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International Member Spotlight: Dr Caroline Alms

Dr Caroline Alms BVM&S MSc MRCVS - Locum Veterinarian serving the Sea to Sky corridor, Greater Vancouver, Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island

In this month's International Spotlight, Dr Caroline Alms BVM&S MSc MRCVS tells us about her life and work as a locum veterinary surgeon in British Columbia, Canada.

Caroline Alms

Can you tell us a bit about your background and where in the world you are now based?

I graduated from The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh in 2018 and went straight to Bristol working as a GP vet for two and a half years which was incredibly exhausting and challenging – particularly during Covid. It was difficult for everybody. I was becoming really disenchanted with the profession and started looking into other options, but I didn’t know what to do – I’d spent my whole life working towards wanting to be a vet and three years out of university I was hating it. I needed a mental break.

I’d always wanted to do a ski season, so I moved out to Whistler [in Canada] in November 2021 and have been there ever since! For the first six months, I worked on a mountain and in a restaurant. It was incredible, but towards the end I started to get restless, so looked into getting back into vetting. I went through the administrative process of getting my licence transferred over to Canada and since then it’s been a different ball game. I love my job for the first time since graduating.

I'm now passionate about supporting the improvement of the veterinary profession in the UK whilst working on developing a veterinary software/app: VetTeQ (keep your eyes peeled for the launch in the coming year). My Partner is also specialising in veterinary recruitment (

What is your current role?

I’m currently locum vetting and it’s slightly different from in the UK. I’m not a limited company – I’ve just registered as a small business as we don’t have any umbrella companies. This is both a blessing and a curse as it means you have to be in charge of your own taxes (and accountants are expensive!), but you also take home all your money.

My work tends to take me around cities in the more rural areas, so it’s interesting to see different types of practice. It’s a very wealthy area, which I do think has a major impact on professional enjoyment. The clients tend to have really high expectations which can be challenging, but the main difference is that I have half an hour for every single consult – sometimes 40, sometimes 50 minutes for a more complicated case. We are therefore able to meet those high expectations and have longer to communicate with challenging clients which allows us to gain their trust.

Being able to build relationships and educate clients is a really enjoyable part of the job. People don’t want to just blindly follow our instructions, so I get a lot of clinical satisfaction from that.

What exams did you have to complete in order to be able to practice in Canada?

It’s called the NAVLE (North American Veterinary Licensing Examination), and you have to have come from an accredited university to take it. It’s a seven and a half hour multiple choice exam, which costs £1,000. If you don’t come from an accredited university, then you have to take two sets of exams in order to then take the NAVLE. You also have to take a bylaw exam to make sure you understand the common rules and regulations of vetting in British Columbia.

What’s your role and what area do you specialise in?

I mainly do general practice, but I also do some emergency. Over here there are a lot more dedicated emergency-only clinics, meaning that if you work in GP practice, generally you can always finish on time as all emergency patients are referred to the specialised emergency clinics.

That’s a huge difference here compared to in the UK in terms of GP quality of life, particularly in rural practices. When I was working in the UK, if something came in at 5:30pm then you would have to take it.

Working at the emergency clinics here is really fun. They’re a similar style to the UK, but technicians have much more responsibility which takes so much off my plate and allows me to focus on the interpretation, the client care and the thinking, while they do the doing. It works better for everyone and creates a great team atmosphere which, in turn, increases job satisfaction.

How do you like to start your work day?

On my first morning I get up and drive down from Whistler – it’s about an hour and a half and is absolutely beautiful. It flanks the mountains on your left and then it opens up into the Howe Sound which has loads of little islands. You can see the Vancouver lights in the distance and it’s completely inspiring.

Then I arrive at the clinic and start my day. On the days that I’m already in Vancouver, sometimes I’ll get out and go for a run, or will cycle to work.

What’s your favourite thing about your role?

I love forming relationships with my clients and seeing healthy pets. There’s often a lot of snobbery around general practice which I think needs to go. I think it’s brilliant!

I love seeing a healthy pet come in with an on-board client who takes the time to get to know you as a person, as you can get to know them too. You can see those light bulb moments when you talk to them about what’s going on with their pet and I find that really rewarding.

I also really enjoy the clinical side of things – it can be fun trying to work out what’s wrong with a sick animal. I’m at the stage now that if I don’t know what’s going on then it’s interesting because it means it isn’t routine. I get a lot of clinical satisfaction from finding answers.

How does regulation differ?

It’s very similar. We’ve still got the insurance side of things and the governing body in case you get sued or complaints etc. Regulation wise, a lot of it is about allowing other people to do things under your supervision. There are a lot of foreign vets here and vet techs who aren’t licensed so you have to know about what you can and can’t let them do.

If you are happy for the actions being carried out by the person you are supervising to be put to your name, then you can allow them to do it. The main difference, as mentioned before, is the legislation with the technicians – they have much more responsibility which is definitely a positive.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Definitely the skiing! I work three to four days a week which means that I get to be up the mountain quite frequently. It’s definitely worth the commute and staying away!

Last night I went snowshoeing in one of the local mountains just outside Vancouver with one of the clinics I work at which was great.

In the summer we do hiking, camping and paddleboarding. All the Canadian outdoorsy things! For me, it’s the best way of life. I love it!


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Published on 28 March 2023