This article focuses on some of the things you will encounter as a veterinary professional in the UK, which you may not have been prepared for or thought about before moving over. This is because many of the topics we will cover are not easy to “learn about” when you are not already involved with the veterinary profession – but you may not be there yet. So I would like to bring some of this knowledge to you, as it may impact how you see the veterinary profession in the UK and your decision of being a part of it or not.
Respecting the rules
Rules are present in all societies and are welcomed as you have a norm to follow, but the level of compliance to the rules is very variable between cultures. It’s not unusual for Southern European cultures to be more tolerant with “bending the rules”, however this is not seen as appropriate in the UK. This has a significant impact on how you practise as a veterinary surgeon when you come from a different background, for instance:
- You really should be following the veterinary cascade. Is it cheaper at the human pharmacy? Well, if you have the dog version you shouldn’t really get your prescription for the human drug printed out.
- Client asks you to put the wrong date in the insurance form? That’s insurance fraud. Don’t do it. You will get into trouble.
- You need to get your CPD log correct, even though you may never have had to do CPD before. It’s for your own good!
Respecting the other members of the profession
“Bad-mouthing” is actually against the Code of Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons. The veterinary profession in the UK actually tends to be a very supportive community where most members consider themselves as part of “something bigger”. This is particularly visible in online communities, such as large Facebook groups and websites such as vetsurgeon.org, but colleagues are respectful towards one another, try to be non-judgemental and will ask for help to other colleagues. It is not appropriate to say something such as “Oh my! My colleague must have been drunk when he prescribed this medication, he’s killing your anima, he would be dead for sure if you hadn’t brought him down to me todayl!”. You do not know the situation the other colleague was in!!! (and you are not necessarily right!)
Competition and affiliation
This is closely linked to the previous topic, but while many foreign vets are used to a high level of competition between practices in other countries, such as “the race to the bottom” to see who’s the cheapest, saying bad things about other practices or simply refusing to work with them, and refusing to train vets because if they know surgery they can open their own clinic, in the UK professionals have (usually!) a more professional approach to the market! Several practices will have good relations between them and may even work together to cover each other’s out-of-hours shifts. A lot of them may also work under the umbrella of the same “parent”, that is, a corporate, which leads us to the next point.
Corporatisation of the profession
Veterinary businesses make money. Not all of them, not all of the time, but when they get it right, they make money. This has led to the corporatisation of the clinical veterinary services, which basically means that less practices are owned by the “veterinary brothers of the town” and more practices are owned by a large company that manages dozens or even hundreds of other practices. While independent practices are still around, they are still being bought off by corporates wanting to expand their portfolio. This is important to understand, as each corporate company has its own way and there’s a good chance you may end up working for one of them! You can read more about corporates here.
Specialisation of the profession
This is not exclusive to the UK and is more prevalent in Nordic countries, but it’s one of the key “selling points” for foreign vets. Specialisation is becoming more prevalent, and you can now even specialise in “knowing about everything” (you can become a certified General Practitioner). However, while there is a higher degree of specialisation, much due to the ability of employers to support the costs of further training, this is not something that you can start from scratch in the UK without previous experience, which is a common path in many countries. In order to be a good specialist, you must be a well-rounded veterinary surgeon, so you are commonly expected to show you have those skills before being able to focus more on a certain area of interest.