How Do You Manage The Tough Days In Practice?


There are some days in practice that are amazing – you see patients making progress, the team works well together, the clients love you and you even get time to have lunch and a bathroom break before you leave on time. You head home to enjoy your time with family, friends, pets and/or hobbies. Amazing!

There are other days though, that don’t feel so good and others again that can be downright emotionally demanding.

1.Maybe you are having a run of Doctor Death and you feel like it would be better for that nice owner with their nice pet to see another vet – one that deals in life rather than death.

2.Or maybe your schedule looked OK until you had those couple of emergencies which, whilst fun and satisfying, threw everything else into disarray.

3.Or maybe you had just one too many of those clients that want everything done for their pet and money is no object (red flag, red flag) or want you to provide treatments that you feel are not in the best interests of their animal or were just plain difficult to deal with.

What do you do at the end of those days? Days where you feel sucked dry and have nothing left to give.

Do you withdraw – sitting on the couch distracting yourself with Facebook or Netflix in an effort to turn your brain off? Or do you head straight to pour yourself a glass (or two) of your tipple of choice?

Avoidance and alcohol consumption are examples of coping strategies that we can use to reduce the discomfort we feel after a stressful day in the clinic. And using strategies such as these makes sense, as they can make us feel better in the short term and they take little effort and energy.

The problem is that whilst these coping strategies provide an escape and can make us feel better in the short-term, they don’t go to the source of the stress and therefore are not helpful in the long term.

The stress and emotion is still sitting there, it is just masked – dulled by the effects of the alcohol or perhaps nicely compartmentalized into a little box – but there all the same. Ignoring it does not make it go away! It builds up inside us and eventually will escape the boxes we are trying to contain it in.

But unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there. A recent study1 in veterinarians has shown that frequent use of avoidance and alcohol as coping strategies to manage workplace stress can actually amplify the harmful effects of some job demands and increase levels of emotional exhaustion, burnout and suicidal thinking.  

Avoidance and alcohol don’t just not help, they actually hinder our response to workplace stress.

The good news is that we can all learn to use more helpful coping strategies. Having supportive relationships with your work colleagues and talking about work stresses, challenges and successes with people that understand what you are going through is a good place to start and we will pick up on this theme in subsequent blogs.

So as we move into another year, now may be the time to take stock of the coping strategies that you are using to recover from tough days in the clinic.

If you are frequently using alcohol to cope with the stress of the day and/or internalizing the stress  – what is one thing you could do differently in 2019 to actively manage your stress and increase your work satisfaction and longevity?

Why don’t you join Dr Cathy Warburton at Makeheadway for the Veterinary Balint Group held monthly across 6 sessions between May 6th – October 6th 2019? The Veterinary Balint Group Program is for all members of veterinary health care teams who want a better way to process and understand difficult clinical or communication experiences.  For more info, check out the brochure. Register HERE.

Written by Dr Cathy Warburton

1.Wallace (2017) Burnout, coping and suicidal ideation: An application and extension of the job demand-control-support model, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health,32:2, 99-118
DOI: 10.1080/15555240.2017.1329628

Dr Stanley Kim Turning Fearsome Fiddly Surgery Enjoyable

Does the surgical repair of an antebrachial fracture in a Chihuahua fill you with fear? Dr Stanley Kim, a Sydney graduate who’s been part of the furniture for 12 years at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, can turn that fear into fun and make that fearsome fiddly surgery enjoyable!

Like many vets, Dr Stanley Kim grew up with animals and had always admired the veterinary profession, but it was an orthopaedic research externship that he undertook as a veterinary student at the Surgical and Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, UNSW, that inspired Stan to follow a path into small animal surgical specialisation. Stan is still passionate about research in the veterinary orthopaedic domain; his research interests are in the field of minimally invasive orthopaedic surgery, fracture repair, joint replacement and orthopaedic biomechanics.

Florida has been Stan’s home since 2007, when he started a residency in small animal surgery at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, in Gainesville. After graduating from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (First Class Honours) in 2003, Stan spent a year in small animal practice in Sydney before heading overseas, initially doing locum work in the UK, and then to Canada where he completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph in 2005-2006.

Stan’s current role is Associate Professor, Small Animal Surgery at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida. As well as his research activities, Stan teaches both under- and post-graduate veterinary students at the University of Florida and has a clinical case load there.

