A newly graduated vet, shaping his veterinary journey with the IVC Evidensia Graduate Academy

Luke McBlain is a newly graduated mixed practice vet and member of the IVC Evidensia Graduate Academy. He shares how the GA programme has supported his development, what he’s excited about achieving next, and the experience of going from vet school into his first role with a vet practice. Luke offers invaluable advice and emphasises the importance of exploring various experiences and considering the full package when choosing your career path.

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Could you share a bit about yourself and your career journey leading up to your current role with IVC Evidensia?

I'm from Ayrshire, Scotland, and I went to university to study to be a vet surgeon straight from school. While I was at uni, I was quite active in student politics and various other activities.

I undertook most of my EMS at MBM Vets in Ayrshire, and I was really happy to come back to a job here as a new graduate vet and to join the IVC Evidensia Graduate Academy. My role here is mixed, so I’m splitting my time between farm animals and small animals. I began working here as a graduate vet in late July, so I’m currently in my 12th week of the Graduate Academy programme, and I'm settling in nicely.
I'm really enjoying the split between small and farm animals. I do some small animal work on certain days and farm work on others, so I have a structured weekly schedule.

Being a mixed stream graduate on the programme, I have had the opportunity to choose which Graduate Academy content I want to focus on. This is great as it allows me to pursue my interests and develop in the areas, I want to become more confident with.

I recently attended the Graduate Academy launch event in Birmingham which was a fantastic experience, and I feel confident that I’m in a role where I’m supported to achieve my best.

What motivated you to join the IVC Evidensia Graduate Academy as your first step after vet school?

While I was still a vet student, I saw my peers in the years above me and other friends who were already part of the Graduate Academy. I got to see the exciting opportunities they were offered by being part of the programme. They seemed like they were having a lot of fun, getting to meet other new graduates, and being supported in their development. It seemed like a great opportunity, and it was an added bonus that the practice I’d done the majority of my EMS with was part of IVC Evidensia. 

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in veterinary medicine?

For me, it's one of those cliché stories; I always knew I wanted to be a vet. At times, I had doubts about getting the required grades and briefly considered other career paths. However, when I did get the grades and everything fell into place, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I also really enjoy the human aspect of being a vet, having the opportunity to make a real difference and send owners home happy, with healthy pets.
I had always been involved in animal-related volunteering activities which strengthened my application for vet school. I grew up with pets as well, so it's a familiar experience for me, much like any other aspiring vet.

Mentorship is an essential part of the Graduate Academy programme. Could you tell us about your mentor and the support you receive from your colleagues at the practice?

The practice I'm at is quite diverse in terms of experience. We have in-house specialists, people with a few years of experience, and others with many more. This diversity in experience means there are plenty of people to approach with questions, depending on your needs.

Everyone at the practice is friendly and available to help and support me in my role. There's a wealth of knowledge to tap into, and everyone is eager to assist new grads in the practice.

As part of the Graduate Academy, you also get assigned a regional coach which is a vet from within the wider IVC Evidensia network. They are there for you to talk to about anything relating to your job, clinical or practice-related. My mentor and I are already in touch for this structured approach to support which is great.

You mentioned that you're working with a mix of small and farm animals. Could you tell us more about your daily work at MBM Vets and how that’s progressing?

During my small animal days, I typically have a surgery-focused morning once a week, followed by afternoon consults. I have another day during the week when I just consult. I started seeing vaccinations and monthly medication injections first and then moved on to seeing unwell pets. As a graduate who studied during lockdown, I did not get as much surgical exposure as I would have liked, so having supportive surgeons within the practice who are able to mentor and support me has been helpful. Our practice also has a vet who is solely responsible for hospitalised patients and admissions, once I feel more confident within myself, I will be responsible for hospital patients as well.

For farm animal days, my mornings typically involve routine tasks like pregnancy scanning and fertility work. The afternoons usually consist of calls booked in that day such as ill or injured livestock or emergencies like difficult calvings.  It's quite dynamic, and I enjoy the unknown and the fact that no two days are the same. I also have on-call duties for my farm work, although they are not as extensive as those of full-time farm vets, they give me a good glimpse of what life as a farm vet is like.

Building relationships with clients is a significant aspect of large animal work, and they are gradually involving me in handling routine work, which helps me connect with clients and develop my own caseload. It's been a rewarding experience. 

What are your hopes and goals for the future?

I plan to continue pushing myself and stepping out of my comfort zone. I want to handle more challenging cases and trust my clinical judgment more. I often have the right answer but seek confirmation, so I aim to build confidence in my own abilities. Attending CPD weekends and Academy events will help me implement new knowledge and skills in practice. I'm also looking to contribute and bring value to the farm team since I'm one of the first new graduate vets they've hired in a while. I hope to bring a fresh perspective and make a positive impact on the team and practice. 

If you were speaking to a student approaching graduation and considering their next steps, what advice would you give them?

I would advise them to explore different EMS experiences and placements to get a sense of what life is like in various practices. It's essential to ask plenty of questions and find out what else the practice has to offer beyond the standard working day. Look at the equipment and facilities available in the practice and also consider the benefits offered by the practice.  Here at IVC Evidensia, we have planned CPD, regional mentoring opportunities, good holiday allowance, and health insurance, among other benefits. So, it's important to consider the entire package when making your decision. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy travelling, exploring new places, and climbing Munros in Scotland. I also like to spend time with friends, go to gigs, and events. Getting to spend time with my friends and relax is important to me.

What would you say you're proudest of in your career journey so far?

I’ve learned to appreciate the small daily wins. I recently had a case with a patient on Monday where I worked the case up from the beginning and presented all the options to the client. We came up with a treatment plan, and the dog is doing well now. It was a smaller acute issue, but I'm proud that I managed it on my own and left the owner satisfied with our decision. I phoned the owner a few days later and the dog was well, and the owners were happy.

That's fantastic. What would you say is the best thing about being part of the Graduate Academy for you?

As a mixed graduate, it's been beneficial to have the flexibility to choose a CPD path that suits my needs. I can select topics that interest me or address areas where I want to become more confident.

It feels great to be part of something larger and to connect with other grads, sharing experiences and insights at events like the one in Birmingham. It provides an excellent opportunity to network and learn from others. I really feel part of a team, both at my practice and I feel connected to the wider IVC Evidensia network.