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Mandisa Greene: How did I get here?

Mandisa Greene - RCVS Senior Vice-President

I only ever wanted to be a vet, as long as I could remember becoming a vet formed such a strong part of my identity, so strong that I bored my teenage friends in my all-girl grammar school (in Trinidad) who desperately wanted to pursue the reckless abandon of that very tender stage of life.  

I applied for vet school and was not offered a place at all. However, I have a very determined personality so taking no for an answer was never a possibility and this began my understanding that my dream would be delayed but not denied. 

I did a degree in Biological and Medicinal Chemistry at Exeter University and worked hard during my term times and holidays to ensure I built up an impressive portfolio of work experience. It was no surprise to me to be offered interviews at all my vet school choices at my second application. I was headed for Edinburgh University. When I walked through the doors of Summerhall for my first day of Freshers Week the students organising the events had tshirts which read 'Welcome to Vet School - the hardest part is getting in’.  How wrong they were! Apart from the fact that Scotland was a long way from my home and that I felt isolated, I found the preclinical course difficult.   In my first year, I had a great study/dissection group but as time passed and the groups changed that became less of an option. After repeated exposure to failure/resits/ rinse and repeat, I passed my final year exams and passed my degree.  

Senior Vice-President Mandisa Greene in practice The day I became a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons was one of the happiest days of my life, and when I went to see Mr and Mrs Brown, who had been one of my primary clinical EMS placement providers in Edinburgh since my third year, they offered me a job, starting the next day, the day after I graduated. I was ready and thoroughly enjoyed working part-time. Many friends and family suggested I got a full-time role, but I was learning at a pace that was appropriate for me and I was being well-supported, I was happy. After a few months in this role, I started to feel the need to stretch myself further, and started looking for a full-time role. I found a role in a practice on the Staffordshire/Cheshire border, I would be doing my own out-of-hours and have experience of being in sole charge.  In this new role not only did I have a supportive line manager and a vibrant group of colleagues who were all recent graduates, but I was able to live with my mum which meant I had a strong support network. We rescued Ben and Jerrys, two kittens who were brought into my practice in my first few weeks and everything seemed to be going to plan.    

Life happens whilst you're making other plans, at least that's been my experience. I was in the swing of this new life I created for myself, my soon-to-be-husband Hector had even moved from Edinburgh and was now located nearby, all was well. My first pregnancy, although unplanned, was very much wanted. My husband and I reduced our working hours to cope with our increased responsibilities, but it was after the birth of my second son that I realised I could not go on working all day and doing my own out-of-hours cover.  At that time, I recall being sleep deprived from nursing an infant and trying to be available and present with compassion and empathy for someone's pet at 3am. Frequently getting about 3 hours sleep before waking up to start a 10 hour working day was not always easy.

RCVS Senior Vice-President Mandisa Greene in clinical practice My instinct for survival kicked in, something had to give, I loved both my work and my family so considered what I could do that would allow me to enjoy both. I wanted to keep learning and growing but what I needed most was flexibility.  I wanted to be with my children as they hit those most precious early milestones and I wanted to gain more experience and grow in my career.  I took a position working at an emergency clinic in North Birmingham which allowed me to work nights and weekends and fit perfectly with my family. I enjoyed learning and researching and getting more confident at my work. The value of my veterinary nursing colleagues was highlighted to me in this role. As the sole vet in charge, I usually worked with one RVN for the entire shift. These RVNs were not only amazing at dealing with distressed/ worried clients but extremely experienced and skilled at emergency and critical care. I learned so much from them.

A chance meeting with a senior colleague led me to think that I could make a valuable contribution to RCVS Council. I ran for the election in 2014 and got elected, making friends with fellow candidates along the way. RCVS Council was amazing, I was put into committees and got involved in discussions around matters that would affect my professional career. I loved it.  At this time, through conversations with fellow RCVS Council colleagues, I found out some of them volunteered for Vetlife. In my opinion this was something good and added much needed support to our professions and veterinary team members, I wanted to help in any way I could, so became a volunteer.  

Life again happened. My sister and her husband lost their two-week-old baby Leandro to meningitis, it was quick, he fell ill on Friday night and was gone by Saturday afternoon. I was working the Friday and Saturday night shift. Three weeks later my mum found a lump that would turn out to be breast cancer, again I was working. My family was dealing with tragedy in a way that we never had before, and I craved the freedom from rotas which meant I could be at my sister's side for three weeks and I could sit with my mum as long as she needed after her chemo and radiation sessions without thinking about work or letting my colleagues down. I served my notice and made a decision to locum.  

The opportunity to work at Harper Adams came up through conversation when I was locuming.  An RVN colleague who I worked with a number of times told me I was her favourite locum to work with because I was good at explaining why we were doing what we were doing at the start of every shift and she asked if I had ever thought of lecturing.  I couldn't say that I had, but I am always willing to take every opportunity presented.  I really enjoyed this fixed term role and when that ended, I went full circle back to GP practice, where I still enjoy locuming now.

How I got here was by understanding that failure was part of life and success meant getting up after every fall. I got here by acknowledging I didn't know it all and by listening to others’ stories and learning from their example. I got here by prioritising the things I enjoy and by not being afraid or rather by feeling afraid and doing it anyway.  

Published on 27 October 2021

Tags: Careers