Stan enjoys using highly detailed precisely crafted instrumentation for surgery to toy breeds, and at the University of Florida, routinely sees cases in these toy breeds with previous failed attempts at repair of antebrachial fractures. In Stan’s opinion, most of these could have been avoided with proper implants and good surgical technique. According to Stan, the challenges associated with repair of fractures in toy breeds include a higher risk of stripping screws and a smaller margin for error, and limited bone stock means you typically only have one good shot at repair. Another factor influencing success is that pound for pound, cats are stronger than dogs and therefore put more stress on the repair.

VetPrac believes that with the continued global trend towards smaller pets, the demand for newer technologies in fracture repair will only increase. There is no doubt that in Australia pets are getting smaller and the homes they live in are getting higher. While the fundamentals of orthopaedics don’t change, fractures in smaller animals have a unique set of considerations. We are also seeing newer technology in fracture management having a huge impact on the success of our surgeries and comfort of our patients. Smaller, lighter implants make a big difference to these tiny patients. Stan is the perfect specialist surgeon to teach Australian vets about orthopaedic surgery in this rapidly growing subset of our small animal patients. Stan has been recognised widely for his teaching prowess, and, in 2017, received the Zoetis Distinguished Teacher Award.

Why not take advantage of a rare opportunity to share Stan’s vast knowledge and great teaching skills at the VetPrac Fine and Fiddly Fractures Workshop in Gatton on April 12-13, 2019. Stan is sure to equip you with invaluable skills to improve the outcomes of surgery in these toy breeds. Register TODAY. For more information, check out the brochure.

Dr Stanley Kim can be contacted at

Written by Alison Caiafa

VetTips: Fine and Fiddly Fracture Repair

We asked Dr Stanley Kim to give us some useful tips on fracture repair for toy breeds and cats.  This is just a taste of the amazing skills you’ll learn at the Fine and Fiddly Fracture Repair Workshop.

Tip 1: THINK TWICE before recommending external coaptation for antebrachial fractures in toy breed dogs

Distal diaphyseal antebrachial fractures in toy breed dogs are very common, and typically the result of a low impact injury such as a jumping of the couch or falling from a low height. The radius of the toy breed dog is particularly prone to injury because of its unique cross-sectional shape.

It is very tempting to recommend external coaptation for these injuries because they are distal, the animals are small, and the costs are low. While successful healing has certainly been documented with external coaptation, there is a high risk of non-union, malunion, and skin ulceration. The fracture configuration is typically highly unstable, and the small size of the segments translates to a very high strain environment. Furthermore, there is evidence that the vascular pattern of toy breed dogs is poorer than that of larger dogs. Collectively, these factors translate to a high-risk scenario, and salvage of the limb after failed coaptation becomes very challenging.

Tip 2: BEWARE of implant failure with tibial fracture using plates in cats

Pound-for-pound, cats are much stronger than dogs. In certain fractures, cats may therefore stress implants relatively more than dogs. In a recent study, high failure rates were documented following tibial diaphyseal fracture repair using plate-screw fixation. Special consideration of plate and/or rod selection and application should be given to avoid plate bending following tibial fracture repair in cats.

Tip 3: Lacking confidence with sacroiliac repair? Opt to do no harm

Sacroiliac luxation is a common injury. It is also remarkably well tolerated in many animals. Surgery is not always the treatment of choice. Indeed, repair is challenging, especially in small animals. The corridor for safe screw placement is small, and poor positioning can result in catastrophic iatrogenic injury. While the recovery period can be prolonged, conservative management of most sacroiliac luxations typically results in a satisfactory outcome.

To develop your practical skills, join specialist surgeon Dr Stanley Kim in April 2019 for a two-day focus on small fractures and develop your skills to treat your patients better. Register TODAY for the Toy Breeds Workshop. This workshop will be helpful to veterinarians with a foundation in orthopaedics who want to extend their skill set and master techniques with support from Australia’s finest and friendliest surgeons. For more information, check out the brochure.

Meet Specialist Dr Ann Thompson

Australia is fortunate to have many highly skilled veterinary specialists working in most specialty areas. We recently caught up with Dr Ann Thompson who has successfully combined her advanced skills in veterinary internal medicine with a passion for teaching. Let’s hear about how Ann developed her teaching skills, and her current role as a specialist in small animal internal medicine and resident mentor at Veterinary Specialist Services, Brisbane.

What inspired you to become a veterinarian and then go onto specialise in internal medicine?

