“My Real Life Journey”
This week we meet with Cécile, who has been working in different countries and has found a business idea to support vets working in the UK.
Hard work and lots of traveling
Cécile is a French vet that has first visited the UK in 2014 and has been working part-time in the UK since 2016. She has worked in small animal general practice and then dedicated herself to emergency and critical care. On top of her part-time locum work at Vets Now, she also runs the website www.vetency.com, which allows fellow vets to share their workplace experiences.
Where and when did you graduate?
I graduated from the Veterinary University of Budapest, Hungary in March 2014
What made you search for different opportunities in a different country?
Mostly the curiosity and excitement of travelling abroad. I moved from France in 2008 when I was 19, it did help me getting a very open minded spirit, realising that things are different from my own country but not necessarily in a bad way! (in France, we tend to think that we are the best in many things… it applies to the veterinary world, and for instance I was being actively discouraged from going abroad, saying that foreign degrees did not have much value … ). While being a student I did some clinical externships in Hong Kong, in small animals hospitals where vets were from all around the world : UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France etc etc… most of them if not all, worked for a while at the start of their career in the UK , and encouraged me to do the same after graduation. I guess this kind of melting pot of vets convinced me that I wanted the same environment around me. Everyone had a different vet educational background, different views and beliefs (for instance many vets were practising on a daily basis acupuncture treatments on pets for internal conditions and not only the more common orthopaedic pains in dogs). The results of this mix led to very performing hospitals in my opinion!!!!
Why did you choose to move to the UK?
As mentioned above, I was encouraged by the international vets from my Hong Kong training place to do so. More precisely, they all agreed that the UK is THE leading veterinary country in Europe, with huge international recognition and that experience from there was extremely valuable if I wanted to pursue my career elsewhere afterwards (especially if I wanted to return to work in Hong Kong which I eventually didn’t for family reasons) + UK bosses and clients are used to foreign vets, unlike France for instance where it is still very occasional to find a non french practising vet. Bosses aren’t judging from which country you graduated from and I am really convinced that a foreign vet has as many chances as a British one to get hired.
What was most challenging about your move?
I found a job very very easily so not a real challenge + registering at the RCVS is an extremely easy and smooth process for a EU person (compared to France) … no real challenge altogether , but maybe the most difficult was to find a decent place to stay which wouldn’t have cost me my whole new grad salary + sometimes the cultural differences (early diner, different food, weather).
While working in a busy first opinion practice, I did struggle a lot getting the support I needed as a new grad though, I was often left on my own doing things I’d never had done.
How did your career evolve once you were in the UK?
Beside the lack of support which is not a general thing in the UK, it did evolve quite well, with very decent income increases. Then I took that step to practice what I liked the most = emergencies. I managed to find a good training via the ESAVS (but I know the one from Improve international are good too). Doing emergency nights as a locum was the perfect way for me to have a part time and SUPER flexible job and allowed me at the same time to move to Hungary to join my partner who is living there. This flexibility is something that I rarely saw or heard of anywhere else. It is pretty incredible. It does come with inconveniences (no real colleagues nor team around you, + you are just a “locum”) but the benefits from the flexibility and money are great.
What are you doing now?
Flying to the UK on Monday, covering a block of night shifts all around the country + coming back home on the Thursday or Friday. I do that pattern approx twice up to 3 times a month. It can be quite tiring and stressful but I have to admit that it allows me to work in a country where the work standards are excellent, where many animals are insured allowing to do lots of diagnostics / surgery / hospitalisation without cost being always an issue (unlike in France or in Hungary) .
What led you to start your project with Vetency?
Being a locum. Over the past 3 years I have worked in many different clinics all around the country. I book them through a locum agency. Although the guys from the agencies are amazing and helpful, the comments I got about this or that clinic in terms of how nice is the team or how decent is the accommodation were not always accurate, if any information was available at all. I ended up sometimes in some clinics where accommodation was either absolutely disgusting or absolutely not suitable (no place to shower / cupboard size room above kennels…). It was often ok for a short period of 48 – 72hours for the time I was in the UK. But I also had some colleagues who for instance took longer locum contract 2-3 months and they ended up telling me “if only I had known before I would have never accepted the job”… either because of horrible accommodation on site or sometimes also because of team mood or in worse cases, medical practising standards … Hence I had the idea to create Vetency.com
What do you hope to achieve with Vetency?
On the website vets and nurses either locums or permanent can rate and comment about practices they worked at. Three parameters are being reviewed : team atmosphere (how are you welcomed as a locum – it did happen to me once that barely no one talked to me while doing a week of day locuming because i was just one new more locum… it makes you live a very lonely week) / support from staff or management (in my opinion super duper important for new grads based on my own experience) and finally buildings and equipment (sometimes I arrive in some brand new practices or hospitals and to be honest it gives me a kick and makes me want to “work” if it makes sense).
When Vetency got launched on social medias some colleagues violently reacted as they were seeing the website as an occasion for employees to trash their employers on which the blame is always put… Not at all, it is absolutely not at all the reasons nor the feeling we want to create with Vetency. The website is here to help and give realistic information. Of course, there will always be one person saying that a practice is bad and to be avoided whereas it is not true and that the problem was possibly coming from him but I am sure that if the practice is indeed a nice place to work at then the sum / average of ratings will reflect that. In my opinion, vets and nurses are here to help each other. Veterinary jobs are in general very stressful and intense, we need to be all supportive.
What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to create a career in the Veterinary field in the UK?
I would say GO!!!! The UK is a very good place to work as a vet. British people, either vet workers or clients, are 99% of the time extremely open minded towards foreigners. it is very easy to find a job. The jobs do come with some stress and long working hours but I guess as anywhere else. In most of the practice, equipment is good and standards of care excellent. On the personal life side of the question, British culture can be quite different that foreigner’s original country… it can be sometimes a bit difficult to adapt to the way of life in the UK but Brits are open minded with us so should we !!! And altogether it is a pleasant country to live in!!!