CC 02 2020

“Our current grad cohort tell me our programme has soul.”

As Vet Talent Manager for Vets4Pets, Dr Catriona Curtis was attracted to the opportunity to make a difference and to really step change an already-in-existence vet graduate programme that puts graduates and their specific needs at its core.

“I loved my first job,” says Dr Cat Curtis, veterinary talent manager with Vets4Pets. “I worked for a mixed veterinary practice in the Lake District. It was a very different world then, but I think one thing has stayed the same…it’s the people in the practice who make the difference. I worked with a number of other recent grads — we gave each other confidence — and the nurses provided us with the most help and taught us a lot of about what to do and not to do!”

Cat joined Vets4Pets in 2017 — into a new role for the organisation — after spending seven years in practice and six years working within the pharmaceutical industry. She is a graduate of the Dick School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh and most recently, served as President of SPVS.

As Vet Talent Manager for Vets4Pets, she was attracted to the opportunity to make a difference and to really step change an already-in-existence vet graduate programme that puts graduates and their specific needs at its core. Cat has always been committed to the vet talent of the future and while leading and organising the annual SPVS Lancaster Final Year Vet Student Seminar, which she did from 2012-2017, she gained much insight into what grads want in their first roles post-graduation and how their support needs were ever evolving.

“I firmly believe we have the responsibility to give graduates the best start and to use the resources we have to invest in the next generation because regardless of where our grad colleagues’ careers take them, this approach benefits the entire profession. To me, it’s our moral duty” says Cat.

Besides offering clinical CPD tailored to graduates’ needs, such as interactive case discussion and wet-lab practicals, the Vets4Pets programme also features a bespoke personal leadership programme on subjects ranging from communications and leadership skills to wellbeing and resilience and mindfulness to better prepare and support graduates as they embark on their careers. Much of this CPD is delivered by experts external to the organisation such as Vicki Curtis, who is one of the UK’s leading experts in mindful leadership.

“I think what I’ve loved the most since I started in this role, is that our grads really look forward to the non-clinical CPD and get excited about it,” says Cat. “Our investment in non-clinical CPD is quite novel in our industry, and our grads understand the value it brings to them as professionals. The skills we’re equipping them with will not just help them now, but in three, five and 10 years’ time regardless of where they are and what they do.”

I firmly believe we have the responsibility to give graduates the best start and to use the resources we have to invest in the next generation because regardless of where our grad colleagues’ careers take them, this approach benefits the entire profession. To me, it’s our moral duty.

The programme offers graduates support and mentoring from across the group, including 24 Joint Venture Partners (JVPs) — Vets4Pets practice owners — evenly spread across regions and from a wide range of practice types — who serve as Talent Ambassadors. Appointed based on their leadership skills and desire to support the next generation of vets, these Ambassadors give new graduates a window into the ‘JVP world’ and share their own experiences as a new graduate and their experiences managing new graduates. “It’s a new way of providing mentorship and support to our grads, and it’s also evolved in some places into a reverse mentoring programme as well, which was been great to see. We’ve set this up, but our Talent Ambassadors and grads are the ones who’re making it such a success.”

“For example, support is such an easy thing to say, but what does this actually mean to the person asking for support,” says Cat. “We try to help our grads better articulate what support means to them specifically so their JVP or practice manager knows exactly what support is being asking for, and then, they can have a much more meaningful conversation about how (or if) they can provide that.”

I’m really proud of the great reputation our programme has inside and outside of our group,” says Cat. “Our programme is designed to give new graduates the best opportunity to excel in their first two years, and our aim has always been to develop a generation of vets who can look back on their early years and be proud of their successes and to have learnt as much from them as when things didn’t go quite so well.

On the flip side of this, Vets4Pets also invests in supporting its JVP colleagues and clinical mentors across the group who hire new graduates, providing them with mentoring and coaching training so they are able to provide the right kind of learning environment.  

“In 2019, we launched a Group Graduate Charter,” says Cat. “Its purpose is to clearly illustrate the vital role we all play in providing the right environment, support and resources to help our graduates and their practices thrive. Graduates are really valuable members of any team and bring much more than their veterinary skills. Supported in the right way, and when provided with the right environment, they’re an asset to anyone.” 

Although she still oversees the programme, Cat is now slightly stepping away from its day-to-day management to focus on developing the next chapter…what comes after their graduate colleagues finish their first two years in practice and how the Group can meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s vets and nurses.

“I’m really proud of the great reputation our programme has inside and outside of our group,” says Cat. “Our programme is designed to give new graduates the best opportunity to excel in their first two years, and our aim has always been to develop a generation of vets who can look back on their early years and be proud of their successes and to have learnt as much from them as when things didn’t go quite so well.”

“Our current grad cohort tell me our programme has soul,” says Cat. “I just love that, and to me, it says we’re getting it right.”

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