From Portugal to Scotland - and to a job before being legally able to work!
Free Download – A Complete and Comprehensive Guide for European Vets that Want to Work in the UK
This guide was created with European Vets in mind, particularly those interested in clinical practice, but several of the chapters are useful for any foreign vet. This is a downloadable guide with more than 30 pages of free content, covering all relevant topics about working and living in the UK.
I was once where you stand – a Veterinary Surgeon, new graduate that is!, no experience, moving to the United Kingdom to work. I didn’t even know very well what I wanted to do…
Hi! My name is Andreia and I’m now a “diversifier” of the veterinary profession.
I built this website after having been working in the UK with a mission – to make it easier for those of you who want to do the same!
Know that you are not the first one trying this journey, you won’t be the last and you’re not alone!
I graduated in December 2014 from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Technical University of Lisbon after presenting my Masters. I had done some undergraduate training in the UK for 4 months at the Weipers Centre Equine Hospital, Glasgow University. I had given a couple of subcutaneous and intramuscular injections to dogs, nothing to cats, never had placed an IV catheter, never done any surgery. I used to tell my university friends “you do that, I’ll be working with horses, not small animals”. Well. Keep reading… I learnt my lesson – Never say Never!
I moved to the Scotland right after my graduation. I had it easier than most. I didn’t come alone – that was one of the reasons I moved! When I moved, at the end of 2014, I already had a flat sorted. Phew!… So, roof over the head, how to find work? Well, first step was registering with the RCVS. Nightmare alert!!! It wasn’t all complicated, but it was all about paperwork and one end didn’t quite know what the other end needed!
It took me 3 months of waiting (which could have been a month if I knew how to do things), I had to travel down to Portugal on purpose to pick up documents that needed to be redone but I finally managed to register with the RCVS in April 2015. And it was just in time!
After 3 months of “waiting”, I was desperate for something! I had even started to look into part-time jobs at the city centre (because I couldn’t work as a vet!). I had also started to apply to vet practices nearby hoping to get “free training” before I was registered. That didn’t work very well!
What did work, however, was applying when I knew my RCVS registration date! I sent 3 CVs and cover letters. I got one reply. We chatted on the phone. We arranged an interview.
So here I go to this interview and meet a bunch of lovely people in the small town clinic… I got offered the position within days of my interview. I was so proud of myself! Why? Well, I had just gotten a job in mixed practice with not much to show on my CV!!! I didn’t know how to do surgery, I had never done any consults, no lambing, very little to do with farm animals… but you are exactly where you need to be. And I had applied for a job that no one else was wanting, I was a good fit for the team (young, happy, team!), I had “sold” the little I had done well and I was very willing to learn.
And… now that I was registered, had accommodation provided by the clinic, bank account, National Insurance, a car, a driving licence… I was ready to work. And scared as hell! I needed to
1) understand what the hell the clients were trying to say (Scottish is bad enough, try rural town Scottish. In a farm! :/ )
2) learn how to treat pets effectively to see happy clients walk out of the door
3) learn how to do surgery
4) deal with emergencies!!!
Luckily, I was willing to learn and I had people willing to teach me. My vacancy replaced the senior vet that was going to retire. And he was my backup! 🙂 So I kept learning and learning and growing in confidence – and I’m still learning!
After working for almost two years in mixed practice, I had seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
I started to feel worn off, tired and unsatisfied, working long hours due to the out-of-hours and on-call, feeling like I had little balance in my own personal life. I felt like something needed to change (I was already into this website thing!). It was also time to take a different approach to Veterinary Medicine. I was becoming more interested in “gold standard” procedures, in being able to do more, and I thought I would probably quite like to go down the route of specialisation – which would also be a plus if I ever returned home because not many people are European Diplomates!
I applied for a rotating internship at Glasgow University. Guess in which area… In the Small Animal Hospital, of course! (‘Never say never’, remember?) Working in mixed practice made me realise I quite like Medicine (I was already suspicious of that), and I don’t really like surgery very much – except for castrations! I also don’t fancy the equine field work that much, I just really love horses and want to stroke them – not so fond of sticking needles in their legs to find out where they’re lame.
