“Real Life Journeys”
This week we talk to Camilla, a Danish Vet who has set up a website for first opinion small animal vets with ultrasound questions.
Setting up a veterinary business in the UK
Camilla Edwards is a Danish/British vet who grew up in Essex, and with Danish parents. She moved to Denmark in 1999 to do her veterinary degree, only to move back to the UK in 2006 after graduating. Camilla started in a mixed practice, worked in emergency and critical care and now runs her own business, scanning patients in different practices and reviewing ultrasound machines on her own website www.fovu.co.uk
Where and when did you graduate?
I graduated from KVL in Copenhagen (Denmark) in 2006. I grew up in Essex, UK with Danish parents. My focus when I moved to Denmark was to get my veterinary degree, I had no plans at that stage about what country I would live in in the future.
Why did you choose to move to the UK?
My move back to the UK was all to do with following my heart. My boyfriend at the time was British and we had a 6-year long distance relationship where he studied medicine in London and I studied to be a vet in Denmark. Job opportunities in the UK were plentiful at that stage, so it didn’t feel like too much of a challenge moving. Most of my Danish university friends found jobs quickly, and quite a few went on to do PhDs, although most moved away from Copenhagen.
In the UK my boyfriend became my husband and three children later I am still happy that I am in the UK. I’m still in close contact with many of my Danish university friends and visit regularly.
What was most challenging about your move?
It’s particularly daunting moving as new graduate. I think you feel more vulnerable at that time anyway. You compare yourself on a personal level to colleagues but when you move countries you also compare whether your education was the same. The language barrier was an issue despite being fluent at both. It felt like you were learning a whole new subject (i.e. translate all the words you have in you brain for certain drugs, diseases etc in Danish into English).
I was moving to be with my boyfriend and my parents were within an hour and half drive, so socially it felt like I was moving home. However, as a vet I felt very much like I was moving to a new country. My first job was a young group with five of the six vets less than five years qualified and we had a good social life – this was important and helped to get my confidence up and to get to know the area.
How easy was it for you to find your first job? Did you get the job you wanted?
It was easy to find a job in the UK. I was most nervous about the interview process and somehow expected it to be very gruelling. Most interviews I have been to in the UK ended up being nothing more demanding than a tour of the practice, a chat and a cup of tea (although the British still don’t seem to understand my Danish taste of having tea without milk!). I have worked in several practices and most jobs I have found through contacting practices directly. I would say finding a job where there seem to be others in the same life stage as you is key as lots of practices have a great social life that you can fit in with if you want to.
How did your career evolve once you were in the UK?
As a new graduate I started in mixed practice, but soon realised despite having grown up on a farm that small animal work was the direction I wanted to take. I ended up working in a small animal hospital as a night vet and gaining my CertAVP in emergency and critical care. I really wanted to create my own business though and have always enjoyed procedures and ultrasound. Initially I started locuming, and gradually persuaded practices that my ultrasound skills were worth paying for. I now have a thriving peripatetic ultrasound business and teach ultrasound with IMV-imaging.
What are your future plans?
Through my website I have recently started to review ultrasound machines. I decided not to buy a machine when I started my peripatetic ultrasound business. This meant that I was using many different machines and I realised I this gave me a rather unique perspective on machines. It led to many colleagues seeking me out for advice about which ultrasound machine would suit their practice. This has led to me creating a website to review all the ultrasound machines I have used. I will soon be receiving ultrasound machines to review from various companies and that really excites me! I love the variety of my job and the feeling that I am helping colleagues do their jobs more easily.
What part do you think your move to the UK has played in your life and career?
When I first moved back to the UK, I was so worried that my university may have left me with different skills compared to my British colleagues. I came to realise that the differences are what make us unique and if you can tap into the areas which make you unique you will often find your strengths. Just like when I started my ultrasound business, I saw it as a weakness that I did not have my own machine. Now I believe it is my strength and a big positive in my business. When I moved back to the UK from Denmark I was worried that my learning may be a barrier, but in reality I soon learnt the British ways but had the experience of a different way of doing things which often gave me more options.
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?
My advice would be to try and connect with other people who have moved from your country recently. Support and mentoring is beneficial when you are moving to a new country. I only wish that Vet Move UK had existed when I moved!
Try and find a practice which has others at the same life stage as you so that you will fit in to the culture and social life of the practice. This will be great for making new friends and stopping feelings of isolation. Good luck!