EVERY DAY IS DIFFERENT – ANYTHING CAN WALK THROUGH THE DOOR!
Josie Cocks, 23, graduated from her veterinary science degree six months ago – and is now a practising vet in North Wales. Discover how it’s all going…
Tell us about your job...
“I’m a vet working at the Grange Veterinary Hospital in Mold, North Wales. Most of the time I treat small animals like dogs, cats, guinea pigs and rabbits but sometimes we get the odd chicken or farm animal brought in – we’ve even treated llamas!
“In the mornings and evenings I work at a branch surgery with just one nurse. We do consultations only – so, no operations – and as it’s a ‘drop in’ surgery, people can turn up without an appointment and it can get very busy! In the afternoon I go back to the main hospital where there are seven other vets – this is where we carry out the operations.
“We work closely with our local rescue shelter, so there’s always plenty of neutering to do. We also do some more advanced and exciting surgeries including orthopedics – which involves repairing fractured bones. Every day is different as anything can walk through the door – we all look forward to dog caesareans as that involves looking after lots of puppies!”
What are your hours?
“My usual day is from 8.30am to 6.30pm but I also work one in four night duties and one in four weekends. Night duty involves answering the emergency out-of-hours phone and seeing to any emergencies that come in. As we’re a hospital, we always have at least a few inpatients that need looking after overnight.”
What are the best bits about your job?
“One of the best things has to be seeing puppies and kittens come in for their first vaccinations. This is usually when they’re about eight weeks old, which is a very cute age!
“But the most rewarding part of the job is, of course, curing animals. Sometimes this involves surgery – I love doing surgery, it’s exciting and very satisfying when your work looks neat and tidy at the end. Recently, we had a dog in that had eaten a doughnut-shaped sponge. The sponge had become wedged in the intestines and needed to be removed as the gut was slowly breaking down. This was a lifesaving procedure – and also very delicate to carry out.
“Other cases involve medical treatment including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and attaching animals to drips. I feel so happy when an owner is ecstatic to have the animal home again.”
Did you always want to do this as your job?
“I’ve always been an animal softie and dreamed of being a vet when I was younger, but later on in my school days I thought I was too soft to be a vet and dreaded the thought of having to put animals down. However, as I considered my options more, I went to plenty of university open days and realised there’s so much more to being a vet.
“I realised this was definitely the career I wanted to go into, picked the right A-levels and worked very, very hard. To be a vet, you generally need GCSEs at grades A* to B in maths, sciences and English and A-levels in chemistry, biology, maths or physics.
“When it comes to applying to vet school, gaining work experience with animals is as essential as getting the right A-levels. I did around eight weeks’ work experience before my application. This included lambing, dairy work, kennels and helping out at my local vet surgery. I found chemistry A-level very hard so had two hours of private tuition every week for a year. There are seven vet schools across the UK and each one has its pros and cons. I loved Liverpool when I visited the open day so was very happy when I got an offer to go there.”
What training or courses did you do to get where you are today?
“I did a degree in veterinary science (BVSc) at the University of Liverpool which took five years. I loved it but there were some challenging times – exams twice a year and endless hours of studying can get you down. I had a very close group of friends, which helped.
“At Liverpool, the course is split into three years of pre-clinical work, where you have lots of lectures and do post-mortems, and then two years of clinical work where you work in the university’s veterinary hospitals. The clinical rotations were great fun as this is when I started dealing with lots of different species. I began figuring out which part of the job I enjoyed most and what area I’d like to go into in the future.”
What happened after you graduated?
“The hunt for the perfect job started. Finding a job as a new graduate vet is quite difficult and I applied for many unsuccessfully. My lucky break came when my best friend’s family practice began looking for a new vet. I applied, was invited for an interview and got offered the job! Working with my best friend is brilliant, as well as with a fantastic team of other vets and nurses."
What advice would you give someone who wants to do your job?
“Volunteer as much as you can at a local veterinary practice. Whether you’re mopping floors or helping with surgery, every bit of experience counts. Understanding the general management and day-to-day running of a vet’s surgery helps when you begin your placements in the clinical years at vet school. It’s also very important to build a good relationship with practices and their vets – they’ll be more accommodating to you when you desperately require placements!”