I have always loved animals and was fascinated by biology at school; it seemed the right path for me. I wanted to specialise in internal medicine as I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of working up medical cases. I am also a terrible surgeon and I legitimately get to avoid all surgeries as an internist.

What would you have done if you didn’t become a veterinarian?

No idea as I really only ever wanted to be a vet; maybe something in the human medical field?

You have a passion for teaching and have completed a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education. How have you changed your approach to teaching since completing this qualification?

My teaching innovation as part of my grad cert was related to clinical feedback for final year veterinary students. I read a lot about feedback and practiced giving it. Feedback is so important to improve; everyone likes hearing the positives but giving and receiving more constructive information can be challenging for the student and teacher. Through the experience of teaching undergraduates, I also realised the importance of simplifying the message; giving them lots of information does not necessarily mean they learn more.

What do you enjoy about teaching?

Helping students develop skills and see their confidence grow as they understand a concept or grasp a proficiency is wonderful; I also enjoy thinking of new ways to impart knowledge.

Tell us a little more about your role as a mentor for the VSS residency program. I suspect such a formal mentoring program is a relatively recent innovation. Are similar mentoring programs commonly available to veterinary residents at other universities or training facilities in Australia or overseas?

My own residency experience was in a structured training/master’s program in America at a University that has been running residency programs for decades. Australia had nothing at all similar at the time; in fact, there was only one medicine residency being offered in all of Australia. The number of residency programs has grown exponentially in the last decade. In the past I have been in the position of having a very high caseload of my own and then trying to help the resident with theirs; that’s very difficult. I don’t know of any other private practice that employs a specialist in my capacity as primarily a mentor. It’s an interesting experiment; I hope it’s helping my residents.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Read about your cases; having a tangible case in front of you puts the information you learned at university into perspective. Keep in contact with your classmates; chatting with them helps with the stress of being a new grad. Find a mentor who you can talk through cases with. If you don’t have one at work your old lecturers do not mind at all you calling for case advice. It’s also true that you need to continue learning your whole career; go to conferences! They are motivating, and I always learn something that can change the way I practice.

What do you like to do for fun?

Running (when I don’t injure myself) and traveling.

How do you spend your days off?

Exercising, family stuff, boring other jobs like everyone else and usually working on some veterinary related project like lectures.

If you would like to experience Ann’s superior teaching skills and learn more about Small Animal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, register TODAY our Workshop on February 21-22 at Gatton, Queensland. For more information, check out the brochure.

Dr Ann Thompson can be contacted at

Written by Alison Caiafa

Secrets to Success in Endoscopy.. Meet Dr Julien Dandrieux

Would you like to discover the secrets to success in gastrointestinal endoscopy from a Swiss vet who loves internal medicine for the detective work it involves? Let’s get to know that vet. He’s Dr Julien Dandrieux, who hails from Lausanne, Switzerland and now works at Melbourne University.

What inspired you to become a veterinarian and then go onto specialise in small animal internal medicine?

“Not very original, but I’ve always enjoyed contact with dogs and cats. For this reason, I did veterinary medicine after my biology degree. During my studies, I decided that I wanted to specialise in internal medicine as I like the detective work part of it.”

You’ve experienced veterinary practice and life in 4 vastly different countries -Switzerland, the USA, the UK and now Australia (Melbourne). What brought you to Australia? What is your favourite thing about living in Melbourne? And your least favourite? What do you miss most about Switzerland?

“My moves have been guided up to now by my work! Both my wife and I had the opportunity to join the University of Melbourne. I was able to undertake a PhD, which is something that I was thinking of doing for a few years prior to that.

Melbourne is a very enjoyable city to live in! The weather is so much better than the UK where we lived before and we love the cultural scene of Melbourne as well as the markets, and good food and wine. Lauren is from Melbourne and it is great for her to catch up with her family. Obviously, if I want to be allowed to stay in Melbourne, I must mention the 5-star coffee!

The main drawback of Australia is to be far away from my own family and I miss being able to drive one hour to find myself in another country, with a different language and culture. Being Swiss, I miss beautiful cheese at an affordable price… And skiing! If you put the two together, having a cheese fondue at the end of a day of hard skiing.”

Tell us a little about your PhD project at the University of Melbourne.

“During the PhD, I studied dogs with gastro-intestinal disease. More specifically, we have concentrated on macrophages in the intestines before and after treatment. We are also developing new methods to monitor dogs treated with immunosuppressive drugs, aiming to reduce adverse effects. This has been a collaborative project with Mississippi State University.”

