Case study

Veterinary surgeon — Amelia Stevens

Amelia works as veterinary surgeon for a large farm and equine practice in Herefordshire. Discover how she qualified to become a vet by studying overseas

How did you get your job?

After failing to secure a place at a UK vet school, I was faced with the choice of either reapplying the following year or looking at overseas study options. Ever impatient, when Hungarian family friends pointed me in the direction of the Szent Istvan Egyetem vet school in Budapest, I was eager to explore this as an alternative. Following a tour of the university campus and a few days spent exploring the city, I decided to apply and have never looked back.

The application process is slightly different from the UK, and a separate application needs to be made directly to the university. Entry requirements are similar, however, and I was required to sit an entrance examination and undergo formal interview. The entrance exam allows the university to standardise the application procedure as they have applicants from various EU and non-EU countries with different educational backgrounds.

What's a typical working day like?

As an ambulatory vet I spend my time out on the road (rather than in a hospital) driving between yards and working from the boot of my car.

I am a first-opinion vet or 'equine GP', and so a lot of the routine work I do is preventative medicine, such as immunisations and dental health checks. Add into the mix the occasional lameness, complex medical cases, stud (breeding) work, not to mention the odd emergency stitch-up or colic, and you have a very varied day job.

What do you enjoy most about being a vet?

The variety of the role, and the chance to develop relationships with clients and their horses, are definitely the most enjoyable parts of the job. I feel very privileged to be trusted with providing care to valuable and much-loved animals. The satisfaction after reaching a diagnosis in a tricky case, or successfully carrying out a new procedure for the first time, gives me a true sense of pride and satisfaction in my work.

Being invited to sit on the British Veterinary Association (BVA) (Welsh Branch) Council, I have been able to get involved in the BVA's policy areas. I feel very lucky to be able to offer my opinion on important topics surrounding animal health and welfare.

I'm also the regional coordinator for the BVA's Young Vet Network, which has given me the opportunity to meet other recent graduates, forming a strong network of colleagues and formulating new friendships. There is a real sense of community within the profession as a whole, and I feel very grateful for my extended veterinary family.

What are the challenges?

Whilst variety does keep the job interesting, the work is unpredictable and the hours can be long. Occasionally I'll have to back out of pre-arranged plans due to an unexpected emergency, although thankfully this is rare, and most practices strive to ensure employees have a good work-life balance.

How relevant is your degree?

As a vocational degree, veterinary medicine prepares you to work as a clinical vet, treating a wide range of species.

Whilst most graduates enter clinical practice, veterinary medicine is an incredibly diverse science degree, and there are many options available to a qualified vet. Not only can you choose to tailor your clinical career - be that focusing on treating a single species, as I've done, or look at obtaining further qualifications to become a recognised specialist - you can also work in many other essential roles within public health, research, food hygiene and industry.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

Hopefully still enjoying and taking pride in the work I do!

What's your advice to aspiring veterinary surgeons?

  • Just because plan A doesn't work out for you, don't be afraid to think outside the box and look for alternative routes to achieving your goals.
  • Learn to take time out for yourself - you can't help anyone if you don't first take care of yourself.
  • See practice and pay attention. Get involved on work experience placements and don't be afraid to ask questions - you'll learn more by doing so and get a better sense of whether this is the profession for you.

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