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Getting work experience in a vets

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN


It’s exam season right now for many... But for those in school or college and not taking exams, this usually the season for the wonderful ‘work experience’ week. Despite not being in school, this is still a factor in my life as vet clinics are popular places for people to come and have work experience.

This all sounds lovely, but work experience in vet clinics is quite hard to get (as I’m sure some of you know). With this blog, I’m intending to break down some of the issues that can make it hard to get a veterinary work experience placement, how to maximise your chances, and what alternatives there are.

 

The practicalities

Vet clinics are always busy places, and some clinics really don’t have the space to take on work experience students, that’s not your fault. There are many people who need access to vet clinics, in particular, vet and vet nurse students who will be asking clinics to take them for important training placements. It may be that the time you are free from school is not a time that they can accommodate you.

There is also the safety issue of age. Under UK rules on exposure to radiation it is advised that those under 18 are not allowed in a room with an X-ray. Even the safest of clinics may have their X-ray machine in their prep room, and thus if you are under 18 and looking for work experience some smaller clinics may not be able to take you.

 

Applying

Apply in plenty of time, if a clinic knows you are coming they will have time to organise a rota (some places do a rota 6 months in advance) and ensure there are staff there to support you. They may also have you in for a few hours to make sure you really want to come and be a vet or vet nurse.

You are likely to be asked to send in a covering letter and a CV and you may need to attend a short interview. These are all positive things as they are good experience for the future, and will ensure you are going to the right place for your work experience. It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been in clinics where one student didn’t want to be a vet or vet nurse but wanted to be an actor! Taking up a space I’m sure someone else would have loved and been very pleased with!

 

Flexibility

Hopefully this isn’t sounding too off-putting as there are still many places that could take you - if you can be flexible. Although many schools have set weeks for work experience, there is nothing to stop you applying to volunteer in a vet clinic after school or at weekends. This can be a great way to see how the vet world works and I know some people have done this as part of their Duke of Edinburgh award.

Check with your school if there is any flexibility in when you can attend. There may be options if the place you want to go can’t accommodate the pre-set times.

It’s also worth looking at alternatives that might help you get some animal care experience. Kennels, catteries, stables and farms might not seem as glamorous as the vets, but might give you valuable experience.

 

What to take

Next, let’s think about what to do to get the most from your time at your placement. Before you go, find out what you will need to wear, if you need to bring anything with you and who you are meeting on your first day.

You will mostly be advised to wear something comfortable. Make it something that you don’t mind getting dog hair on! It’s also really important to wear COMFORTABLE shoes! You will spend a lot of time standing so be prepared!

I would also advise you to take a small notebook and pen. Questions will arise, often at times it is best not to ask, so make a note of what happened and what you’d like to know for later. You will also be given a lot of information about tasks you can help with, so writing down notes on what to do and how to do it will help. For some parts of your time you’ll be observing but there are many jobs you can help with.

Most importantly – take an open mind! Veterinary care is quite unlike anything else you will have been part of. It will be odd seeing a patient anaesthetised or having surgery, so be open to how we improve animals’ welfare in a variety of different ways.

 

Overall - good luck! While most people find themselves inspired to go on and qualify as a vet or a vet nurse, remember, there’s no shame in deciding you don’t want to join our world once you’ve seen it - it certainly isn’t for everyone!

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