What is it about small animal gastrointestinal endoscopy that you enjoy the most?

“I like any type of endoscopy! Endoscopy requires a lot of skill, especially to get adequate biopsies. It has taken me several years to feel at ease with it, but it continues to be challenging. (who has never been blocked by an uncooperative pylorus?). I have been using histology a lot during my PhD, which makes me much more aware of good technique to get adequate samples when getting biopsies of the intestinal tract.

Endoscopy is now also used for interventional medicine, which makes it even more exciting.

One of the most satisfying feelings when teaching residents is to see them develop their skills in endoscopy. At the start, reaching the stomach is a difficult task! However, by the end of the residency, they feel comfortable throughout the procedure”

What practical tips in small animal gastrointestinal endoscopy that you learned from experience would you share with general practitioners?

“Do not overinflate the stomach!! Or you will find it hard to reach the duodenum…. Endoscopy needs practice, practice, … and practice!”

What advice would you give new graduates?

“There is a shift in students with a majority now being interested in undertaking some degree of specialisation. I think that as a new graduate it is important to get excellent broad skills prior to deciding about specialising or not.
Our job can be very draining, so it’s important to discuss options on how to deal with the stress of the job and to keep a balanced life.”

What do you like to do for fun?

“We just had a baby, so life has changed quite a bit over the last few months! Luckily, we have a very active Kelpie that gives me excuses to go for runs and bike tours. A lot of outdoor activity! What am I missing most from Switzerland… skiing! Most fun sport that I do. Traveling and enjoying a glass wine with friends.”

How do you spend your days off?

“It usually involves having breakfast out in one of our favourite coffee shops and some outdoor activity.”

You can meet Julien and experience more of his detective skills at the VetPrac Small Animal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Workshop at Gatton on February 21-22, 2019. Register TODAY! You never know what you might discover!

Dr Julien Dandrieux can be contacted at:
U-Vet, 250 Princes Highway, Werribee, VIC 3030.

Written by Alison Caiafa


Happy New Year From Ilana Mendels!

Dear Colleagues,

I recently returned from a trip to Israel where I joined 600 other women from around the world to discuss over 8 days how our role in society influences the world. The women were remarkable; CFO’s, CEO’s business owners, cancer survivors, businesswomen, army retirees with 25 yrs experience, housewives and diplomats, divorcee’s, lesbian single mum’s from countries where its illegal to be so, grandmothers caring for foster kids, and granddaughters of Holocaust survivors. During the time we spent together we discussed some principals for surviving life in the modern world as women in the post-feminist era. Daughters of mothers and grandmothers who fought for suffrage and freedoms taken for granted by the generation after us. The ideas we discussed were: unity and mutual responsibility, courage, peace in the home, gratitude, generosity, dignity, learning and growth and faith and trust.

Mostly we started each conversation with an affirmation around a leading idea – to achieve unity without uniformity. That a celebration of difference and collaboration is the key to everything.

This is a time when the whole country’s mood is shifted into a rest state (unless you work for the emergency services). It’s a chance to exhale.

Have you been able to stop for a moment?
Could you make space to take stock of the bigger picture?
If your time is so valuable, is that not the greatest gift we can offer our loved ones in this busy age?
As the year draws to a close, have those who help us succeed been recognized and thanked?
How does peace manifest in your home and clinic?
What have you learned and how have you grown this year?
And what learning and growth have you seen in the ones you love or care for? And has that been acknowledged?
How has this acknowledgement influenced your dignity and the dignity of those around you?

When I was away we were asked to switch off from the world and trust it would be okay. We were asked to look at the world, see the good in it, and talk about it. We were asked to recognise that everyone has a story and we are probably meeting each other at different chapters in our lives – so be kind. And we were asked to not be the person to point out problems.

As vets we are problem finders and problem solvers. But sometimes when you identify a problem, you can’t unsee it and it clouds our perspective. Instead, it can be more helpful to point out what is good and who is good around us. It’s also a gift to a person to highlight the good in them, and its a gift to the world too.

