need to be supportive of each other and find ways to cope with the situations and emotions they raise.
If you could send a single text to every vet around the world simultaneously, what would it say?
“Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think” - AA Milne
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org