My story of how I ended up as a vet in Mt Gambier
I have always loved animals, especially horses, and ever since I can remember I always wanted to be a vet – except for a brief period when I wanted to be James Bond (according to a story I wrote in grade 5)!
I grew up in Mt Gambier South Australia, a large country town in a way due to agriculture industries.
We had the typical pet cats, dogs, budgies and goldfish.
I was also lucky to have contact with racehorses, and I ended up with a couple of ponies and horses myself.
As I grew older, I really enjoyed the science subjects at school. Learning about how the world worked, and how to investigate and find the answers to why things were the way they were, how they work and how we can make changes to systems.
After high school, I started a Bachelor degree in Science at Adelaide University, and after one year was lucky enough to be able to transfer to Veterinary Science at Sydney University.
So at the age of 19 I found myself moving away from family in SA to live in the big smoke. A bit of a culture shock for a country girl moving to Newtown!
After graduating from Veterinary School in 2001, I moved back to Adelaide and worked in a variety of small animal clinics in both the northern and southern suburbs.
In 2009 I made the decision to move back to Mt Gambier, and worked in my first mixed animal practice.
Trying to remember my cattle medicine from 2001 was a challenge!
I remember my first cow caesarean (8 years after I graduated!). The cow was down outside the dairy. My boss and the farmer were so intent on watching my attempts at getting the calf out, that they both forgot to tie the cow’s halter to anything.
After the calf was removed, the cow decided it was time for her to make her escape, so she jumped up and ran down the road with the farmer chasing after her.
Once she was caught and tied to the bullbar of the work ute, I was able to finish stitching her back together.
This is one reason I do like the more controlled environment of the small animal theatre where my patients are fully anaesthetised!
As my years in practice continued, I became increasingly interested in the management of veterinary clinics.
I started to go to continuing education on practice management and studied small business management.
This culminated in 2014 when I opened my own small animal clinic Petstock Vet Mt Gambier.
I have to say I’m a dedicated life-long learner, always looking for opportunities to master new skills and knowledge. Having my own practice just adds to the challenge of being a practising vet.
What my typical day looks like
I am an early riser – up at 5am most days.
I either ride one of my horses, or do a fitness workout before getting ready for the school drop off and my work day.
I typically arrive at work at 8:45 am where I check any hospital cases plus check the surgery patients for the day.
Morning consults start at 9:15 and generally go to 11.
Consults can involve anything from a sick rabbit, a litter of puppies to vaccinate and microchip, a dog with an ear infection or skin problem to health checks for local rescue group Wet Noses Animal Rescue.
There are always plenty of diagnostic investigations like blood tests and radiographs that we do to help us work out what might be wrong with an animal.
Most days we also perform a few shorter procedures where we might need to sedate for grooming or a nail clip or perform an ear flush on a dog whose ears are too painful to clean while awake.
I then leave the clinic for lunch and school pick-up duties, returning to the clinic at 4pm where I consult until 7.
My proudest moments in practice
I feel really proud of what we do as a clinic team, every time an animal comes in with a problem and goes home with the problem solved, whether that be a serious illness, an ear infection, a lump or even a lameness.
It feels nice to be able to help a client, but it feels even better being able to resolve a painful or irritating issue for the patient.
One example is golden retriever Winston who came in because he wasn’t eating. We radiographed his abdomen and this revealed an intestinal blockage with a corn cob.
There was no way that corn cob was budging by itself, so we needed to go to surgery. The corncob was successfully removed with surgery, and Winston recovered happily.
Another patient that we helped was the elderly poodle Miffy who had a rapidly growing lump on her toe. Although we identified by histology that it was a benign tumour, it still required complete removal as it was growing so big. This meant owner Belinda got peace of mind knowing that Miffy was no longer in any pain.
Our work with the rescue shelter means we help out with many spay and neuters such as rescue cat Neema who we desexed, microchipped and vaccinated, in readiness for finding her “furever” home.
The most challenging part of my career
Opening my own clinic has been a challenging yet rewarding time in my career.
From setting practice policies and standards to juggling financial matters, training team members, designing the layout of the clinic and returning to long hours after being part-time for several years.
I have found that navigating the demands of clinical practice, business management and family life to determine the best balance is a constant challenge.
The biggest challenge personally has been bringing the right team together to work in the clinic.
It’s a huge privilege to mentor the development of my young nurses, with many of them getting a start to their careers in the industry with me.
As a clinic team, we have always taken in work placement students, and it is nice to see them completing their studies and obtaining jobs in the industry. It’s extremely satisfying, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I’m not working…
When I’m not working I enjoy spending time at home with my animals.
My daughter and I attend the local Pony club and enjoy going out on rides together.
I also enjoy going on walks around the local lakes, river and bush.
Every year I try to get away for a travel adventure at least twice a year, most recently we went to lovely New Zealand. I would love to complete The Long Pathway which runs the length of both North and South Islands of New Zealand. I’d better book some time off with the boss!
The last picture I took on my phone
The last photo on my phone surprisingly wasn’t an interesting case at work! Here is my daughter Emily riding my horse Cookie at her first Mt Gambier Ag show last weekend.
Thanks Dr Teresa for sharing your experiences as a vet in Mount Gambier. If anyone has any questions, or if you have a veterinarian that you would like to learn more about, pop their name in the comments and we will get in touch!