A wide skills set is all in a day’s work for vet

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“So what would you have been if you hadn’t been a vet?” is a question often asked of my colleagues and myself.

Perhaps vets get asked this frequently because it is, and always has been, very difficult to get a place at veterinary school. My reply is, “I don’t really know”. I came from that ‘sort of family’, and went to ‘that sort of school’, where, once a career path was decided, all systems were set in place to achieve that goal. My teachers only started to panic when it became my intention to apply for a place at Fen Poly (aka Cambridge). It was then suggested that I should have a back-up plan.

At the eleventh hour, I looked at pharmacy courses, the main drawback being that one of the best courses was at Bradford University, which was a bit close to home. Part of the attraction of university, besides gaining a qualification, was flying the nest and surviving independent living. Fortunately, Plan B wasn’t required, but I still have an urge to pick up a data sheet and check the pharmacokinetics (the pros and cons) of a medicine.

I have wondered what I would be fit to do should a change in career become necessary. Having recently spent a frustrating amount of time trying to get the patio set cover, and earlier in the year the Christmas lights, back into their original packaging, I thought, “anyone who can get a prolapsed bovine uterus back into its original location can surely get this stuff back into the box’. Many times have I been faced with a cow who, having delivered her calf, has kept straining and deposited her entire uterus. One looks in despair at the tiny orifice from whence this large organ came and has to set about replacing said structure. Usually gravity, possibly a bag of sugar (Herriot style), a wine bottle, brute force, but most important a helping pair of hands, resolves the problem.

Much of our work involves problem solving and sorting fact from fiction, attributes which could be put to good use as detectives or social workers. We have to develop counselling skills to assist clients in traumatic situations and most vets become good listeners. We are all trained in history taking, but we are reliant on the pet’s carers’ version of events, which can vary between male and female owners. Most men will tolerate their hound’s aggression or amorous tendencies whereas the women just ring and arrange the operation.

So in a nutshell, the person across the consult table, the stable door or the farm fence is a bit more than ‘just’ a vet.

JANE BARWICK-NESBIT