Loyal clients and a caring community: Practice Manager Maria shares what makes Ark Vets unique

Balancing a thriving career with her family, pets and hobbies, Maria Varnals reflects on the highlights of becoming practice manager with the amazing, skilled team at Ark Vets, and the joy of making a difference in the lives of pets and their owners.

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Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you entered the veterinary industry?

I've been involved in the veterinary industry since the late 1990s. I started as a receptionist, eventually becoming the practice manager at my current clinic in February 2022. I took a break from the veterinary industry to work in education and I managed a children's nursery for eight years, but my love for animals drew me back!

What prompted your transition from managing a nursery to returning to the veterinary industry?

As my children became more independent, I felt the pull to come back to working with animals. I've always loved animals and had pets throughout my life. Contributing to the well-being of people's treasured pets is immensely rewarding. I’ve always had an interest in medicine, and as a child had considered going into a medical career – this role feels like the best of both.

Can you describe your current role as practice manager and what makes Ark Vets unique?

As practice manager, I oversee the operations of our small and friendly practice. We have a close and supportive team, with some members having been here for nearly three decades.
We're a first-opinion practice, handling everything from routine vaccinations to orthopaedic surgery. We have an orthopaedic surgeon and a cardiac specialist who come into the surgery to treat pets who have more complex needs and would rather be seen at our practice than go to a referral centre. We’ve just started offering laser therapy which is proving a big hit.

Something else that’s unique about Ark Vets, is that because of our location and long history in the local area, we've built a strong relationship with the Colchester Barracks, understanding the challenges military families face in building trust with vets due to frequent relocations. We emphasise that they can transfer between IVC Evidensia practices, maintaining continuity in their pet's care, which they appreciate.

What do you enjoy most about working in a veterinary practice?

Every day there’s something new to see or learn, it’s always interesting. We’re making a real difference to pet’s lives and the lives of their families.

How do you maintain a supportive and positive work environment in your practice?

We're a close and friendly team, everyone is supportive. Because our team members benefit from our flexible working policy, with many working part-time, we have a really diverse mix of people to work together.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I enjoy readinging, going to the cinema, and, most importantly, spending time with my family. I feel I have a great balance and get to enjoy the diverse experiences life has to offer. Colchester is a lovely historic town; we have Roman ruins and the famous Colchester castle. The nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty was written here. It’s actually about a cannon!  It is an hour from London so an easy commute. Lots of places to visit locally, a weekly market, good places to eat and stay. Some really good places to walk, or kayak or cycle.

 What are you most proud of in your career so far?

Becoming practice manager in 2022 has been the highlight so far! Also being able to use the great relationship with my colleagues to ensure they can always come to me about anything. It’s rewarding to use the experience I have built over the years to support my team. I am very proud of my job.

Tell us about your pets!

We have a rough collie named Kimber, a budgie named Hedwig, and a rabbit named Havoc. They are all silly and wonderful and keep us on our toes!