Case study

Veterinary physiotherapist — Emily Ni Mhuilleoir

Three years after completing an MSc in veterinary physiotherapy, Emily is working in the South West's largest veterinary referral hospital

How did you get your job?

I graduated from the University of the West of England with a degree in physiotherapy. I worked as a human physiotherapist for a few years, before deciding that I wanted to work with animals.

I enrolled on the MSc in Veterinary Physiotherapy at the University of Liverpool in 2015, and have been working as an animal physiotherapist at Langford Vets for two years.

What are your main work activities?

No two days are ever the same, and this is what I love about the job.

Currently, in the mornings I work with Kerry on a treadmill. Kerry is a regular and is recovering from a spinal surgery. At the moment he is unable to walk on his back legs, but with rigorous exercise (he visits us three times a week) and careful living conditions management, he should recover soon. Later in the morning I see a new patient, Maisie, who has had a hip surgery and whose owner is keen to give her the best chance at full recovery.

The first meeting with the patient and owner is crucial in establishing a good relationship and ensuring everyone has the same expectations. Before the end of the day, I type up notes from every appointment, respond to emails and contact owners, if necessary.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

It's one of those jobs that you cannot do without a relevant education, so my degree was essential in getting to where I am now.

However, as with other jobs, there is still a lot you need to learn on the job and we have to undertake continuous professional development training every year.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the variety, but also the connections I make with animals and people. Based in a hospital, I am always working in a team, be it with nurses, owners or hospital staff.

My work is very rewarding. I get to help animals improve and get back to living full lives. At the same time, some animals need life-long support and we get to know them and the owners very well, and they become part of our lives.

What are the challenges?

I don't dislike any part of my job, but if I had to think about the more challenging aspects it would be unclear diagnosis. Animals are referred by a vet, but in some cases, the vet is unsure exactly what the issue is. In such cases the outcome of treatment is uncertain, therefore they are harder to plan for.

How has your role developed?

I joined the team in Langford Vets because they were in the process of further developing the rehabilitation centre and I welcomed a chance take part in this process.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Spend as much time as you can shadowing an animal physiotherapist and getting the relevant work experience.

Also, there are so many different routes into animal physiotherapy; you really need to think carefully about what would work for you and what you would like to get out of your education before you commit to any particular route.

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