...BUT IT HELPS
July 1988 was the beginning of a cunning plan.
As a vet student I had an ‘adopted practice’ that I’d been going to since I was boy. Somewhere close to home, somewhere you could learn, somewhere you ‘see practice’ in action.
Plus, it was almost essential for acceptance into University.
As a newly qualified vet, returning to my adopted veterinary practice in Warrington was perfect. I knew the area, I loved the people, I knew the routine, and I knew where the kettle was!
As I didn’t have to worry about finding my way around, I could concentrate on putting into practice the 6 years of knowledge crammed into my head.
Graduating as a vet is really all about practice. And practice doesn’t make perfect… but it helps!
So, straight after Uni, I started my first job as a vet, at A.E. Murgatroyd in Warrington. The original plan was to work as the summer locum – standing in whilst everyone took their holidays – staying in the flat above the surgery.
But, when Mark and Trisha decided to get married, and backpack around (most of) the world for their honeymoon, I was having so much fun that I stayed on.
I moved onto their ‘practice house, became cat sitter for their amazing ‘Benson’ – a beautiful, sleek, black, siamese-inspired, independent girl. Benson used to come for walks with me to Alison’s, my colleague who lived down the road, for an evening drink (me) and a frolic with Alison’s cat (me and Benson) before heading home.
That’s Alison in the centre of the pic, together with Jane (our practice senior nurse) on the right, with Timmy the cat front and centre. Heaven knows why I still remember his name today! The building? One of the landmarks of Warrington – the Parr Hall.
We had two other practices, a small satellite surgery in Penketh – about 5 minutes drive from the Warrington branch – behind a flower shop, so you had to know where we were!
It literally was attached to the back of the shop, just a waiting room and consulting room. We only opened for two, half-and hour consultations a day – morning and afternoon. This was in the days before appointment booking… so you could be ‘dead as a doornail’, or packed to the rafters being there for a good few hours.
Our second practice was in Newton-le-Willows. A full sized, almost standalone, practice. When the current branch managers left to set up their own place, I proudly became branch manager.
I can remember spending the first weekend painting the waiting room, and designing a customer info board promoting our added-value nutrition services. Yep, I’d caught the petfood bug. And, looking back, the marketing bug as well!
I loved internal medicine, but in those days there was no outlet for further study. I’d toyed with the idea of going to work for a vet company… but I really didn’t have the level of experience needed.
So, in November 1990, I joined the PSDA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) in Manchester to gain more experience in the management of small animal medical and surgical cases.
I loved nutritional management of disease – low sodium diets for heart problems, moderated protein diets as part of renal disease therapy.
Following my final year dissertation, I also had keen interest in the investigation of chronic enteropathies (that’s a polite way of saying diarrhoea!). Again, nutritional management would usually play a part in supportive treatment.
Working as part of a large team was great fun – 6 vets and 13 nurses – and loved being involved with the training of new vets and nurses at the clinic.
And, with 80 consultations a day, it certainly honed my ability to think on my feet and solve problems quickly.
The most important learning for me was how to be a vet. How to take a history, perform a clinical examination, compile a mental list of everything that could be causing the symptoms – differential diagnosis – run tests, diagnose, treat, and review.
For example, as a vet I practiced and honed my diagnostic skills – sick patient, worried owners, history, examination, differential diagnosis, diagnostic tests, treatment, and review. Sound familiar?
It’s the classic approach to solving problems and implementing solutions. Substitute dogs and cats for people and brands and I’m still using the same skills today, more than 25 years later.
I also had the support of some amazing people.
Without Linda, Jane, Bev, Joan, and Joanna – the exceptional nurses who would nudge me when I got lost, or fly with me when I hit the current – I’d not have transformed from the graduate who ‘knew nothing’ to a confident vet who knew loads.
I also started to learn the power of storytelling, how to explain ‘stuff’ in an empowering way to my patients’ owners.