The act of giving, which is so broadly practiced throughout society at this time of year, is a beautiful concept. I wish it would continue all year. And with it comes the act of gratitude. 
I want to take this moment to say how proud I am to be a part of our veterinary community. There have been some massive events in 2018 in welfare and health and community activities locally, nationally and internationally and veterinarians have been associated with many of them. For those who work locally, sometimes it feels like squeezing an anal sac doesn’t make a difference; please know that it does. The comfort you bring your patients, helps their owners to feel better, which enables them to have broader happier relationships. For those who work in communities and larger organisations where it feels like your little bit might not matter – know that it does. Sometimes we make great breakthrough’s in health and welfare only because of everyone working together with their own strengths towards the one goal. The goal may not be reached during our journey but we will get there collectively. I’m so impressed when I speak to people in our industry about what they do and imagining the impact it will have… It’s lovely and hopeful.

Thank you so much for letting me contribute to the world through veterinary education with you over 2018 and into 2019. I am so thankful to you for your support and participation so we can make the world a better place through our work.  Seeing your success with cases and careers after participating in our workshops fills us here at VetPrac with pride and dignity. It gives more meaning to our lives and it makes our daily work driven and purposeful. I’m looking forward immensely to what 2019 brings.

Warmest wishes, be safe and Happy New Year!


Ilana Mendels

Meet Advanced Clinical Prize Winner Dr Melanie Catanchin

As this article goes to press, the Australasian veterinary profession welcomes many enthusiastic graduates from the class of 2018. Even though their formal university education has been completed, their veterinary education and development of life skills are really just beginning. Each year VetPrac awards the VetPrac Advanced Clinical prize to a veterinary graduate from Charles Sturt University. This prize can be used as payment for any VetPrac workshop the recipient chooses to attend. Dr Melanie Catanchin was the recipient back in 2015; she has decided to use the prize at the Vetprac abdominal ultrasound workshop in March 2019.

Melanie has packed a lot into her first 3 years of veterinary practice. Despite jumping into an internship immediately after graduation, Melanie has survived the initial challenges of being a new graduate in a busy tertiary referral hospital. She loves working as a vet, but also realises the importance of achieving a healthy balance between work and life.

Let’s get to know Melanie and her insights into the best ways of negotiating the curve balls often thrown to vets in their first few years of veterinary practice.

You graduated nearly 3 years ago. Where are you working?

“I’m currently working at two busy Emergency and Critical Care centres in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, and loving it!”

How did you find the transition from veterinary student to working as a new graduate vet?

“It was a challenge, particularly going straight from vet school into an internship at a busy tertiary referral hospital.  The most challenging aspect for me personally, was navigating the murky political waters of a large veterinary hospital.  As a new graduate you are busy refining yourself as a clinician and figuring out client communication, whilst working out where exactly you fit in the workplace.   I believe the most important thing is finding a supportive work environment which works for you, suiting your work-life balance and your clinical ethos – a place that celebrates your strengths and nurtures your weaknesses.  Another crucial thing we often forget is that being a new grad is TOUGH, and it’s okay to cry when a case you’ve worked on all week doesn’t make it or it takes you a long time to do a spey because it’s been ages since your last one.  What got me through my new grad year was my incredible support network of dear friends, family, colleagues and my non-vet partner.”

As a new graduate, what are the things you wish you’d paid more attention to at uni which seem so important now?

“Physiology by far! Probably a pretty common answer, but we covered these crucial subjects in year 2 of our 5.5 year degree and I can’t emphasise enough how important they are for every, single day in practice.  If you forget the mode of action of pimobendan, or need to remember what a mast cell tumour looks like, a quick Google or textbook search can get your answer. Renal or respiratory physiology isn’t easy to get your head around even at the best of times, let alone when you have a patient in front of you that needed its treatment plan sorted yesterday!”

Was there anything you wanted more of at uni, but simply couldn’t learn because there wasn’t the time?

“Definitely would have loved more avian and small mammal medicine! Bird and small mammal ownership are on the rise and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to learn more about these gorgeous critters!?”

Do you feel that you received adequate training at university in building client relationships?

“Yes.  For the last two years of vet school at CSU, the majority of our teaching occurs in a Problem Based Learning (PBL) format.  Each semester we were assigned to groups of 6 – 8 students and were presented with a case to work through in a progressive disclosure format.  PBL fosters team-work, positive communication and building new relationships – some of my best friends from vet school I met through the PBL process!”

What advice would you give final year vet students preparing for practice?

