During my seven and a half long years of higher education, I never thought, not in a million years, that I would start my veterinary career during a global pandemic!
I graduated on 28th February 2020 from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Budapest and was thrilled to finally call myself Dr Grace Hodgkinson DVM, MRCVS. Ten days later, I started my government role as “Deputy States Veterinary Officer”, working for the States of Guernsey. How lucky I was to have a job lined up straight out of university, especially during a global pandemic.
As a little girl, I thought veterinary medicine consisted only of cuddling puppies and kittens. As a teenager, my views on the profession had dramatically changed to “saving lives, vaccinations, putting your hand up cow’s bottoms and cuddling puppies and kittens”. As a young adult, who had completed many hours of work experience in the field, I realised that veterinary medicine was so much more. It was not until my final year of vet school, however, that I truly understood the extent of what this incredible profession encompasses.
The role of “Deputy States Veterinary Officer” was first introduced to me during the summer months of 2019. I’d never thought about government vet roles prior to this, I’d always just accepted that veterinary medicine meant clinical practice – how wrong I was. The job description excited me, it was so different to what I had in mind and covered such a broad range of duties – animal health and welfare, artificial insemination centre, abattoir, licencing, the list was endless.
After some time contemplating whether it was even worth me applying for the role, I decided to put myself out there because, after all, it was good experience writing my CV and going through the application process. A short time passed and I received a request to attend an interview – wow what a surprise! The interview was a little touch and go, but, to my amazement, they offered me the job! I was absolutely thrilled; shortly followed by the realisation that I still had 6 months of placement ahead of me and final exams to pass.
Once again, the world seemed to be on my side. I’d completed my degree in Budapest, headed to London to become a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and returned home, to Guernsey, a week prior to my start date. All this occurred whilst there was an echoing around the world that we may have a global pandemic in our midst. Two weeks into the job, we entered lockdown and I was told I had to work from home for the foreseeable future equipped with nothing but a Smart Phone – not what I had in mind when I was a seven year old doing a presentation to the class about “My Dream Job”.
Nine months later and back in the office with access to more than just a smart phone, the next hurdle to overcome was Brexit. Preparations for 1st January, the end of the transition period, took up a very large proportion of my workload. We had regular virtual meetings with Defra colleagues regarding third country listing and local preparations were underway for our border controls. It has been incredibly interesting and a very steep learning curve which I think I’ve just about got my head around. Now, over a year since we were introduced to COVID-19, Guernsey has entered its second lockdown and I’m back at home with a laptop this time! I’m still enjoying every minute of my job, despite the pressures of COVID-19 and Brexit. I’m learning something new every day and will continue to do so for the rest of my career. The most important thing I’ve learnt, however, is to always carry a clipboard if you want people to think you are doing official duties!
In summary, I could not recommend a career as a government vet enough. It gives you a fantastic work life balance and you will definitely never be bored due to the sheer quantity and variety of things that are thrown at you. I can confirm, however, that vet school absolutely does not prepare you for a global human pandemic. As a result of this, I am now described by my boss as the “COVID Queen” as my job role also seems to include all aspects of pets, livestock and COVID-19, which was not on the job description. Brexit highlights the importance of government vets going forward and I’m excited for what is in store, pandemic or no pandemic.