"We have a close-knit and friendly group where everyone knows each other well...striking the right work/life balance ensures that everyone feels stimulated and satisfied with their work"

- Jake Chitty, resident at East Neuk and Vets Now 

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to working with IVC Evidensia?

I graduated in 2017 from Edinburgh and initially worked in general practice in central Scotland. While at university I was drawn to the idea of specialising, particularly in surgery. After some time in general practice, I decided to challenge myself further. I took on a rotating internship at Glasgow University for a year.

Following that, an opportunity arose at East Neuk for a surgical intern position. So, I spent 12 months there before moving on to the residency program, which I'm about halfway through now. It's a three-year specialist training program.

Can you tell us more about your residency?

A significant part of my residency involves orthopaedic surgery, which has always fascinated me. I spend some of my time at Vets Now in Manchester, where I focus on soft tissue procedures. So I split my time 50/50 between East Neuk and Manchester, handling both soft tissue and orthopaedic surgeries. It's a rewarding experience, and I'm enjoying the variety in my work.

As a student, I found surgical procedures very interesting. Particularly with orthopaedic surgery, the meticulous planning involved, such as assessing X-rays and determining the right plates and screws, fascinated me.
Moving into referral specialist care allows you to handle more complex cases. For instance, in Manchester, we deal with polytrauma cases involving thoracic and advanced abdominal surgery, which requires collaboration with specialist medics and emergency vets. The multidisciplinary approach in referral care is rewarding, working alongside colleagues with different specialities to provide comprehensive care. The complexity and interest in orthopaedic surgery is what drew me in.

When you were deciding on a residency, what attracted you to IVC Evidensia and this collaboration between Vets Now and East Neuk?

Well, when entering the realm of specialist work, opportunities often guide your choices. I saw there was a surgical intern position at East Neuk, which was a new role which came about after the clinic joined the IVC Evidensia network. My partner is also a vet who’s had really positive experiences working for Evidensia, which added to my confidence in the company. I was familiar with the organisation’s ethics and goals and the strong network between clinics, especially within the referral and specialist divisions, appealed to me.

Doing my residency with IVC Evidensia is great, we have regular meetings, enabling us to discuss research and engage with colleagues. Attending conferences and CPD events allows me to meet people and connect with other professionals. It’s been really valuable in my professional journey.

Can you share how your development has been supported, transitioning from an intern to a resident? What kind of mentorship and support did you receive during this process?

I've been fortunate to have very supportive colleagues at East Neuk. During my internship, I mainly assisted in surgeries. As I progressed into the residency, there was a gradual increase in responsibility and exposure. The residency is structured to allow for this progression, ensuring that I gain hands-on experience under the guidance of senior colleagues. They assess my capabilities, gradually letting me take on more complex tasks.

The key is not to throw me in at the deep end but to steadily build up my skills. Regular reviews after surgeries help ensure that I'm on the right track, and we discuss plans for improvement.

Effective communication is crucial, and my senior surgeons provide valuable feedback. If there's something I'm unsure about, they offer support based on their experience. Overall, it's a collaborative and communicative approach to learning.

Specifically at East Neuk, what's the working environment like, and what do you enjoy about it, given that it's a smaller team?

We have a close-knit and friendly group where everyone knows each other well, be it nurses, surgeons, or animal care assistants. This familiarity creates a comfortable working environment, unlike larger referral centres where faces might be unfamiliar. We maintain a good work-life balance with an interesting caseload that includes orthopaedic work such as fractures and routine surgeries. Striking the right balance ensures that everyone feels stimulated and satisfied with their work without being overworked.

We're quite unique as a referral service with a first-opinion side, and we collaborate extensively with the first-opinion team, particularly on surgical matters.

The area itself, situated on the East Neuk coastline, is picturesque and people often come to visit to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. The setting, combined with a friendly team and a balanced workload, is great.

Do you feel you have a good work/life balance?

I really do. While there's academic work to be done outside of regular hours, I'm not staying at the clinic until late in the evening, which might be the case for some of my peers doing residencies elsewhere.

Another advantage of how IVC Evidensia operates is that I can access cloud-based tools and do additional tasks while working remotely. It allows me to handle administrative work from the comfort of my home, which gives me a better balance. Having that flexibility to work from home for some aspects of my role, is beneficial.
I'm on call only every third weekend for the orthopaedic service, and that schedule works well for maintaining balance.

Overall, the workload, scheduling, and staffing at East Neuk are structured to ensure everyone can maintain a healthy work-life balance. It's about getting the balance right for everyone.

For someone aspiring to become an orthopaedic surgeon with similar interests, what advice would you offer based on your experiences?

I would recommend starting with a rotating internship to gain exposure to different areas. During my own internship, I found it helpful to engage in research, spending time with neurosurgeons at Glasgow University and publishing a case report. This not only added value to my CV but also showcased my genuine interest in surgery.

Additionally, starting a certificate can demonstrate ongoing dedication. Building relationships in clinics and meeting veterinarians is crucial. A familiar face during an interview can make a significant difference too. Breaking into referral work can be challenging, requiring dedication and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. For me, focusing on surgery, conducting research, attending orthopaedic and soft tissue courses helped create a well-rounded CV, showcasing enthusiasm and a genuine desire to pursue this specialised path.

What hopes and goals do you have for your future career?

Once I complete the residency, I hope to stay at East Neuk with IVC Evidensia. The next step would be to sit the specialist exam! Passing that exam and becoming a specialist is the goal for me ultimately.

Post-residency, I'm keen to gain more experience with joint arthroplasty, specifically total hip replacements. Attending advanced orthopaedic courses and expanding my expertise in a wide range of procedures is also on the agenda.

I've also started presenting research and lecturing, which I’m really enjoying. Passing knowledge on to other vets, and contributing to their education is always rewarding.

Reflecting on your journey so far, what would you say is your proudest achievement?

Completing my degree was definitely a proud moment. It’s a long five years, and there are a lot of exams, but reaching the end was fulfilling.

Another proud achievement was securing a spot in the residency, given how competitive it can be. Joining East Neuk and working there has been a source of pride as well.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Any hobbies or interests?

Outside of work, I'm into sports, particularly football and rugby. While I watch more than play these days, I do some running for physical activity. Additionally, I have an interest in exotic animals. We keep parrots and dart frogs, which keep me busy over the weekends. It's a mix of animal care, socialising, and some outdoor activities like cycling and running.

How many frogs and parrots do you have?

We have three parrots and around 15 frogs at the moment. Each species has an enclosure, and they even breed, giving us tadpoles and baby froglets during spring and summer. My partner works with exotics so it’s something we both enjoy.

Opportunities at East Neuk

Help Shape the Future of Orthopaedic Surgery

East Neuk Veterinary Clinic offers the highest standards in surgical care for dogs and cats, referred to us by other veterinary surgeons throughout Scotland for specialist treatment for their orthopaedic problems. This in turn provides us with a diverse orthopaedic caseload, with an enviable mix of routine and facture cases. We focus on offering affordable, high-quality, evidence-based care for each and every one of our patients.

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Your Next Adventure Awaits at East Neuk Veterinary Clinic!
Discover the perfect blend of professional excellence and a fulfilling lifestyle at East Neuk Veterinary Clinic. We're thrilled to invite a dedicated Veterinary Surgeon to join our team in a role that perfectly balances consulting and surgery.
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Get in touch

If you are interested in finding out more about our exciting job opportunities, our talent team will be happy to talk in confidence about the different options available to you.

Contact: Ciaran Connolly
Talent Partner - Referral Vets
+44 (0) 7816 202 808