Invest in your relationships – both vet and non-vet – these people will help get you through the tough road ahead.  Do your research on your first job, ask around, ask your teachers, ask former/current employees, or better yet, spend some time there so you get an idea of the workplace culture before you commit.  Finally, have fun and enjoy your time left as a student, soak up as much knowledge as you can and most importantly, remember that it’s just a job.”

If you could ask any 3 questions of any vets of any qualification anywhere – what would they be?

 1. Why vet?

 2. What do you do to help you switch off from ‘vetting’?

 3.  If you could have one wish, what would it be?”

As a recipient of the VetPrac Advanced Clinical Prize, which VetPrac workshop do you plan to attend, and why did you choose this workshop?

“I’m thrilled to be attending the Abdominal Ultrasound workshop in Melbourne next year.  Since starting work in Emergency and Critical Care, I have found ultrasonography to be extremely useful in working up my cases. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at it! I hope this workshop can help me provide a better service to my patients.”

What are your plans for the next 12 months for work and life?

At the moment I’m loving my life in beach-side Perth and enjoying the thrill of the emergency room where no day is ever boring or the same.  My career will eventually lead back to anaesthesia, however, my plan at the moment is to enjoy life, and to work to live, rather than live to work.  You only get one life, so make it a great one :)”

If you’re a new graduate looking to further your professional education, check out our 2019 training schedule. There are online workshops such as the New Graduate Mentoring Program, High Achievers and VetTalk, as well as practical skills workshops in Endoscopy, Fracture Repair and Advanced Stifle Surgery (TPLO).

Written by Alison Caiafa

Meet Dr Rich Burchell

As a kid, Dr Richard Burchell was often told that “curiosity killed the cat”! He was always possessed of an immense curiosity and was thus attracted to academia where he could be involved in solving problems and challenging existing dogma and playing a small role in advancing the discipline of veterinary science. Let’s get to know a little more about Dr Richard Burchell, or Rich as he likes to be called.

You’ve experienced veterinary practice and teaching at universities in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia (Townsville). What was the main reason you left South Africa for New Zealand, and more recently, Townsville in Queensland, Australia?

“We left South Africa mainly for personal reasons and moved to New Zealand for a new adventure. I had a wonderful time at Massey, and was fortunate to have been quite productive there. I moved to James Cook University because I felt that being a young school, and relatively small that there was tremendous potential to make a real impact there, and felt there are many opportunities.”

How would you compare the lifestyles in these 3 countries, and the demographics of the veterinary students at Pretoria, Massey, and James Cook University?

“There are a lot of similarities between the three countries, all are sports mad and people tend to enjoy the outdoors and tend to be quite laid back. Being African, nothing can compare to Africa’s natural beauty to me, and its majestic landscapes and a breathtaking array of fauna and flora. It also has a wonderful climate and is extremely culturally diverse which makes it an interesting place to live. New Zealand is basically like one big garden, and one almost gets sensory overload from all of the natural beauty because there are a limited number of adjectives to describe the relentless verdant splendor! The only drawback for we African children was the sun was a bit anaemic for us, since we tend to be solar powered!

As far as Australia goes, I grew up with crocodile Dundee and in the Warne, Waugh, McGrath era, and so I pictured Australia as hot, flat, full of flies and filled with people who beat you at cricket and then rub your noses in it! I guess that era of sporting dominance portrayed Aussies as domineering and a touch arrogant. However, nothing could be further from the truth; Australia is ineffably beautiful and diverse – and the people are warm, welcoming, have a self-deprecating humor and we felt instantly at home here. We are also constantly amazed by the astounding fauna and flora, and the sheer vastness of the place. In addition, we relish the return of the sun!

In terms of the institutions and students, it has continually struck me how similar veterinary students are across institutions and countries. The University of Pretoria Faculty of Veterinary Science is enormous, with enviable infrastructure and facilities, and is a relatively modern building. It is also a separate campus, and so the vet school is entirely self-contained, which has the advantage of having dedicated facilities, but the disadvantage of missing out on interdisciplinary cross-pollination that can occur when faculties are close together. Massey and James Cook University, are much smaller and are younger schools, and so they are still growing and developing, and both schools strive to produce good all-round generalist vets – or rural practitioners. I found that most UP graduates tend to want to branch into small or large animal practice or specialise, whereas most Massey and JCU grads want to work in mixed practices. Aside from that, most vet students are the same. They tend to be motivated by passion and compassion and are diligent and conscientious. I am concerned that as veterinary educators we perhaps don’t place enough emphasis on veterinary professional mental health, mindfulness and coping with burnout, and this is across all of the institutions I have taught at.”

