Fiona qualified from the University of Edinburgh in 2012 having already attained a degree in Zoology and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Liverpool. She spent 4 years in mixed and small animal practice before completing an internship in Cardiology at Langford Vets, University of Bristol. Following her internship, Fiona worked in a busy first opinion and referral hospital in Bristol providing their internal cardiology service. Fiona’s research interests are influenced by her background in first opinion practice, particularly the role of cardiac disease in geriatric feline patients. Teaching, effective communication and improving the mental health in the veterinary profession are just some of Fiona’s current passions. Fiona is due to complete her Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice (Veterinary Cardiology) in March 2020. Outside of work Fiona enjoys cycling, yoga, sewing and running around after her four year old son!
Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfilment?
I am an avid list writer! Writing everything down gives me the confidence I need to juggle several tasks and cases at once. When I’m particularly busy or stressed I rank my tasks by priority. I really like the satisfaction of ticking things off a list and being able to look back over the day/week and see all I have achieved. I never put off calling owners though. Owners’ anxiety can easily become yours, so I call them as soon as I can.
What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success? Not getting a residency in cardiology was very tough. However, I realised that doing a residency wasn’t the only way to achieve my goal. I put my efforts into finishing my cardiology certificate and found a job where I practice cardiology everyday, with working hours that suit me and my family. It took a couple of years, but it has given me a much stronger sense of self and inner strength. Overall, I’ve learnt to work towards how you want your life to look rather than individual goals.
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?
I’m a big believer in the phrase “being silent isn’t being strong”. So, I talk to my friends and colleagues who can lift me up, reminding me of my achievements and how they value me as a friend and vet. If I’m not able to speak to anyone, I try to remember nice things owners have said and reflect on how far I’ve come from when I first graduated. I was once terrified of seeing dyspnoeic patients, which reminds me how scary situations do become less terrifying with experience.
What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?
“Boundaries” is my word of the year! I am generally excitable about new ideas so usually say yes to everything. I have learned to restrain from answering right away, by asking for some time to think about it. I then look at the scenario objectively and consider the extra (time, mental, financial) pressure saying yes will entail and if I can help this other person without putting extra pressure on myself.
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!)
Ooh too difficult! I would recommend any book that completely captivates your attention and allows you to escape reality for a short while. My go to is historical fiction about everyday life, my all-time favourite is Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. I also love listening audiobooks. Harry Potter is my go-to as I know the stories so well. They’re also great to have on while you’re falling asleep if your brain Just. Wont. Be. Quiet! If I find I can’t settle down to read before bed then I know I’m stressed, working too much and need to slow down.
Tell us about something you are currently a fan of? This could be anything; a person, trend, hypothesis, mindset, diet, activity, tech, hobby etc.
Yoga has been a large part of my life for 15 years. I started doing yoga when classes were full of hippies rather than hipsters! It underpins my life in every way and I try and practice daily. Yoga principles can be applied to everything including being mindful of the words I use and the food I eat and remembering to breathe properly and listening to my body and responding accordingly. It is essential to my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. I find it difficult to find classes to go to now it’s become so popular! I don’t believe yoga is for everyone, but I know it will always provide the foundation for everything I do.
What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?
My sewing machine! I got into sewing about 6 months ago and taught myself to sew with help from my neighbor and now I sew nearly every day! It gives me a creative outlet that is practical and useful. After having my son 4 years ago my body shape changed a lot and for the first time in my life I felt a lot of negativity towards my appearance. Making clothes that fit my figure, are comfortable and are my unique style is really empowering! I no longer have that disappointed feeling of failure when something doesn’t fit. I can just make it fit!
What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?
“That’s how I’ve always done it” or “just have a go”. It’s so important as a profession that we strive to follow an evidence-based approach and know our limitations, no matter how long you’ve been qualified. There is a fine line between pushing yourself to do something that scares you but are capable of and “just having a go”. Or making a treatment plan that “feels right” but isn’t based on the current evidence. It’s why I think quality post graduate mentoring and teaching is so important. No other profession lets their graduates “just get on with it”. I’m glad that there is a trend to provide more structure after graduation.
What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?
It takes great strength to keep going as a new grad. Things won’t always go well and it can be hard to pick yourself up after things go wrong. You don’t have to be brave on your own though: confide in a colleague and have someone in the building when you tackle that procedure again. The nurse with you can text them if things get tough. That way, you are learning to face your fears but with support. You often have to find your own support as vet practices are busy, and people won’t necessarily know you are worried. If all else fails, turn to online support groups. These can be invaluable for sharing experiences and learning.
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.
Don’t measure how valuable you are by the way you are treated. Everyone is making it up as they go along, no matter how together they seem no life is perfect. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.