Young Vet of the Year Award 2019 Finalist: My A-Y of being a young vet

Posted on October 25, 2019 by Amy Barstow

Amy Barstow sets out her A-Y of being a young vet, giving us some of her experiences, challenges, and successes as a recently graduated vet.


Amy Barstow CraftingAnimals. It’s a cliché but they started this whole adventure off and making time to spend with healthy animals outside of work is really important for resetting and reminding yourself why we do what we do - so make sure you get your animal fix.

Brooke, Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, is where I am working now. As a vet student I thought a job here would be amazing but out of my reach. So, don’t give up on those dreams!

Crafting has really helped me to manage my perfectionism and see that beauty can come from ‘mistakes’. Do you have a way of managing your perfectionism?

Develop yourself. Spend time working out what you would like to do and research the steps to make it a reality and then get planning. I find that stationery is a good motivator for this!

Equines. I owe my career to these wonderful creatures who inspire me and challenge me. Remembering why you are decided to do the job can be really helpful when you are having a tough day.

Friends and family. Moving away from them for my internship was much harder than I thought. Keeping in touch with your support network is so important in your first job. I really wish I had anticipated this challenge and picked up the phone more often.

Gut feelings are worth listening to.

Honesty with others, and yourself, is so important. What do you need to live a life that you enjoy?

Improvised comedy is quite a new thing in my life but taking courses in this quirky art has been the most fun and the best confidence boost. Do you have something that gives you an opportunity to get out your head, away from work and have fun?

Journey. Remember careers and life is a journey and not a destination. Flipping my thinking from about the destination and giving more thought to the here and now has markedly improved my satisfaction at work and life in general.

Kindness to others, but more importantly yourself, gets you a very long way.

Lists, I love ‘em (can you tell?). Write stuff down and you’re more likely to do them (I’m thinking exotic trips more than your food shop, although do write that down too).

Mentors. Find people who you admire or who’s job you might like and ask them to be your mentor. That’s what I did, and Sarah has been vital in supporting my career development. I also enjoy mentoring others, especially as I’ve made the move through quite a variety of jobs.

Nights spent on call were probably where I learnt the most both about medicine, communication, and myself, and I’m very grateful to Helen at Deben Valley Equine Clinic who gave me the opportunity to build my clinical confidence while I studied for my PhD. So, as you climb out of bed with just two hours sleep, think about what you learnt last night.

Opportunities are (99% of the time) to be grasped with both hands.

Perfectionism is something I can struggle with, for years I didn’t think I was a perfectionist because I wasn’t perfect (surely the most perfectionist thought ever). Acknowledging behaviours that made me feel rubbish and my life more stressful has been really important for me but it’s a hard thing to face, especially alone.

Quiet time is now something I schedule, even if it’s just a cup of tea with the cat. For me taking even a short period of time for me has a big impact on my wellbeing. Can you find just 10 minutes a day which are just for you?

Royal Veterinary College, where I studied for my vet degree, PhD, and PG Cert in Veterinary Education, and had my first teaching post. It will always be a very special place. Keeping close ties with your alma mater can be a great source of support throughout your career.

Shoes, well horse shoes specifically! This is the area that my PhD focused on and I met so many wonderful farriers in this process and had fantastic support from my supervisors Thilo Pfau and Renate Weller. If you’re on the fence about something, take the plunge. I nearly didn’t with this PhD and just going for it was one of the best decisions I made.

Teaching is where my real passion lies and I have been lucky enough to teach in the RVC Clinical Skills Centre alongside some fabulous colleagues. I also helped with establishing a new course for farriers and it was fantastic to see our first cohort graduate this year. If you think your passion might lie here too then get some teaching experience by volunteering to give a talk for the BVA Young Vet Network in your area.

Unwind. Figure out what it is that you need to unwind. For me it’s quiet time, yoga, and time spent checking in with myself.

Volunteering has been like therapy for me. It brings me so much joy and, for a myriad of personal reasons this year, it has been quite tough. However, throwing myself into the BVA Young Vet Network as co-rep alongside Jenna Riley, as well as being a regional vet for Riding for the Disabled, has been so rewarding. There are so many ways to volunteer so see if you can find one that suits you.

Warning signs. Figure out what they might be for you. Not wanting to cook is a sign for me.

You will be different to me, and different to your friends so don’t get hung up on what others are doing. Take your own path.

(Zzzzzzz, as a bonus, get enough sleep)

BVA Young Vet of the Year Award 2019, supported by Zoetis

Amy Barstow is one of the three finalists for the BVA Young Vet of the Year Award 2019, supported by Zoetis,along with Andreia Dias and Emily Craven. The award aims to highlight recent graduate vets who make a difference. The winner of the 2019 award will be announced at the BVA Gala Dinner at London Vet Show on the evening of 14 November 2019, tickets can be purchased by booking online or emailing jessicaw@bva.co.uk.

Keep an eye on the BVA website for more details about the BVA Young Vet of the Year Award 2020, supported by Zoetis.

Amy Barstow

Written by Amy Barstow

Amy graduated from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in 2013 and since then has had a varied equine based career. This has included volunteering overseas and in the UK, working in equine practice, studying for a PhD, and working in academia.