New grad Charlotte gallops to success

New grad Charlotte gallops to success

New vet Charlotte Thompson is galloping to success – thanks to the VetPartners Graduate Programme.

After graduating, Charlotte was looking for a role that would help her to build on the skills she’d learned at university and grow her confidence as a newly qualified equine vet.

Our graduate programmes are available across species – small animal, equine, farm, and mixed practice -and are designed to provide young vets with everything they need to thrive in their first practice roles.

Here, Charlotte, who works at role at Hampden Vets in Buckinghamshire, explains why the programme has been the perfect stepping stone between university and practice life…

How did you secure your first veterinary role and place on the graduate programme?

I’d heard of VetPartners practices previously and they always seem to have a good reputation for being supportive places to work. I also noticed that if you join a VetPartners practice as a recent graduate, you automatically get enrolled on a graduate programme designed to support you in your first two years in practice. I’d also been into VetPartners practices before during my EMS placement as part of my degree which helped prepare me for working in a clinical environment. I always found myself drawn into the friendly, family feeling I got when spending time there and talking to the practice teams.

When I saw the role at Hampden Vets come up, I knew immediately that I wanted to apply. Having the structured support offered through the VetPartners graduate programme during my first two years with the practice sounded like a great way to start my career as an equine vet and I thought it would help me get used to life working in practice after being a student.

What was the learning experience like on the graduate programme?

There have been numerous CPD opportunities throughout the graduate programme. It started with the new graduate week which was a residential course where we stayed in nearby accommodation to Liphook Equine Hospital where the learning sessions took place.  The week was with around 20 other newly qualified equine vets from VetPartners practices across the UK. Each day during the week was dedicated to a specific topic and were designed to prepare us for our initial first few months in practice. Examples of topics included lameness, mare and foal medicine and approach to colic. The delivery of content was a good mix between case discussions, lectures and practical sessions which helped keep a nice variety to the way we were learning each day.

Aside from the new graduate week, there have also been webinars and other CPD sessions available for me to attend during my first two years in practice. For example, there was loads of BEVA Fundamentals CPD courses which were whole day sessions each focused on a specific skill such as dentistry and internal medicine. Prior to each of these sessions there were online lectures to watch, followed by a mixture of in-person lectures, practical sessions and case discussions. These sessions gave a great refresher on what I had learnt at university and boosted my confidence to use this knowledge in the field.

My favourite CPD so far during the programme has been the BARTA training as it helped boost my confidence when dealing with emergency situations and has given me the tools to manage horses stuck in difficult situations. The BARTA training was an intense day, but I found it an incredibly useful way to stay up to date on the latest rescue techniques.

How has being on the programme helped boost your confidence?

I got lots of support from my practice team during the programme which really helped me find my feet. I had designated senior vets to contact whenever I needed both clinical and non-clinical advice. I also had regular face to face catch ups with Jess Watson, clinical director at my practice in the first few months, and these have continued long term which I’m thankful for. Since starting my role at Hampden, she has been there to guide me and to celebrate the wins no matter how small which has helped me enormously throughout. The whole team at Hampden have been really supportive as well, I felt very welcomed into the team from the start and support is only ever a phone call away if I ever need advice or assistance with anything.

I also had really great support whilst I was getting used to doing out-of-hours work which is a large part of my role. Initially, I began shadowing another vet at my practice to gain experience and after a few months I was assigned a designated vet who provided me with back up if I needed it. After seven months into my role, I started going on call out-of-hours on my own but even now I am fortunate to always have another vet to call to support me with anything, even when it is at a more unsociable time of the day when I’m doing this type of work. My practice has been amazing at altering the amount of support I get to do certain things so that I can develop new skills in a way that never felt overwhelming.

The specialist vets from outside of the practice who taught the CPD sessions also have become useful contacts for support as they are happy for me to just give them a call to ask for advice on how to manage complex cases if I’m ever struggling.

What would you say is the biggest benefit of the graduate programme?

Meeting other graduates has been amazing and a highlight for me. There was a new graduate week which took place at Liphook Equine Hospital which was an excellent opportunity to meet others. This not only gave me people to talk to who were in the same boat, but it was also an opportunity to meet all the other graduates who would be in the same CPD sessions with me throughout the programme.

The equine week was jam-packed with hands-on sessions and informative talks. There was plenty of time throughout the week for us to connect with each other and share our experiences as new practitioners. It was comforting to see that we are all in the learning process and that mistakes are part of the journey. In addition to the educational aspect, there were also social events like pizza night, bowling, and a visit to a local pub, providing us with opportunities to also bond outside of the learning sessions.

The biggest benefit of being on the graduate programme has been the excellent support and genuine desire of those around me to help me progress.

How are you finding life as a vet since graduating?

I am enjoying life as an equine vet. There have been ups and downs, but I find the job very rewarding, and I get a lot of satisfaction from it. Thanks to the graduate programme, I’ve gained a valuable insight into my strengths and areas that need improvement. It has really helped me develop in the many different areas involved with being a vet.

I’ve also found it easy to settle into my practice and I feel grateful to have such a lovely and supportive team by my side. From the very start they have made sure to take the time to teach me about anything I’m unsure of and there’s always someone around to go to if I’m ever unsure, whether that’s in person at the practice or over the phone. My practice has also been great in terms of flexibility with how and when I work which has helped make my transition into working life easier.

I also really enjoyed spending extra time in the clinic that we have at the practice in my initial first few months as a vet whilst my caseload grew. This allowed me to become familiar with how the practice functions and meet clients in a lower stress situation.

Building relationships with clients has probably been my favourite thing about my role so far and I’m looking forward to further developing my skills. I also hope to increase my exposure to Stud medicine to determine if this is an area I would be interested in pursuing further.

Would you recommend the programme to others?

Yes definitely, there has been fantastic support throughout. I feel I have progressed greatly in the last 18 months and am already a much better vet. I have been pushed to develop and grow, but not to the point that I feel overwhelmed with what is in front of me. It’s important to remember that you really don’t need to know everything about being a vet after you graduate, there’s time to learn it all and you’re bound to make mistakes along the way. The programme has been an incredible way to find my feet in my new role whilst I’m adjusting to working life after being a student.


Charlotte graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, London, in Veterinary Medicine in September 2022. She started her role at Hampden Vets in September 2022 alongside the VetPartners Equine Graduate Programme. She is currently in her final year of the programme.