Veterinary medicine: “I love the challenge of being a veterinarian”

It’s farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Paul Crawford (46), Islandmagee, Larne, Northern Ireland, Royal Veterinary College graduate and sheep farmer, who currently works as a freelance veterinary anaesthesiologist. He talks about his current role in the field of veterinary medicine, counseling new graduates, and his desire to eradicate scabies from sheep.

My parents were both teachers, but luckily they also loved farming, and some of my earliest memories are of seeing my father walking through the fields with a haystack on his back as he fed our cattle before to go and teach mathematics. !

My mother taught at the same high school as a music teacher before she quit working to have my three siblings and me.

We had pet dogs and several goats as I couldn’t drink cow’s milk as a child so my parents got goats so I could have their milk instead!

I’ve always loved working with animals and being with them, but didn’t start seriously considering a career with them until I was around sixteen, after my GCSE.

That’s when I started looking at what qualifications I would need and whether getting into veterinary college would be a real possibility for me. I’ve always been very practical like that.

Veterinary Medicine

I studied a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), University of London, from 1994 to 1998.

As soon as I visited the RVC for an interview, I opted for the RVC; everyone was so friendly and welcoming. As the oldest veterinary school in the English-speaking world, it has a long and proud history of academic, clinical and social excellence.

I worked directly at Glasgow Vet School, where I worked in anesthesia and intensive care.

My role was a little different from the stereotypical new job of a veterinarian, as I worked in a teaching hospital. Although I had a lot of very experienced people, I also had the responsibility of supervising and teaching the final year students.

Independent veterinary anesthesiologist

Now I am a freelance veterinary anesthetist currently working in Northern Ireland and across the UK.

Additionally, I have my own flock of sheep and am studying for a PhD in conjunction with Harper Adams University via distance learning, exploring the use of medicine in the Northern Ireland sheep flock .

I am passionate about anesthesia and want to provide the best care to my patients.

I’m pretty busy right now studying for my PhD, which is fascinating but also quite time consuming. In addition, I would potentially like to do a post-doctorate in sheep medicine or anesthesia.

I am also passionate about sheep in general and the eradication of sheep scab in particular. It destroyed so many herds and farming families for centuries. My ultimate goal is to eradicate scabies from sheep.

I like variety in my workload – but that variety only came about because of the choices I made.

The perfect balance between work and professional life is unlikely to present itself to you. You will have to compromise somewhere and make choices about what to prioritize.

Advice for new graduates

Like the game, the ads say – when the fun stops, stop. Take a break, do something different, for a night or a week, longer if needed. Likewise, never stop learning and never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Find something specific that interests you and follow it, even if it takes you away from general medicine. There is so much more to being a veterinarian than general practice.

I think the problem is that there are too many veterinary graduates who maybe don’t know enough about the inner workings of the jobs that will be available to them when they graduate .

Most will work as general practice veterinarians. It can be tough physically and mentally, and I think it shocks many new grads when it turns out that it’s not the kind of vocation one can fit into a 9-5 window.

You also can’t do everything you would like for every patient for a host of reasons – hence the importance of making sure you understand these things and know how to achieve a good work/life balance from the start.

Paul inspecting the cattle

Competent veterinarian

A competent veterinarian must have a love of animals (but not always an acquired skill!) and observation.

You won’t diagnose anything if you can’t spot the signs. Ideally, a vet should also be kind, patient, able to think things through, adapt, and think outside the box.

Ideally, you will be a team player who can also transform into a team leader when the situation calls for it. Finally, be calm under pressure and don’t be afraid to cover yourself with feces from time to time!

Forget the lie – if you like animals, be a veterinarian. Remember that pets, horses, and even farm animals come with humans attached. Therefore, you must be both a “human” person and an “animal” person.

Over the years I have often answered the phone in practices when other staff members were rushed or absent from their posts.

I am always shocked at how rude some customers can be when they think they are just talking to the receptionist or vet nurse. Their attitude and tone change quickly when they realize I’m the vet, and that pisses me off.

Veterinarians would be completely lost without a good team of veterinary nurses, receptionists and administrators behind them

Humans are sometimes more problematic than animals! Veterinarians are often accused of charging exorbitant fees when they often barely cover the costs.

Paul with his sheep


I love the challenge of being a veterinarian. The field is constantly evolving, and you don’t have time to sit on your laurels.

I don’t think I would do too well with a 9am to 5pm desk job. Also, I love being with animals and meeting people from all walks of life.

I think the lure of being a veterinarian is alive and well. Yet there is a danger that the realities of the role will be lost amid marketing and public relations arguments as veterinary schools scramble to admit undergraduate students who may not always fully understand the realities. often hard at work.

I feel very lucky to have had a wonderful upbringing and am proud to be an RVC alumnus.

I am proud to be a veterinarian and a farmer and relish the challenge of tackling sheep scabies in Northern Ireland with the indomitable sheep farming community.

Other articles on This is farming:

To share your story, email [email protected]

About Hector Hedgepeth

Check Also

Want to be a veterinarian? Here’s what you need to know

This is Science Week, a week-long event held in Ireland every November, celebrating science in …