Welcome to Vet Mentors, Liz Barton!

Liz graduated from Cambridge in 2004 and has had a fulfilling, varied career. From a fantastic mixed in the Lake District to a small animal internship, then sole charge out of hours, GP small animal vet and mum, Liz then became passionate about wellbeing of colleagues. She created the Vetsnet resource hub and co-founded WellVet. This opened doors to a portfolio career including writing, public speaking, newsletter editing, consultant for Vetsurgeon.org, marketing and PR at Companion Consultancy, and numerous other interesting projects.


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

I am working on combatting presenteeism, especially with my kids. I often have a busy head and fob them off too often. Now I consciously (mindfully) appreciate the small things; exploring the garden, hugs, reading together, appreciating and enjoying their infectious enthusiasm.


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

I have had many; I am the nearly-but-not-quite person, for example I finish 4th in most races I enter. I failed a certificate by the narrowest of margins. I nearly had several papers published. I have wasted a huge amount of time never quite achieving the desired outcome. Time is such a precious resource, so I’ve learned to prioritise and ensure I’m spending my time wisely and not giving too much of myself. I’ve also learned to be happy without the accolades, medals, letters after my name etc. Being content with who you are and your relationships is the most important factor for happiness.


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

If I’m shattered or overwhelmed, I’ll remember it has to come to an end and I’ll be able to recover soon. I always have something in the diary to look forward to; a pamper session or date night.

If I’m doubting my ability, I think back to all the things I have achieved over and above my own expectations. I am a firm believer in the power of perspective and that good enough is good enough if I’ve tried my best with my available resources at the time.


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

I’ve had a couple of years of saying yes to everything to push and challenge myself. This important learning process has enabled me to discover and hone a skill set, and realise areas that don’t play to my strengths. I am now saying no to anything which doesn’t fit my skill set or takes too much time away from family.


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

I rarely get time to read a book. I would rather tell them to watch TED talks and widen their mind and interest area. Little accessible gems of information are available that cater to our needs; from mindfulness to thinking about global socioeconomic solutions. Widening the mind above and beyond the veterinary sphere is so important post-graduation. Pop that bubble!


Tell us about something you are currently a fan of?

For the body I like Kayla Istines exercise routines; quick and effective. Plus, she spoke honestly about her struggles with her bodily changes during pregnancy.

For the mind, any activity which causes me to turn my mindset to a positive one – I quite like the Breathe App as it stops me several times in my day to re-focus, but only takes a minute.

For the soul, I love a good docu-drama box set. Chernobyl is currently amazing!


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

Anti-ageing cream (joke – it doesn’t live up to the hype!).

It’s probably a leopard print skirt I bought – my new boss gave me a voucher after my three month induction at work to thank me for my hard work. It blew my mind to be appreciated like that and I spent it on the skirt I’d been coveting. It’s the meaning behind it.


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

Be kind to yourself. You absolutely will make mistakes – learn from them, but learn to ditch the guilt, shame and self-criticism as these are all wholly unproductive and draining emotions. Be proactive in your self-care and always have time off booked to look forward to, and hobbies or activities to enjoy on a regular basis.


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

‘Just get on with it like we did in the good old days?’ It drives me bonkers! Firstly, they weren’t the good old days, they were hard. Secondly, clients were a lot more forgiving and expected less, partly because there were fewer options. Finally, the mental and social climate now is so challenging with the internet and social media – our brains are permanently switched on to hyper-drive and constantly fed perfectionist ideals. Training and cutting teeth as a vet in this environment is incredibly challenging; arguably much more so than in the ‘good old days’.


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

Own it! Whatever it is you want or need in your work and life, be brave, find your tribe and sources of support and advice, and go get. No one will or should do this for you.


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