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I graduated in 2013 knowing that I wanted to become a specialist surgeon. I knew the steps required to achieve specialisation, so after 18-months in 100% small animal practice, I undertook a private practice rotating internship followed by a university rotating internship. I then returned to the same private referral hospital where I first worked as a rotating intern, and I successfully completed a three-year ECVS-approved surgical residency before passing my ECVS board exams in 2021. This was a long and often challenging process, but one I was prepared for. When I finally achieved my goal of becoming a board-certified specialist, despite loving the clinical work I was doing, I felt an emptiness in my career. After close to a decade of working towards a very specific goal, it felt alien not having anything to work towards and nurture. This ultimately led to me taking my experience with surgery, combining it with my love of teaching, and creating my new CPD business, Chiron Vet CPD.
For as long as I remember I wanted to be a vet, but I always had a fairly untapped love of teaching. Once I achieved my long-standing goal of becoming a Specialist in Small Animal Surgery I was able to satisfy my love of teaching to a smaller degree by training residents and working with other CPD providers. Ultimately to scratch that itch I wanted to start my own, unique, personal CPD service, which eventually led to the creation of Chiron Vet CPD.
In order to become a Specialist in Small Animal Surgery I had to complete two internships and a residency in order to become board-eligible. I then had to pass the ECVS board examinations to become an EBVS European Specialist in Small Animal Surgery. During that training and in the two years since passing my diploma, I’ve worked with numerous CPD providers to deliver webinars, lectures and practical training. This provided me with the experience needed to start my own CPD provider.
“We work in a wonderful industry, but it is slow to adapt to challenges. If you have an idea that you believe can bring positive change your career, or the careers of many, don’t be afraid to take a risk to bring that idea to life.”
Surgical residencies are notoriously difficult to get onto in the first place – typically applications number somewhere in the region of 30-50 applicants per place. It can take hard work, persistence, and a fair amount of luck to finally get onto a surgical residency. Internships and residencies involve working long hours, committing a lot of spare time to studying and research, and development as a clinician to build the skills and knowledge to pass the board examinations. Compared to that process, launching my own CPD business has been really simple, it’s just taken commitment, determination, and some excellent advice from colleagues and financial experts (accountants and financial advisors).
I take immense pleasure from performing the advanced surgical procedures I always dreamed of performing when I was younger and seeing wonderful outcomes. Working as a Specialist in referral practice is hard work though. The type of work and the typical workday might look a little different to general practice, but the clinical, emotional, and business pressures are extremely high – it certainly isn’t easy work. In comparison, teaching and training, particularly in the intimate environment of Chiron Vet CPD, is low pressure and friendly. I love meeting new people and knowing that the training I provide can genuinely help develop the services they and their hospitals can offer, and ultimately improve the care their patients receive. The only downside to this is the time it takes to write the bespoke surgical workshops, but I don’t mind that at all.
My clinical workday usually involved morning rounds at 8.30am, followed by time to complete admin, contact in-patient owners, and liaise with colleagues about case flow for the coming day. Where I work we alternate between consult/work-up days (with consults in the morning followed by workups in the afternoon), and full surgical days. Then there are emergency consults/workups/surgeries mixed in amongst that. We also work roughly 1-in-6 weeks on call.
My work with Chiron is done purely in my spare time outside of my clinical work. Because of the bespoke nature of the business, my work pattern can be highly variable with Chiron. The process for each workshop involves an initial phone/video consult with a potential client to help establish what they are hoping to achieve by working with Chiron. I then create a written proposal to send to them. Once we are collectively happy with the proposal, I work to create a surgical workshop from scratch to achieve the goals laid out in the proposal. Then the workshop will be brought to the client’s hospital to deliver within three months. It’s a friendly, informal process, and so it doesn’t even feel like work sometimes.
In order to achieve specialisation you need to be prepared for multiple years of hard work, pressure, and self-directed study and learning. While it looks like things might be slowly changing, it will also likely involve taking a pay cut and a loss of flexibility, so those looking to head down this route need to be prepared for this.
To become a CPD provider you should not only be passionate about teaching, but passionate about what you teach. You of course need to be knowledgable about what you teach as well. Then the teaching itself should come naturally. Even if it doesn’t, there are plenty of books to read, webinars to view, or formal and informal courses to attend that can help you develop these skills.
To start your own business you need to have an idea you believe in, and a passion for that idea that can drive your commitment to putting that idea into practice. I have very limited business and financial experience and so have sought a lot of advice from helpful professionals wherever possible, and likely wouldn’t have been able to become a business owner without their help.
If you want to start your own business venture, take a long time to think about what you love and what you’re good at, and how you can combine those things to create something that ignites a fire in your belly. Something that you find exciting. If you find it exciting your passion will spread naturally to those around you. Also, remember these decisions and processes aren’t always easy and don’t always come quickly. But if you’re passionate and believe in your ideas, then this shouldn’t deter you!
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