So, again, I put my English to work, updated my CV, got some references, wrote a well-thought cover letter, and soon enough got called for an interview. Now, I didn’t prepare too much because I knew I didn’t need the internship, but I would quite like it. And I tend to be quite chilled, so I just chatted away the best way I could with my three interviewers. I left feeling good about it, and sure enough, some days later I was offered the position!
Now that’s something! Getting a rotating internship in a referral teaching institution with less than 2 years of practice really made me feel proud! And I also felt really humble when I started (because really, I felt like I knew nothing!). We were rotating through nine different services and I had the opportunity to do things I hadn’t done before (and finding more things I did and didn’t enjoy!).
Life keeps happening…
Well, the thing with life is that it doesn’t stop and you keep feeling the same (bad) way until you get the message!
I started the internship after being off work from my first job for a couple of weeks. I started the internship on a very good note, with plenty of motivation, eager to see and do more and more. And then life kept happening.
Something was still “nagging” me, even after changing jobs and no longer be doing some of the things I enjoyed the least. I started to realise that it was very important for me to get balance in my life. A balance that I would not get – ever – if I went after a specialisation.
I also realised that I was finding it really hard to miss important events with my family back home. It was getting harder and harder to visit and then leave them.
I really had to stop and get my priorities right…
That’s when I took a very hard decision – I was going to return home before finishing the internship. I only did 6 months, rather than the full year. And so I did, and left the internship at the beginning of September 2017 to return home.
I didn’t work as a Vet in Portugal – I used the time to perfect this website and started to think about how I could help people going through similar situations.
Later I returned to Scotland for a brief period of time when I got a bit more experience by doing some locums and found a great recurrent locum that allowed me to work just with cats. Flexible enough that I visit on purpose every month! I then permanently returned to Portugal in the beginning of the Summer of 2018 with 3 cats in the luggage. I now divide my time between the job in Scotland, jobs in Portugal, BVA work, this website, my other personal silly adventures, three cats and one horse.
See, while all of this happened to me, it became clear that it really is possible for any one of us foreign vets to come to the UK and get a job. But it's definitely not easy, and it certainly isn't the right thing to do for all of us.
For me, my family and friends gained priority over my career.
For me, there was no point in having money that I could not enjoy because I didn’t have time and many important people were not as present in my life as I wished. I want to be there when they need me and that’s more important to me than being a specialist or making a ton of money because of how hard I work!
For me, it’s important to be able to enjoy what I love most in life – my horse, my cats.
But we’re all different and each one’s priorities are also different – they change between people and they change for the same person with time.
This is why I’m so passionate about these choices.
I believe each and everyone of us is walking this Earth to find their path to fulfilment.
To some, this looks like travelling. To others, it looks like spending quality time with family or friends. And to others, it looks like moving abroad, being a top Veterinary Surgeon with a successful career or gain the knowledge of a Veterinary Specialist.
For those of you who want to find out if a career and life in the UK is for you, I’m here.
For those of you who know you want to come to the UK, I’m here.
For those of you who want to thrive in the UK, I’m here.
For those of you who are in the UK struggling to thrive, I’m here.
More about me
Horses are my true passion
I love horses since I remember, but I never got “real” contact with horses until I was one year short of starting Vet School. That’s when I started to ride and I only stopped because I didn’t have the time once I started working. One of the reasons I’ve revamped my career!
I also wanted to be a writer
I had a J. K. Rowling phase when I was on my early teens, but I still love writing and especially the process of creating. I love fantasy themes with lots of magic involved!
Crazy cat lady alert!
Yep. I thought I was a dog person, then I got a cat when I was on my 2nd year of Vet School. Totally a cat person! The count is at three and I no longer fight off the title of “crazy cat lady”…
I’m into art
Used to be, anyway. For the three years before University, I spent a lot of time creating fantasy-related art and coding simple web pages. My gallery can still be found online full of horses and other fantasy imagery! I even entertained myself coding a website on Wordpad (still like how it looks!).
Apparently, I have an entrepreneurial spirit!
On top of UK VetMove, I also have a “Vet Diary” blog in Portuguese and have gone through a couple of other adventures, such as creating an online e-commerce store with “horsey” t-shirts. And I don’t think I’ll stop soon…
I’m into animal behaviour
I think it started with horse training and how they learn, but now I also really like cat behaviour. I “train” my cats (unsuccessfully…) and I’m doing the ISFM Advanced Certificate in Feline Behaviour.