I am a 12 year qualified vet and have spent the majority of my career, to date, working full-time in a first opinion small animal and equine practice. I now work part-time in small animal practice. I have two boys, aged one and three: I thought life was busy before children but, to be honest, I had no idea!
Efficient use of time takes on a whole new meaning when you’re trying to be a good vet and a good mum. I am constantly trying to improve myself as a vet but am very aware that I don’t have the same time to devote to this as I once did. Working part-time can be frustrating in this sense, and now that the profession is so female-dominated, there are lots of us in the same position. It is incredibly hard to find time to expand your skill set when you are restricted by nursery hours, working weekends and wanting time to enjoy your family. It is, however, really important to keep up-to-date, and to have a plan to try to develop more skills in areas that interest you. This helps to make you feel like a valued member of the team and not just ‘the part-timer’ who does a few bits and then goes again!
The good thing is, CPD options are many. Reflecting over the last few years I realize that I’ve changed how I address my CPD since becoming part-time. I choose courses carefully, thinking about what I want to improve on and achieve over the coming year. I plan well in advance, which helps with childcare and can also give value for money. (There are umpteen providers of day courses for CPD.)
I have done several one-day courses over the last few years: the conundrum is trying to find CPD that fits in with everything else! If, like me, your children are pre-school age then ‘days off’ involve looking after them, so the scope for daytime CPD is pretty limited. I don’t have a magic solution for this - I do try to find CPD day courses on days that work for me, jiggle things about, swap days at work, beg extra childcare from family etc.
I really like practical CPD courses and find that ‘doing’ keeps my brain engaged. Where possible I plan a way to put my new skills into practice quickly after the course before I forget them. A year or two ago I went on an equine CPD course to learn gastroscopy and on my return I rang a few clients and offered to gastroscope their horses free of charge to practise my skills whilst they were fresh. This worked well for me and being in Yorkshire the clients liked the free work!
Evening CPD meetings seem to be available almost weekly. I have recently become a member of my regional BSAVA committee and I try to go along to a regional evening CPD meeting every month or two. There are often evening meetings held by local referral practices as well as drug company sponsored CPD which I go to if the content appeals. Most vets either work later than the average person or do nights on call, so spare evenings can be few and far between. Earlier in my career I went to all sorts of evening CPD: now I have a strict one hour driving limit each way and only go if the subject really appeals.
For these reasons something I find increasingly useful are webinars. Many are free or very cheap; some are even targeted for lunchtimes (assuming you are lucky enough to get one!) and most can be watched back at a different time. Every month or two I get an hour’s CPD from a rep ‘lunch and learn’ from which I always learn something and, of course, enjoy a free lunch!
There is always the option to go to an annual congress. These allow you to get a lot of CPD hours in during a short time frame and can be a great way to access trade stands and catch up with old friends but for me, they’re not a great way to learn a lot as my brain gets a bit saturated.
The last way I try to gain new knowledge is within the practice. If there is an opportunity to have referral work within the practice, by a visiting cardiologist or ultrasonographer, watching them teaches me a lot. Many specialists will offer in-house training which can be great value for the practice as several members of the team can learn new skills at once.
Over the last few years I have tried to make a few notes about CPD I have been to the next day and share my new knowledge with colleagues. Many practices do this at clinical meetings or have more formal in-house learning, journal clubs and so on. It makes such sense for everyone to share individual knowledge and if there is a formal clinical meeting for this and minutes are taken this can be recorded as CPD.
The Vet Times, which we all have lurking around the practice is also very handy - you can use an online system to keep a record of articles you have read as CPD hours and you can use an alert system to tell you about upcoming courses that may interest you.
My aim for 2016 is to embark on a Cert AVP which will focus my learning, and require a whole new level of time management to fit it all in. Wish me luck…….