Beth Sugden is in her fourth year at Liverpool University, studying Veterinary Science. Here she tells Farmers Guardian why she chose the course, and gives us her top tips for others considering this as a career.
1. Are you from a farming family?
I have grown up around birth, death, the highs, the lows, the laughter and lots of muck, or as I would call it, the fabulous lifestyle of a farmer.
Not forgetting the amazing organisation, Young Farmers, which has given me core life skills and experiences I will never forget. We have a small farm in South Yorkshire and are currently running suckler beef and a mixed flock of sheep – my Dad likes to try new breeds and we are currently experimenting with Zwarbles.
2. What are you studying and why?
I am studying Veterinary Science and am currently in my fourth year at the University of Liverpool. Apart from the fact that I love animals, I want to become a vet so that I can forge relationships with interesting people, challenge myself with difficult cases and try to put all the pieces together to reach a diagnosis. I want to use my knowledge to help animals and people, and to ultimately fulfil my passion and never stop learning.
3. What sort of career are you looking at?
For my first job I would like to go into mixed practice as I would like to keep all my options open, and really nail all the basic principles of the job. From then on, I am going to see what arises as there are so many opportunities that come with a veterinary degree. I always feel however that there will always be a cow not too far away. I don’t think it matters at what age you decide to become a vet, so don’t be put off if you have limited experience or it seems like an alien concept – there is always plenty of time.
4. What does the course entail? What do you enjoy learning about most?
The course is five years long and quite intense. At Liverpool, in the first two years you learn how the normal body functions, body physiology and how to suture a sponge for example. In the third year you learn pathology - what goes wrong in the body - along with some weird and wonderful worms and mange mites thrown in. The fourth year is clinical theory and as a current fourth year, I feel this is the year that I am beginning to feel that I can tackle real life challenges. The fifth year consists of rotations, where you go into the small, equine and farm animal hospitals and spend weeks concentrating on different subjects. According to many others, this is the best year as you get to use all your knowledge to formulate treatment plans and get proper hands on experience, as well as cuddling lots of adorable animals. Throughout your degree, you have to complete Extra Mural Studies (EMS), which consists of a placement with various businesses, from walking dogs to milking cows. I find EMS one of the most enjoyable aspects of the course, as you get to go outside and use some of the skills you have learnt so far. I find this highly rewarding and usually great fun as you meet so many characters – both human and animal.
5. What do you struggle with the most? How do you manage your time?
Sometimes the workload can get overwhelming however over the years, I have learnt to manage my time more effectively. By trying to assign time to work, exercise and free time, it enables me to plan out my weeks. It can be difficult to give yourself time off but having ‘me’ time is very important. Exercising is key, as a good gym session or competitive team match allows you to live in the moment for an hour and then everything seems more approachable afterwards. Spending quality time with family and friends is useful for those moments when you need an ear. My advice would be to find a way to work which suits you, do as much as you want to and go and let off steam regularly.
6. What would you say to others thinking of choosing this sort of course?
My top five pieces of advice for someone contemplating a veterinary career:
1. Be prepared to work hard for what you want and don’t give up, even if it doesn’t work out the first time around.
2. Get lots of experience – if you are unsure this is the path for you, go out and get some work experience to be able to make a guided decision.
3. Go to the university open days and really understand what the course entails and what each different place has to offer. There is a place for everyone so go and find somewhere that suits you.
4. A veterinary degree has endless career opportunities and the skills you gain are phenomenal and applicable to a wide array of areas.
5. In simple terms – go for it. Even if a five-year course seems daunting at the beginning, it flies by and you will have a fantastic time along the way.