As you can guess, although there are many benefits of working in the UK and life can be really good, there will be particular challenges that you may face as an overseas vet, and actually not all of them exclusively related to being an overseas vet – even UK vets may come across some of them.
So on this article I will talk to you about three main areas where you may come across some differences and challenges.
Client expectations and how important meeting them is
Of course expectations are part of our lives and professions. Even in your own country, clients have expectations. Often, expectations most vets deem unreasonable, such as interrupting the vet holidays, suggesting that the vet sees their animal when they are at home or simply wanting free advice.
In the UK, client expectations are different and often related to the level of expertise they think you should have as a professional. There are often mismatched expectations regarding costs (clients perceive veterinary costs to be high, but often not as high as they thought), but particularly regarding level of care and how involved clients want to be. In other words, while you have clients that tell you “you’re the vet, you do what is best”, there are others that expect you to explain to them why what you want to do really is the best. This is very important in the course of your profession in the UK because “informed consent” is a requirement of the Code of Conduct.
Although you may not see this one coming, you can often “headbutt” with some team members because you may not be familiar with their roles. It’s difficult for overseas vets to take on responsibilities that are not theirs and they will often undermine the role of veterinary nurses, who are qualified personnel. In most overseas countries (with some exceptions), there is no such thing as a veterinary nurse, and vets will take on their tasks. This means that you will likely find it difficult to trust your veterinary nurses with something you’re used to do (such as anaesthesia) and they may not be impressed that you prefer to do that yourself. Asking them to perform tasks typically also presents big challenges, because you don’t know what they can and can’t do and it’s not that easy to find unless you become familiar with Schedule 3 (part of the Veterinary Surgeons Act law).
On the other hand, it may also happen that the team doesn’t trust your way of doing things just because it’s a different way of doing things that they are not used to. In these cases, you have to adjust to this according to your personality – do you trust it will work well enough that you ask your team to trust you, or do you hear what they say and adapt your ways to them?
Veterinary Medicine is a BUSINESS
This is one of the hardest things for us (and UK vets!) to get to grips with. Even back in our own countries we, as vets, know that we don’t work for free, or just for charity. We, at least, have to earn enough to pay our bills and feed a family. However, because we really do care about animals, it’s easy to reduce prices and sometimes do things for free in the name of the animal. Although this also happens in the UK, veterinary practices, and especially those within a corporate group, are effectively a business, and, therefore, run like a business. It’s about sales and productivity (and it should be so practices can improve their services), but it’s common to hear overseas vets saying in the UK “it’s all about money”. It’s not just about the money, but you are working for a business and you are not there to provide services for free. Although this is hard to accept, this is what allows vets in the UK to practice high standard medicine with happy clients and receive a better salary than you would receive back home. Once you embrace the fact that you ARE worth what you are charging (and likely more than that), you too will become more productive and valued by your boss.