Some of you may remember my article back in August 2019 “Why I took a break as a vet and became a personal trainer”. It honestly surprised me how popular it was and how many heartfelt comments I received. I actually still get the odd person reaching out to me 2 years on hoping for advice and reassurance that it is a worthwhile shot. Basically going through exactly what I was feeling. Guilty, unsure, lost, scared, even angry.
I would be lying if I said I still don’t hold some of that guilt. Especially when I see so many of my friends in my year at vet school being so wonderfully successful and being in awe of their knowledge, of which I once had, and a hell of a lot more!
So what causes the guilt and why do I hold it still? Yes, in part it is because of those years of costly study and sacrifice. That was probably more true 2.5 years ago than now. Now the guilt is more due to feeling that I left my friends and colleagues to struggle when I wasn’t strong enough to push through and stay. More-so since the pandemic and how overwhelmed they have been and how even more relentless the pressure has become. Staff shortages are at an all time high and burnouts have become almost expected.
In late 2020 I decided I wanted to do something about it. I am living in France so returning to a fully practising vet in clinic was pretty much out of the question. Regardless of that thing which must not be named (ends in -XIT) and my qualifications meaning diddley-squat in France, the language barrier was and is my main issue as a vet here.
Veterinary tele-consulting has been in the background for a while but, unsurprisingly, with COVID-19 the demand has sky-rocketed and I started searching for jobs in the online vet world. It didn’t take me long to find Pawsquad. A couple of short interviews later and I was an online vet doing chats and video calls. IT FELT SO GOOD TO BE BACK! It honestly made me feel a lot more valued, like I was making more of a difference. Helping out my friends and colleagues in a small way through the stresses and strains of being a vet in the midst of a pandemic. I work mostly evenings and I can still run my personal training business and train for triathlons.
As a result, the guilt has definitely eased and I still support and uphold my change in career in hindsight. I know it is wrong to think I left because of not being strong enough to stay. Some have told me I showed strength in leaving. Whichever it is, I am still glad I did it. I have learned so much more about what is important to me. I have successfully run a business of my own and in a foreign country at that! I also certainly couldn’t have arranged our wedding as I did being a full-time vet nor would I have managed a full Ironman!
Like I said in my previous article, changing career was never about “giving up” veterinary. I needed to take a breath. A big long 2 year one... If I was ever to move back to the UK or another English-speaking country, yes I would look to go fully into it as a in-practice vet. Most likely as a locum again to keep that flexibility and to help ease myself back in.
If people continue to reach out to me (please do!), I would still encourage it if there is even just an inkling of wonder of what it would be like to step out and follow something new for a while.
There are still a fair few things that need to change in the vet industry to help recover these staff shortages, burn-outs and prevent these heart-breaking suicides which are still far too common in our profession. It is not my place or the right platform to go into it here.
However, what I will say is this. If you are a pet owner reading this, please just take the time to think about what we have gone through to become a vet and what we continue to go through every day to be there for you and your beloved animal. You are ultimately responsible for your animal in every way. They are not just there for your comfort, company and pleasure and we are not there to make everything magically better. Your pets rely wholly on you. We as vets are there to guide you and support you and do all we can when things don’t go as hoped. Help support us through these times when the government restrictions and staff shortages are entirely out of our control. We are just as stressed and concerned as you are. Learn as much as you can about your pet and what it needs to be fit and healthy and please, above all, find your pets from responsible, accounted for and reputable breeders. You can never ask too many questions and please ask us as vets for any advice at all before committing yourself to anything.
A short note on Pawsquad - if you have any pet at all (or are thinking about getting one) and need advice at any time of day or night, please sign up to Pawsquad. You have vets there for advice, including myself, 24/7. If you are ever not sure about whether your pet needs to see a vet or if you have any questions or concerns we are there for you. You can access us via the website or the app on mobile or tablets https://www.pawsquad.com