In your own words, what is it about small animal gastrointestinal endoscopy that you find interesting and that you believe general practitioners would benefit from learning from and performing better?

“In order to continue to love what we do, we need to feel like we are growing and progressing as clinicians. Endoscopy, done properly, is fun and rewarding. This is especially true of foreign body removal, and particularly in the oesophagus, where you know that if you have removed a foreign body, you have spared the patient of an open chest procedure. In addition, I think many of us feel that we want to see veterinary practice become more non (less)-invasive, and although an exploratory laparotomy is an invaluable diagnostic tool, we would like to feel like we can offer more sophisticated, lower morbidity procedures. Furthermore, it enhances the profile of your practice and you as a practitioner if you are able to offer advanced diagnostics. Lastly, the ability of endoscopy to record the study is a massive advantage for medical record keeping, in comparison to laparotomies where there tends to be no visual record.”

What have you learned from experience that you didn’t learn from a textbook? What practical advice would you offer fellow vets?

“This is difficult to summarise in a paragraph. Textbooks are wonderful resources, but they follow organ systems approaches, whereas practitioners are confronted with syndromes that often span organ systems, for example pu/pd which can be endocrine, renal, hepatic or even neurological. Textbooks also struggle to highlight key differences between diseases with similar presentations, and so often one has a condition that you can link to several disease processes because of overlapping clinical findings. So, I have learned to try and identify consistent findings, or patterns of abnormalities that are key differences between different disease processes. In other words, what makes this disease unique?

The other thing I learned through experience is: 80% of diagnostics is hidden in the history and physical examination and,

Look at your patient, not the numbers.”

What advice would you give new graduates?

Personally: Look after yourself, and don’t neglect your relationships. When the chips are down, who is it that is there for you? It’s definitely not your job, it’s your loved ones.

Professionally: 1) your first job doesn’t define you. Too many vet grads are stressed about finding the perfect first job. Get a job and start working to find out what you like and don’t like. 2) Be prepared to move around a bit until you find a position that suits your abilities and passions. 3) Try to learn something new every day, and try to make each case (apart from routine vaccinations) a learning experience. It’s called practice because we are constantly refining our skills and knowledge. 4) Don’t become “textbook thumpers” who berate others with a shaking fist on the one hand and a textbook in the other. Knowledge is dynamic, changing and mutable. Be open-minded and humble, because in 5 years’ time a treasured drug may have been shelved or a treasured physiological concept debunked! As vets we should be a composite of knowledge, experience and pragmatism.”

What do you like to do for fun?

“I mostly enjoy spending time with my wife and kids, but we all enjoy the outdoors, especially hiking, road-tripping, bird watching and finding nice places to swim – where there aren’t any crocodiles or venomous creatures! “

How do you spend your days off?

“Having children there aren’t many of those, but I like to get out of the house and spend some time exploring the natural beauty our surroundings. On lazy days I like to read or rediscover old classic comedies like Blackadder, the thin blue line and two Ronnies.”

Interested in sharing some of Rich’s curiosity and learning about small animal gastrointestinal endoscopy? Register for the VetPrac Small Animal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Workshop at Gatton on February 21-22, 2019.

Dr Richard Burchell can be contacted at
Phone: +61402540765
Address: 1 Solander Drive, Douglas, Townsville

Written by Alison Caiafa

VetTips: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Dr Richard Burchell lends us an insight into how to effectively undertake Gastrointestinal Endoscopy in the clinic.

Tip 1: Know your equipment

Understanding exactly how your equipment works, and what its capabilities are will greatly enhance your endoscopy capabilities. Many novice endoscopists are unfamiliar with the various controls of their equipment and have a limited understanding of what it can do. This is analogous to using a smartphone for text and calls only – it negates the purpose of having the device. Learn to know what all the buttons and channels on your scope are and you will greatly improve the endoscopic experience!

Tip 2: Planning, Planning, Planning!

There is nothing more frustrating than suddenly having to rummage through cupboards or under tables for those biopsy forceps or grasping instruments that you suddenly realize you need during the procedure. It helps to have an endoscopic team, with a vet nurse who is fully conversant with the endoscopic procedures and intuitively knows what you will need. This requires meticulous pre-procedural planning, especially in the beginning when you are learning endoscopy.

Tip 3: Preparation!

