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Welfare in Practice - event summary

SAWS welcomed three RVC 2020 graduates back to share their experiences starting in a new practice. During this talk, we explored some of the challenges new graduates encounter what their experiences of animal welfare have been like within their first year in practice. Ranging from graduate schemes to mixed practice to exotic internships, our guests Latta Chauhan, Angus Cameron and Clarissa Wu shared their thoughts and stories regarding the challenges and opportunities to improve and protect animal welfare as well as their own welfare in first-opinion practices. This is a crucial time where graduates transition from being a student to taking sole responsibility as a veterinarian, practicing clinical skills and solving welfare problems on a daily basis, with the added complication of COVID-19...Read on to find out about some of the intriguing questions that were asked by the vet students that attended the event.

What are the red flags in a job interview?

Clarrisa shared her unsatisfying experience of landing her ‘dream job’ in an exotics internship, and how it quickly turned sour. She explained that one red flag she encountered at her interview for her internship was that she was not informed of what her working hours would be like - and that she only found out after starting working there! They were a lot more than she thought, and when considering a job working hours can be an important factor to avoid burnout. Additionally she mentioned that she was not able to spend much time with the team on the day of her interview, and therefore missed additional warning signs, such as lack of team motivation, poor communication between the staff, etc. Understanding the team dynamics at a vet practice can alert you to any potential problems within a team that you are thinking of working with. Some good questions to ask during job interviews include:

  • What level of support will you have?

  • What does your daily schedule and working hours look like? What about lunch hours and breaks?

  • What is the retention rate at the practice you are being interviewed for?

  • What are the current practice policies (PPE, client payment strategies, brachycephalic caesareans, etc)

What is the most important thing when looking for a job?

For this question, the graduates advised current students to ask themselves what their core values were, and what was important to them. Is it the location? Or the work-life balance? Building long-term client relationships? The ability to clinically specialise? Salary? Career prospects? Additionally it can be useful to find out what the nurse/vet ratio is at the practice as this can give you clues on how much support you can expect - the more nurses, the more support you will have! However, as Latta, the mixed practice new graduate pointed out, a low nurse/vet ratio is not always a problem, so long as you work well with each other.

What is your advice when it comes to negotiating salary?

Before thinking about negotiating your salary, take some time to consider your own values and strengths. These may often be non-monetary values you can bring to the practice such as loyalty, passion for certain clinical specialities, innovation and computing skills. However, negotiating your salary can be challenging as a new graduate - as Angus pointed out, you have very little experience to offer the practice as a new graduate therefore, you don’t have many cards to play with. Angus also advised current vet students to avoid corporate companies if you want to negotiate your salary, because these places tend to have less wiggle room. Additionally, it is worth noting that jobs such as internships generally pay less than a standard veterinarian position.

What is your experience as a COVID-19 graduate?

Angus and Clarissa explained that while COVID-19 has imposed additional challenges in the vet practice, they are accustomed to it as it is all they know. Covid-19 safety measures within the staff team have been difficult to implement as you are working in close proximity with everyone else all the time. Moreover, there have been several complications: it is much harder to deal with angry clients as you are not able to speak with them face to face in private, and taking pets away from owners during consultations can be stressful both for the pet and the owner. However, the graduates admitted that being alone in the consultation rooms has enabled them to check over information and get help more discreetly, something previous graduates were not able to benefit from. On the other hand, Latta explained that due to the nature of mixed/large animal practices, COVID-19 hasn't hugely affected her daily routine.

What is animal welfare like in your practices?

Animal welfare is frequently discussed amongst nurses, however the approach of this varies with each practice. Clarissa pointed out that some practices don’t put catheters in their patients, for example, which led her to be concerned for the welfare of the animal, as it makes administering medication more difficult and there is more opportunity of hurting the animal. Latta explained that in mixed practice, there is often more autonomy for the treatment of her patients.

Have you ever seen a pet treated badly in practice?

Neither of the graduates had ever seen a client harming their pets deliberately. Most welfare issues seen were associated with general husbandry ignorance of the owners, which may be particularly prevalent in exotic animals due to limited client education. Additionally, there have been occasions where owners have not followed treatment guidelines and inadvertently caused harm to their pets.


This event welcomed three RVC 2020 graduates back to talk about their experiences starting in a new practice. Overall, while veterinary schools ensure standardised education and training, the practice environment varies significantly. These variations include differences in the resources available, team dynamics, rota, daily schedule, etc. The students that attended this event were really interested in the challenges faced by new graduates, and were intrigued by how they found and adapted to their jobs in the middle of a pandemic.

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