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Opinion: “It is clear that becoming a vet takes as much commitment and dedication as it ever did”

Gareth Cross
06 December 2017, at 3:54pm

Hopes, dreams and aspirations... Have
yours been dashed upon the rocks of
working life as a vet or are you still on the up? Is this purely age-related? How does
it change along the career path of a working
vet, from pre-vet to retired? This is the theme
of the current series of articles in the column.

Last month we heard from an A-level student who is in the process of applying to vet school, and today we hear from Chesley Thorn, a vet student at Liverpool. It is clear that becoming a vet takes as much commitment and dedication as it ever did. 

Why do you want to be a vet?

It’s always been a passion of mine. I’ve grown up with a family that loves animals and have always had an enthusiasm for science. Veterinary allowed me to combine the two.

What other careers have you considered?

I’ll be honest, I’ve focused a lot of my life on veterinary and tried not to think of any other options. Obviously, knowing how difficult getting into vet school is, I did also consider the possibility of entering another science-based course.

Is what you’ve seen on work experience what you expected vet work to be like?

Work experience before vet school is completely different to EMS placement; you get a much more hands-on approach. Before I ever set foot in a vet practice, I thought it would have been fewer hours, but with experience I grew to accept that the hours are long and often unsociable.

What aspect of practice interests you most?

Tough question as it changes each year. I started off passionate about conservation in wildlife. However, since completing more EMS, I am drawn to surgery. I have also always had an underlying interest in public health, which keeps me swaying over where I would like to be when I graduate.

What sort of career path do you imagine?

I would love to have some part of my life taken up in general practice, be that mixed or small animal. I’d also like to be involved in practical research with a focus on disease spread.

Have you considered other jobs available to you with a veterinary degree?When I started, no. However, as the course has progressed I have realised how many options there are. I’m still very passionate about becoming a practising vet, but it is nice to know that there is the option to try something new if I wish to do so.

What sort of salary do you envisage as a vet?

I’ve always had a realistic approach to the income I’m likely to get – many vets don’t sugar-coat the facts of new graduate vet life. I assume for small animal practice it will vary from £23-26,000 per year.

Do you imagine being a vet is a career for life?

It is certainly a degree for life and this is what I believe pressures vet students – you are working for the rest of life and not just a piece of paper you can hold up after three years. 

Having seen a bit of veterinary work, what do you like and dislike about it? I like the satisfaction of problem-solving, and communicating with clients to get the best outcome. I don’t particularly like the pressure of out-of-hours and long hours, but this is something I will adapt to.

Last month our A-level student asked you, “Is vet school what you expected it to be like?”

Vet school is an amazing experience, it has its ups and downs, but if you keep motivated it’s such a rewarding community to be part of. I try to live by the ‘work hard, play hard’ rule! I don’t think I was prepared for the change in teaching; you cannot just make endless notes and memorise them. It is all about smart learning, and it took me a good six months to get my head around that.