Day in the Life of a Vet: Liam Kelly
In this week’s Ireland’s Vets, That’s Farming, profiles Liam Kelly, who discusses life as a vet. He discusses working in Wales as a vet, his take-home message from working overseas and returning home to Galway and establishing his own veterinary practice.
Despite what can be an intense, demanding workload and erratic hours, Galway veterinary practitioner, Liam Kelly, claims that “no other job ever appealed” to him.
Being exposed to the profession first-hand through a vet’s visits to his family farm throughout his childhood, inspired him to study veterinary medicine at UCD from 2010-2015.
Immediately after college, Liam worked for Honddu veterinary practice, a mixed animal practice in Wales consisting of eleven vets. Undertaking work in a mixed was the defining factor that he has more of an interest in large animal work.
Liam, who farms 20 Limousin and Angus suckler cows and 60 Suffolk and Texel sheep with his father, Liam, and brother, Sean, told That’s Farming:
“I tended to go more towards large animals, especially when we had cattle and sheep on the farm. I like the variety of veterinary. You never know what you are going to come across.”
“Also, you are going out there and meeting all these different personalities. You built up a relationship with people over time, especially when dealing with generations of animals.”
“That is something you will always have. It is a bond you have with the owners. It is a great feeling to have a bond with people in your local community.”
In early 2021, Liam established his practice, Craughwell Veterinary, in Galway.
Liam covers 95% of his own calls weekly and is on-call 24/7, seven days a week.
He shares a rota with KMC Vets, Loughrea, who work together to assist each other during their quiet periods. Liam serves clients within a 25-minute radius of his veterinary practice.
“We book our appointments in advance to plan for the day ahead. There would be gaps in the day so you could facilitate emergency calls as best as possible. That is how we work our practice.”
Using social media
Liam documents the unusual cases he comes across as a vet and a day in the life of a vet model via his Instagram page, Adventures of a Galway vet.
He finds Instagram a “good” platform to document his experiences and said there is a “huge” network through social media to communicate with other vets.
“In my experience, people look at cases and say either oh, that is terrible, or they look at them and say I saw that before and I never knew what that was.”
“Then, I give my input on it, and more vets or other people who have experience of those conditions give their opinion.”
“With all that merging of information, you hope someone takes something from it if they came across a similar case or condition again.”
“They can find a more appropriate solution for themselves and their animals if they saw another way of a case or condition being treated or whatever it might be.”
Liam commented further, saying the rare and unusual cases are not those that the public takes the most information from.
However, he still believes it shows his followers the “variety” vets encounter and cases that might only crop up every five years.
“I suppose that is the whole idea of my page; it is education. My Instagram page is educating the general population rather than academics or people that get a first-hand experience of these conditions.”
Life as a vet
Speaking about whether veterinary meets his expectations, he said: “You take out of veterinary what you put into it. If you have a desire and enthusiasm to do it, you will always make it work as best as possible”.
“There is a lot said when people say veterinary is a vocation. I suppose to a certain extent it is, but it is not like every vocation.”
“If you do not have enthusiasm for the work or find yourself not enjoying it, then maybe it is not for you.”
“I am doing what I really love to do. I love the variation, clients, and I am surrounded by good people, which makes all the difference.”
Key elements and advice
Liam said, “building a certain amount of confidence and relationship with your clients and having self-honesty” are key elements of being a vet.
“The big piece of advice I got from the vets in Wales was that you need to try and improve all the time and not say that you are stuck in a way.”
“If you are afraid to change, there is likely something wrong with what you are doing because you are not showing an incentive to improve.”
Liam is most passionate about herd health and fertility in veterinary and “trying to solve a problem before it becomes an issue”.
“It is preventative medicine rather than this ambulance or putting out a fire approach.”
He advised new vet graduates to get as much experience, surround themselves with people who want to help them learn and take their time to pass on their knowledge.
Liam feels this will facilitate you getting the most out of veterinary or figuring out the quickest if it is not for you or something you want to spend your time at.
“In my view, you need people to be interested in you and in your progress rather than letting you go at it alone.”
Liam feels there are “enough” supports available for new vet graduates. Still, he said, “you need to surround yourself with the right people, and if you do not do that, you will fall amongst the cracks”.
“In general, you will know that quickly depending on the type of work there and the job type you are interested in.”
“I almost always say you are better off going into a mixed practice job to start with to expose yourself to as many different parts of veterinary as possible.”
“There is a huge scope there, and you will get a broad range of experience.”
Job enjoyment and challenges
Liam enjoys the job variety, the interpersonal relationships with clients, getting “mutual” respect from customers and dealing with generations of client’s pets.
“There is a great feeling in knowing that a person has confidence in you to treat their animal, and they asked you to do it, and you do the best for them.”
“I suppose that is the be-all and end-all of it – that you do your best for people, and you be honest and give them the good and bad news. That is all part of it.”
“Veterinary is a job that I do not know if I could compare with any other job in the world.”
Liam added that challenges vets face include meeting regulations and time management – managing your calls and being in your practice.
“I suppose when I am from a farm, I understand where farmers are coming from with input costs and what the challenges for them are too.”
“So, you have to have some amount of understanding. But, in my opinion, understanding is a key part of the job.”
Liam outlined mental health in the veterinary sector is gaining publicity more recently than ever and said this is a “super” thing.
“In my view, mental health has become a lot less a taboo, and that is the way it needs to be. It needs to be spoken about instead of shying away from it.”
“Mental health is obviously not simple, and it comes down to so many different factors in veterinary.”
“However, there are now organisations that are starting to tackle that and offer support for people.”
Looking ahead, Liam said he does not intend to travel abroad and has settled in Galway with his family, close to where he grew up.
However, he outlined that he always has the option to further his studies through online resources offered by Irish and UK colleges.
Liam said his plan “is never to sit down and go with the flow but instead improve himself to improve the quality of service for clients”.
He believes his work will add to local enterprise and benefit animal health and welfare. “It starts on the frontline, which is first opinion practice as far as I am concerned.”
The Galway vet’s ultimate goal is to make a difference in his local community.
“The thing that gives me a real kick is when someone comes back and says that something we did has helped, and it is something as simple as what you did or what you advised me to do, solved that problem.”
“When people come to us, they have a problem. You want to do your best to help and make the lives and welfare of the animals better.”
The future of veterinary medicine
Liam feels veterinary medicine is in a “good” position, and there is a “huge” demand for vets in Ireland.
“In my opinion, there does not seem to be any specific area that seems to be overrun with vets.”
“There will always be people that really have that desire to help and try to improve welfare and systems. So, while those people are still coming, which will always be the case, there will always be a future for vets.”
“I do not think there are any vets out there, as far as I am aware, that want to see things go backwards. We tend to be quiet people!”
Liam goes by the philosophy that “you never learn anything from doing everything right all the time”. “Mistakes are to be made, and you learn from mistakes and move on.”
Summing up his life as a vet so far, he said: “The bad days are quite bad, but the good days are extremely good. As long as you love what you do and stay doing it because you make a big difference to animals and people’s lives,” the vet concluded.
Are you a vet? To provide an insight into your life as a vet, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, firstname.lastname@example.org
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