Similar to the above, a stomach full of food, or a colon full of faeces makes endoscopy frustrating and unrewarding, and it simply becomes a chore. Make sure that you are greeted by a clutter-free gastrointestinal tract by ensuring that your patients are adequately prepared. It helps to admit these patients 24-48hours before the procedure to achieve adequate planning. You also need to plan for and discuss complications such as oesophageal rupture post foreign body retrieval, and it helps to discuss the possibility of stomach tube placements with the clients. When you are well prepared and plan well it conveys a sense of professionalism to your staff and impresses your clients.

If you’d like to develop your skills in gastrointestinal endoscopy, join us in Gatton, February 21 – 22nd 2019 for a two-day workshop. There are very few opportunities to learn like this. With 9-hours of practice time including a live dog prac, and superb quality equipment you will work with exceptional educators to master your skills and help your patients get better.

The workshop is filling quick! Register TODAY before it’s too late. For more information, head HERE to read the brochure.

You’re Just About To Graduate. What Now?

Well, first of all – CONGRATULATIONS! Your hard work and dedication over many years has led you to this point – the culmination of what for many of us, was a childhood dream – to be able to help animals and improve their quality of life. You will have forged deep connections with your peers and your brains will be packed with all of the knowledge that a vet degree provides. The years ahead hold much promise and excitement for you.

But what now?

Up until this point, your primary focus has been on achieving the big, hairy audacious end goal of being a vet. Whilst you set the end goal, the pathway to achieving it lay in jumping through all the hoops (think exams and assessments) that other people decided were important for you. In the process of hoop-jumping, you may well have created some habits of thinking and behaving that will not be helpful to you as you move into the profession.

From my point of view, the habitual dangers lie in two areas;

You may have got into the habit of doing what other people expect of you. This is not a recipe for satisfaction and career success. It is time to make a transition to being self-directed and negotiating a career that has meaning and fulfillment for you.

How will you do that?

With your eye on the end goal, anything that got in the way of passing the next assessment may have been discarded or downplayed – thrown to the side with the thought that this can be picked back up later. Maybe this included self-care and the development of your non-technical competencies.

How do you think your habits of self-care will support your transition to work?

Do you feel confident that you have the necessary base-line of non-technical competencies to allow you to effectively utilize your clinical skills and knowledge?

Or do you have a plan to upskill?

baim-hanif-89800-unsplashGraduation is now imminent. Later has come.

It’s time to redirect your focus. It’s time to take personal responsibility for your career choices and pathway. It’s time to take a more holistic approach to your ongoing personal and professional development.

And as you prepare to make this monumental move into the veterinary workforce, my questions for you are three-fold?

1. What sort of vet do you want to be?

What is important to you? What do you want to stand for as a vet, as a team member, with your boss, with clients, with family, friends and community? What are your values?

2. What sort of work is going to suit you best?

What do you love about work? What do you find easy and energizing? When do you lose track of time? Where can you make the best use of your strengths and interests?

3. What sort of workplace culture will suit you best?

Do you like a big team or a smaller one? What do you want the teamwork to look like? How are people’s contributions recognized and rewarded? Are team members thoughts and opinions heard and acted on? Is work considered to be a part of life rather than being life?

There are many questions to consider.

They are all big questions.

Answering them takes time and reflection.

Answering them creates self-awareness.

Self-awareness is at the centre of the veterinary employability framework created by the vetset2go project. This framework outlines the “personal and professional capabilities that enable a veterinarian to gain employment, and develop a professional pathway that achieves satisfaction and success” (

Self-awareness allows us to negotiate a career that is personally congruent – one that is consistent with our values and beliefs and the way we want to live our life. It allows us to live a life that matters. It allows us to achieve satisfaction and success.

How are you going to grow your self-awareness and achieve long-lived satisfaction and success?

VetSupport_600x600_V01Together with Dr Cathy Warburton of MakeHeadway, we’ve put together the VetSupport Mentoring Program to ensure new graduates have the right tools to navigate their way around the workplace. Smoothly transition into work by knowing you have a safe, private and supportive platform to share your successes and concerns with a group of your peers as well as Cathy. This program promotes resilience and personal growth for improved job satisfaction, health and happiness. Did you know that happier people earn more?

For more information, check out the VetSupport Brochure. If you’re interested in registering or have an employee who could benefit from the support, head here. Places are limited!

 Written by Dr Cathy Warburton @ MakeHeadway