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Melissa Donald is our next Vet Mentor!

Melissa feels that she has been very fortunate in her life to be able to call herself a daughter, sister, wife, mother, vet and farmer. She tries to do everything to the best of her ability and continually pushes herself to new limits.


"I am the original B grade person, I am never the best at a single thing but will always have a broad range of skills which I do to a decent level!"

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

I find that familiarity in routine keeps me calm and productive, new things cause a lot of discomfort although many would find that hard to believe, so beneath the surface there is a lot of frantic paddling! To offset this, I need to get outside in the fresh air, be it running or walking every day and I love the metrics that modern day technology supplies.


Mind you I also need daft computer games such as the infamous Candy Crush to focus me and make me sit still!

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

Not long after taking over from my retiring partner, I took my two assistants out for lunch to give them a pep and team talk. Within a month they had both resigned and it was coming up to all the spring work in a mixed practice single handed.


I had to learn that leadership doesn’t have to be by example and HR was not my forte.


Realising that you cannot be great at everything and that if you start thinking you are infallible then you will rapidly be brought back to ground zero makes you a humbler person.


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 still have the recurring nightmare once a year that I have not passed my finals and I have to remind myself that I would not have been allowed to practice as a vet if I hadn’t!


If things are not going right, I bring myself back to first principles and reassure myself. Having a home support system is good too.


Being able to critically examine yourself and then learn from this process is a valuable tool especially if you can do this without beating yourself up. Mind you that is a very difficult skill to learn.

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

I am still learning this skill! Learning to prioritise and allowing some things to be done tomorrow or delegating them.


Realising that doing fewer things to a better standard and that the world will not stop turning just because you said no has taken a long time to learn.


However, on the flip side, by saying yes to a lot of things, I have had opportunities I would never have dreamed of.


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

Too many books, not enough time!


There is no one single book that would suit all graduates as we are all unique so I would give them all a diary to complete such as Dawn French’s Me. You. A Diary


Over the years they could then look back to see how far they had come in their personal journeys and how they coped with adversity and built up their resilience.


For anyone going on the management journey then Winnie-the-Pooh on Management by Roger E. Allen will give you a light hearted but true read!


Tell us about something you are currently a fan of?

I am a massive fan of parkrun, the weekly free 5k in a park near you each Saturday, community volunteer led.


It is all inclusive and for most people, nothing about the run/walk and all about the benefits of mental and physical wellbeing.


It is about bringing people together and sharing in their successes and helping them through the tough times.


It’s about giving back by volunteering some weeks.


It’s knowing it’s there for you if you need a lift even if you don’t go every week.


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

My power pack to recharge my phone! With my current roles I’m often away from early morning until evening and my boarding passes are on my phone amongst the other essentials these days such as emails, books, diary etc. So the powerpack removes the stress involved about worrying if I’ll run out of battery charge.


The other obvious purchase, below £100 (but probably more if added up!) has to be chocolate!


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

Possibly controversially, is the mantra of keeping people in the profession. Although we know there is a shortage of vets, by telling someone in their 20’s they need to stay here for ever (well 40-50 years) would be horrific.


By saying go and follow your own career path wherever that may take you. If it’s outside the profession that is great, but if at anytime you want to come back, full or part time, even temporarily again, then we should make it as easy as possible.


Meanwhile bring what experiences you have gained back into the profession to make it better and more outward focussed.


If you love someone, you let them go!

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

Your veterinary degree is a wonderful passport.

Take opportunities – what’s for you won’t go by you.

It’s about doing your personal best - you can do no more.

It’s about earning respect which takes time.

It’s about coping with life’s ups and downs.

It’s about doing it for YOU not someone else.

But overall it’s about being kind.


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

You are part of an amazing profession that may be small but punches well above its weight

Be proud of who you are.

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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