Choose Wisely

My father always said, “Pick a career that you really love, so your job doesn’t seem like work at all, but actually becomes a daily joy.”

The Reality

When, if at all they think about veterinary medicine, most people envision cute puppies and kittens Many of the cases we see are animals in need of help. Being a veterinarian we’re often detectives, as the animals can’t tell us where or what hurts, and sometimes the owners are unable to provide any information to assist with diagnosing the problem.

Vet School

The journey to becoming a veterinarian starts even before university, as the pre-requisite courses usually include Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics up to A-level. There are several university options within the Caribbean, including The University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, Ross University in St. Kitts and St. George’s University in Grenada. Further afield, one can attend any university in the United Kingdom, the United States of America or Canada; diplomas from these countries are readily accepted in the region.

Vet school is usually four to five years depending on where you choose to study, and most courses cover a comprehensive range of topics in all species. This allows each student to decide what field they prefer or may wish to specialize in after graduation.

Career Options

After graduation, one must decide what to do with all this new found knowledge. Joining a veterinary practice may be the obvious choice, however there are many other career options. Post graduate studies and specializations can lead to posts in public health, research, administration, wildlife medicine and more.

There are currently forty veterinarians registered to practice in Barbados. This is plenty for the island’s size and animal population, but there is always room for specialists and niche practices. With Caricom opening up, vets like many other professionals may explore practicing in other areas of the region.

My Journey

I chose to specialize in equine acupuncture and massage, and canine acupuncture. Alternative medicine for me is a more holistic approach to treating an ailment. I am also certified in breeding management and insemination in dogs. Soon I will expand the breeding management to small ruminants.

My path led me to open my own clinic. This was a leap of faith, as I was fresh out of university with little experience.  At the time the local clinics weren’t looking for new vets, and I liked the idea of being my own boss anyway. I am eternally grateful to the older veterinarians on the island who have always been willing to guide me with advice when I was stumped by a case. Although I enjoy small animal practice, I also like to get out of the clinic and into the field with the farm animals, to break the monotony of the day.

Running your own clinic holds a lot of responsibility but it has allowed me to broaden my horizons and choose my own path. It is not by any means an easy path, many days I am vet, kennel staff, accountant and secretary all in one.

All things said, I thoroughly enjoy my career choice and couldn’t dream of doing anything else.

Dr Laura Hutchinson, Trinity Animal Clinic