New grad Alice is loving practice life

New grad Alice is loving practice life

 We’re committed to ensuring our young vets have all the support they need to build happy and rewarding veterinary careers as they begin their first practice roles.

That’s why we’ve developed our new graduate programme across species – small animal, equine, farm, and mixed practice – to help bridge that gap between university and life in practice.

 New graduate Alice Ma who works at Beechwood Vets in Leeds is excelling in her first role since leaving university, thanks to the VetPartners Graduate Programme.

Here, Alice shares how the VetPartners Small Animal Programme has helped her find her feet in her first practice role…


How did you feel about starting your first role as a vet?

When I was looking for my first job after leaving university, I was worried that I would find adjusting to working life after being a student difficult. However, when the role at Beechwood Vets came up, I felt like I’d found the perfect place to start my career as I would also get to take part in the VetPartners graduate programme alongside my first two years as a vet to help build up my confidence. I felt really lucky to start my career at a practice that had such a strong support network in place for graduates and this helped settle my nerves.

When I came out of university, I was also eager to meet other newly qualified vets as I thought it would help having others around me that were in a similar situation to me and I was keen to build up a support network of vets outside of the people I graduated with from university. I always think it’s useful in life to talk through things with others as often a problem shared is a problem halved. Having the opportunity to meet others on the graduate programme who were also in their first role at other VetPartners practices, really appealed to me and it has definitely been a valuable element of it.

Knowing I would also have monthly sessions run by VetPartners to supplement my learning on key topics was also reassuring, and I felt like it would help me to build on my knowledge from university and help me apply it to scenarios in practice.

What was the learning experience like?

Alice with dogWe were given a programme at the start of each year outlining the topics that would be covered. The sessions were mainly in person and were a mixture of lectures and practical sessions. We had a relatively small group size of 20-30 people, making the sessions quite interactive and allowing plenty of opportunity for case discussion.

At the start of the graduate programme, we had some general introductory sessions covering communication and wellbeing, with some social activities to allow time to get to know each other better. The remainder of the sessions covered a specific topic common to first opinion small animal practice. These topics included feline and canine medicine, emergency and critical care, dermatology, and cardiology. To enhance what we learnt in the lectures there was also often a practical aspect to the sessions, such as practising ear cytology or intubating rabbit models. We also had a hands-on session on abdominal ultrasounds which I found particularly helpful.
We also had the opportunity to attend a neutering clinic with the Worldwide Veterinary Service in Thailand to further our surgical skills. The clinic was a standout experience for me as it boosted my confidence and has made me far more proficient at spaying and it was also felt a great to support a charity clinic.


What is the support like during the programme?

Right from the beginning of the graduate programme I was assigned a dedicated mentor in my practice as well as from VetPartners. Louise Mallinson who is the clinical director at Beechwood Vets was my graduate development advisor who was my first point of call to learn from initially. We would have weekly check-ins about how I was progressing clinically and personally, giving plenty of opportunities to discuss cases or any worries I had. I also had an assigned VetPartners Talent Mentor, Ruth Stevens, and she provided a direct line of support for both work and wellbeing purposes. She checked in with me every week via email, offering the opportunity to chat through anything that I wanted too. We were also able to chat in person every month at the graduate sessions, and via video calls in between if needed. Whilst I was lucky to be surrounded by supportive colleagues at my practice, it was always reassuring to have someone outside of work too who I could turn to for objective advice if needed. I also got to know some other colleagues in the VetPartners Talent Team who went to some of the sessions, such as VetPartners Head of Talent Rob Williams and Learning and Development Advisor, Gemma Black, who were useful to talk to about future career opportunities.

I also thought the various clinicians who ran the CPD sessions were really supportive. Each of them had their own expertise, whether it was exotics or ophthalmology, and their passion and enthusiasm came across in their teaching. During the sessions there was usually a chance to speak to them and they were always great to go to for advice on specific cases we’d come across in practice and I also asked a few of them about the career paths they’d taken into veterinary. The support I received during the programme was amazing, and I now feel lucky to have various contacts across the country and in different specialties if I ever need to reach out, whether that be for help with a case or to refer a patient directly.

My practice team have also been super supportive from the moment I started at Beechwood Vets and there’s always someone there to go to for guidance which I really appreciate.

Did meeting other graduates help you navigate your first role?

Alice pictured in green area outside Beechwood VetsFor every CPD session we met up with the same group of graduates and had the same VetPartners mentor, meaning that over the 18-month programme we all got to know each other very well. Everyone was going through varied but relatable experiences in their first jobs, so the sessions were always a good opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other. I also found it comforting to know that we were all in the same boat and that it’s normal to need more support whilst we are learning.

Having these scheduled sessions to meet like-minded people was really helpful, as it can otherwise feel tricky to find the time or the same opportunities yourself when working in quite a busy job.

We also set up a WhatsApp group which we used to discuss cases and to share advice whenever needed throughout the programme.

How are you finding life as a vet after doing the programme?

I definitely feel equipped for life as a vet following the graduate programme. The skills and knowledge I’ve got from the sessions have already helped me massively and I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learnt in everyday scenarios in practice.

For example, there was a session on rabbits in which we learnt a lot about managing patients with gut stasis. This was an area I didn’t feel very confident in as it wasn’t covered very well at vet school. However, following the CPD session I’ve grown in confidence and now feel able to manage these cases in practice with little to no help.


What would your advice be to those about to graduate about their first role in practice?

I would say try not to put too much pressure on yourself to know everything and be able to do everything whilst being a new graduate.Alice pictured outside entrance to Beechwood Vets. Ultimately being a vet is a demanding job and it’s going to take time to feel confident in every aspect of the job – I certainly don’t yet 18 months in, and that’s okay. I’ve always tried to prioritise a good work-life balance and my mental wellbeing, which admittedly is sometimes easier said than done, but it really helps being surrounded by supportive colleagues and friends, so definitely keep this in mind when going into your first practice role.


Would you recommend the programme to others?

Yes, definitely. I am genuinely missing the CPD sessions now that they’re over! The programme was a huge confidence boost for me and equipped me with skills I’ve been able to use every day in practice.


Alice graduated from the University of Cambridge in Veterinary Medicine in July 2023. She started her role at Beechwood Vets in September 2022 alongside the VetPartners Small Animal Graduate Programme. She completed the programme in March this year.


Article written by Rachel Neill, VetPartners PR & Communications Executive. Email