My experience of starting in practice

Posted on October 22, 2019 by Jamie Lam

Being LGBT+ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/and others) is a very different experience for each individual. During university, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by very supportive and open-minded peers, though admittedly, I did not feel comfortable being openly gay on some EMS placements. Feeling as though some people might object to something so intrinsic about yourself that you can't change can be frightening.

Starting the new job

Starting in practice as a new graduate is an incredibly steep learning curve. For me, the hardest part was making decision after decision with people suddenly looking at you as the one who should have all the answers. I feel the word ‘exhaustion’ encapsulates the general feeling of the first few weeks quite well.

Challenges at work

Just a few months into the job, work became increasingly difficult with several vets leaving, including my clinical director/mentor. I was forced to rise to the challenge and at times, it was all I could do but keep my head above water. With hindsight, I see now that pressure allowed me to stretch my boundaries and I gained confidence in my own skills in a situation that could easily have gone either way.

As the lack of permanent staff continued to be a problem, I reached out to the non-profit organisation VetLife. Their team gave me the outlet I needed to really explore my emotions and experiences as a new graduate. They helped me realise that walking away from a situation that isn't right for you isn't a personal failure. Everyone's journey is unique and finding the place that is right for us is a challenge that we must all face.

Without a line manager, I instead sought the help of the clinical director of a sister practice. Together, we explored different options such as transferring, changing how my day was organised and spending time at different practices to ensure I got the support I needed to advance and keep learning. I made it through the rough waters and I now have a new clinical director who has been fantastic, supporting me with mentorship and internal and external training. The CVS new graduate programme has some fantastic CPD opportunities that have given me confidence in a range of diagnostic and therapeutic skills. Being given days to network with other new graduates from all over the country was an invaluable experience in itself.

Life outside work

Balancing the job with my partner has been challenging and we try to make sure we spend quality time together. Despite living together, it is still an element of our relationship that requires conscious effort. Leaving university meant that I lost touch with several of my hobbies and previous extra-curricular activities. I believe it is not only healthy, but essential for vets to have a range of priorities and fulfilments outside of veterinary work; a culture that as dedicated medical professionals, we can often forget to cultivate.

As part of that cultivation, I joined an inclusive gay rugby team. I was awarded player’s playerof my team at ‘Touch my Brum’ the largest inclusive gay rugby competition in the UK. They even managed to get me involved in a naked calendar shoot, promoting body positivity, which was a great deal of fun.

Being LGBT+ in veterinary

Being LGBT+ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/and others) is a very different experience for each individual. During university, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by very supportive and open-minded peers, though admittedly, I did not feel comfortable being openly gay on some EMS placements. Feeling as though some people might object to something so intrinsic about yourself that you can't change can be frightening. It is up to us to actively demonstrate our support for all minority groups through our use of language and by educating ourselves.

Taking the role of the University of Nottingham's BVLGBT+ (British Veterinary LGBT+) student representative in my final year, I got to meet so many wonderful people. The society gives us a voice, promotes equality and provides support. I would highly recommend anyone interested to find us on Facebook and just join in: what is there to lose?

Now and the future

Life is good right now. Largely thanks to my fantastic support network made up of my partner, friends, family, colleagues and wonderful organisations like VetLife and the BVLGBT+ society. I can scarcely believe that I've been graduated for a whole year already, but I can tentatively say it seems that for now, we have found our home.

2019 has been a year of challenges and learning; I cannot wait to see what 2020 holds for us all.

Jamie Lam

Written by Jamie Lam

Small animal vet

Graduating from Nottingham in 2018, Jamie moved to Reading as a small animal veterinary surgeon for a fresh start with his partner, Paul. He has an active role in clinical governance in his local practice and has recently joined the Reading StreetVet initiative.