Case study

Veterinary Surgeon — Karen Shewan

For Karen being a vet is a way of life, not just a job. Find out more about the rewards and challenges of working in a small animal practice

How did you get your job as veterinary surgeon?

I sent my CV to all of the vet practices in Aberdeen and got my job through this method.

How relevant is your veterinary medicine degree?

My degree is essential to being a vet and I use what I learned at university every day.

What's a typical day like as a vet?

My working day is divided into morning, lunch and afternoon consultations, totalling around four hours. Three hours are dedicated to operations and I also spend time on administration and calling owners. I am on-call one night a week and work a weekend rota every month. After a night on-call, we still work the following day even though we may have been up with calls or operating on sick animals.

Consultations can be anything from routine appointments such as new puppy or kitten checks, boosters or check-ups before or after operations, to non-routine appointments including sick animals, blood tests or euthanasia's. We have ten minutes per appointment to get a history from the owner, examine the animal, form a diagnosis and plan of action, give treatment and write up medical records.

Operations can be routine such as castrations, lump removals, dental treatment or x-rays, or more complicated, e.g. intestinal surgery or amputations.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The best part of my job is getting to know the clients and the animals and forming a trusting relationship with them. I get to see young animals mature and grow older and can be there for the client from beginning to end with their pets and give them whatever support they need.

I feel a great sense of achievement when I see animals get better from an illness, and each time they come back it makes me feel good that I have helped them to live a healthy life.

What are the challenges?

Most people think that the toughest part of my job would be euthanasia but usually these are being done for a good reason, and I feel that I am helping the animal by alleviating their suffering.

It's hardest for me when I think I could be doing more for the pet and for one reason or another, I can't - there may be financial restrictions or I may be limited to how much I can do by the owner's wishes.

As the only vet at the branch, having enough time in the day for everything is a real challenge and switching off from a day's work can also be difficult when you are thinking about how any patient is doing, or whether you have made the right decisions that day.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I hope that I will still be working in the same surgery, seeing my clients and watching their pets grow old, helping them with whatever comes.

What advice can you give to others?

You need to love the work and be committed to it as a way of living not just a job.

Learn to listen. The pets cannot tell us what is wrong so it's vital that we listen to what the owner is telling us as they may not realise that one of their observations may be the key to the final diagnosis.

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