Nicola Jarvis BVetMed, CertAVP(EM), CertAVP(ESST), MRCVS
Senior Veterinary Surgeon – Redwings Horse Sanctuary – Home to over 1500 resident horses, ponies, donkeys and mules and a further 500 horses in guardian homes.
What made you choose this career?
Whilst a stereotypical answer, put quite simply, I just wanted to help animals and was happiest when I was around them. The whole family would sit down on a Sunday evening and watch All Creatures Great And Small and my fate was sealed!
What’s the best part about your job?
Easily the best part of my job is seeing a horse steadily recover after an illness or an injury and become ‘their old self’ again, even if ‘their old self’ is actually very feisty! Something as simple as a hoof abscess or as major as colic surgery, when a horse cheerfully whinnies over the box door the next day it really makes you smile.
What’s the worst part about your job?
Euthanasia of an animal will always be the worst part of my job. You never become immune to the responsibility and gravity of what you are doing but to be able to put a horse to sleep because they are suffering is often the only kind way forward.
What qualifications did you undertake to get to where you are now?
I attended the Royal Veterinary College (RVC London) for my degree course and initially worked in mixed practice. After deciding to specialise in horses I then worked as an intern in a large equine referral hospital as this is an excellent and intensive way to increase your knowledge and exposure to cases. Since joining Redwings Horse Sanctuary I have completed two further professional certificates with the University of Liverpool.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I probably should get Redwings to answer this one! I imagine I will still be working for this amazing charity if they will still have me!
What advice would you give someone wanting to get started in your career?
Definitely the first step is to make sure this is the right career for you. Any veterinary career involves very long hours filled with plenty of emotional highs and lows so before embarking on a five year degree course make sure you haven’t just seen the good bits of the job. I would thoroughly recommend seeing practice at a local friendly vets for as long as possible before making your decision and perhaps offer your services to animal charities or shelters to get as much first-hand experience as you can. I saw practice during school holidays and managed to get a Saturday job at my local vets on reception and general duties. None of this time will be wasted if you decide to apply to vet school as they will want to see proof of your dedication, commitment and an understanding of the profession. Look on-line to see the current entry requirements for the UK veterinary schools as you will need appropriate science related qualifications. Many universities now offer gateway courses of one to two years duration prior to entry to the degree course to help meet academic requirements.
Is there anything you would do differently in your career pathway?
When I first qualified I worked in a mixed, mainly small animal, practice that offered very little support and as a result I lost my confidence with horses. Thankfully my next practice was hugely supportive and my employers so lovely that my confidence returned and grew. If I had my time again I would have asked many more questions at my interviews and really tried to get a feel for somewhere before signing
on the dotted line.
If you weren’t a vet what would you be?
I love this question! I absolutely love surgery so perhaps a human surgeon or work
ing on the front line in Accident and Emergency, however I am sure the reality would be quite a different matter and very stressful. But for many years I have been producing wedding cakes and special occasion cakes for family and friends so perhaps I could be the next Cake Boss!
What has been the most embarrassing or funniest moment in your career?
The only difficulty here is choosing one of the many!! Definitely one of the most embarrassing moments was whilst working at an intern. As part of a colic work-up you pass a stomach tube to check whether the stomach is distended with fluid, otherwise known as ‘reflux’. Many vets put the free end of the tube in their mouth to help check for tube positioning and create the suction. Sure enough one day I was checking a horse and failed to notice acid gastric reflux shooting back up the tube towards me. Suffice to say it tasted absolutely foul and I ended up most unwell in the corner of the stable much to everyone’s amusement!