Leading excellence in veterinary care with the clinical director of Blaise Referrals

Andrew Kent, clinical director at Blaise Referrals, shares insights into his career journey and the rewards of being part of a brand-new referral hospital service. With a background as a medicine specialist, Andrew’s role as clinical director involves balancing clinical and leadership roles, ensuring seamless patient care across departments. Emphasising a multidisciplinary approach, he highlights the collaborative environment at Blaise. He discusses the excitement for future growth and the emotional journey of bringing Blaise to life.

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Could you give us a brief overview of your background and career journey leading up to your current role at Blaise?

I’m a medicine specialist by training. I graduated from the University of Bristol back in 2008 and along the way I've worked in various areas of practice. I started with mixed practice, a bit like James Herriot but in Somerset, which was quite enjoyable. Then, I transitioned to small animal practice before working at university during my residency. After that, I worked in referral practice for nearly a decade before joining IVC Evidensia, where I've been for just over a year. During that time we were gearing up for the opening of our new hospital Blaise Referrals which was a focus for me, but I also visited other IVC Evidensia sites during that period to connect with colleagues. And then Blaise opened its doors in November.

Tell us more about your role as clinical director at Blaise Referrals

My time is divided between clinical work, where I spend about half my time seeing referred medicine cases, and the other half focusing on the clinical director aspects. This involves a lot of people management and contributing to the clinical standards and frameworks for the hospital. Given that Blaise is a newly built hospital, there's been a significant emphasis on ensuring all teams work cohesively. It is complex, given we have an emergency service within the hospital alongside referral and specialist emergency and critical care services, but the goal is to ensure seamless patient care and a unified approach across all departments.

The teams at Blaise are part of a truly multidisciplinary approach. Could you talk a bit more about that?

Absolutely. The multidisciplinary approach at Blaise is a central theme. We aim to foster collaboration among various specialities to provide holistic care to our patients. It's about viewing patients not just as cases for individual clinicians but as part of the broader Blaise community. This approach ensures that patients receive comprehensive care tailored to their needs.

What prompted your move to Blaise and to be part of the challenge of building a new hospital from scratch?

For me, it was partly about seeking personal growth and challenges. After spending a considerable time at my previous referral hospital, I felt the need for something different. Additionally, I was drawn to Blaise because of its shared vision and values. I believe in the potential to create a hospital where collaboration and patient-centred care are paramount. The opportunity to be part of building something new and innovative was incredibly appealing.

Looking ahead, what excites you about the future of Blaise?

Blaise is still a very new hospital, and there's so much potential for growth and development. Every week brings new milestones and achievements, like recently conducting our first interventional cardiology procedure. Witnessing these advancements and seeing the dedication of our teams is incredibly rewarding. I'm excited to see Blaise evolve and fulfil its potential over the coming years, continuing to provide exceptional care to our patients.

Could you describe your experience of bringing Blaise to life, going through the lengthy process of envisioning what it will be and then turning that into reality?

It's been an emotional journey, to be honest. Opening our doors was a moment I had been anticipating for about two years. When it finally happened, it felt surreal. Over those two years, there were moments when it felt like time flew by, and others when the challenges seemed insurmountable. Building a hospital during a period of rising costs and uncertainties was incredibly tough. Some doubted we could do it within our timeframe, but we did.

The joy we felt on opening was an experience shared across the hospital, even for those who joined shortly before the opening. Everyone came together and seeing that level of dedication and teamwork was inspiring.

What would you say to someone who's interested in joining the team at Blaise?

At Blaise, we prioritise a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. We believe that combining expertise from various specialities results in better outcomes for our patients.

When it comes to our team environment, we're a relatively small yet cohesive group with shared ambitions for patient care. We encourage collaboration and consultation among colleagues, recognising that many heads are often better than one, especially when dealing with complex cases.

For anyone considering joining Blaise, I'd emphasise that you’d be joining a team of individuals who share a commitment to exceptional patient care. Our hospital is designed not just for the animals we treat but also with the well-being and experience of our staff in mind. We strive to create an environment where everyone feels supported and inspired to do their best every day, both for our patients and for each other.

Could you tell us about what it means to be part of the IVC Evidensia network?

Being part of the IVC Referrals network has been incredibly beneficial for us at Blaise. The hospital's design and plans were heavily influenced by clinicians, which is quite unique. As a result, the hospital was designed with a strong focus on functionality and efficiency, tailored to meet the needs of both patients and staff. The multidisciplinary approach to patient care is deeply ingrained in our network's culture, ensuring that patients receive comprehensive and specialised treatment.

Additionally, there's a strong sense of camaraderie and support among the different referral sites within the network. Despite being relatively new as a unified group, we've already established collaborative relationships. We've received assistance from other sites during our setup phase, and we continue to exchange resources and expertise to support each other's growth and development.

The engagement with local practices has also been a significant aspect of our interaction within the network. Building relationships with nearby practices has allowed us to understand their needs and preferences better. We aim to be a reliable resource for them, not just for referrals but also for advice and support whenever needed.

For someone considering joining Blaise or any IVC Evidensia referral site, I'd emphasise the incredible opportunities for professional growth and development within the network. The support provided through initiatives like the graduate programme and the Grad Academy is invaluable for those starting their careers.
Overall, being part of the IVC Referrals network offers a dynamic and supportive environment where clinicians can thrive and make a meaningful impact on patient care.

Reflecting on your career so far, what would you say you're most proud of?

I'd say there are two significant milestones for me. Firstly, becoming a specialist holds immense pride for me. It required relentless hard work and dedication, along with sacrifices, both personally and professionally. Achieving that goal was a testament to perseverance and support from my family. Secondly, I don't think anything in my career will surpass the experience of opening Blaise. It's been an extraordinary achievement, bringing something from concept to reality. Regardless of what lies ahead, I suspect it will remain at the top of my list of accomplishments.

And outside of work, how do you unwind and spend your time?

Outside of work, I prioritise spending time with my young family. I have two daughters, and a fantastic wife, who keep me happily occupied. Additionally, I've rediscovered my passion for singing in recent years. Joining a choir has been a wonderful outlet for me, providing a much-needed break from work-related activities and contributing significantly to my well-being.

We recently lost our dog, so now we only have an elderly cat named Herbie. However, I suspect we'll be welcoming another dog into our lives soon. There's definitely a void without one.

Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

I'd tell my younger self not to take things too personally. In our line of work, where emotions often run high, it's easy to internalise situations and dwell on them. Learning to detach and not carry the weight of every circumstance has been a valuable lesson for me, one I continue to remind myself of regularly.