I spent 12 years working as an Official Vet in more than 60 different premises across the length and breadth of the UK. When the abattoir where I was working closed and my employer made me redundant, I had to decide between leaving my home or changing my job. I was a city person, had never lived in the countryside and at the time, I was living in Edinburgh city centre and enjoying it very much. At this time, the thought came to me that, as a veterinarian, I had very limited experience with large animals (other than in the lairage) and had never lived in a rural community. Was I missing out? Was it worth trying something different before being too old to run from wild domestic mammals? Why not change my life altogether and find out?
I remember the day I started to search the Vet Record looking for something different other than work in veterinary public health. Soon enough I realised I did not have the relevant experience to get a job as a clinician, but there was a practice in the rural West Midlands looking for a TB tester. Uhmmm…what on earth is a TB tester? Asking around my old colleagues, I made contact with someone working as a Veterinary Officer in Animal Health and they explained to me that a TB tester was somebody who gets cold and wet in the winter and roasts alive in the summer.
I was offered and accepted the job in the Midlands and I discovered with surprise that I did not have to run from the cows as often as I imagined, the farmers were much more approachable and friendly than the average FBO (food business operator) and very often I was invited to a nice cup of coffee and a biscuit. The amount of paperwork was dramatically reduced, and I had no out of hours responsibilities.
Over the years, I learnt a good deal about cattle management, and gained enough clinical experience to advise and treat common pathologies. Being outdoors made me much happier, not that I love the English winter, but I have more hours of daylight in winter than the average office worker. You get used to the winter weather and quickly learn that thermal underwear and ski clothing are not only for the Tourmalet and Chamonix.
Having started as a TB tester with HallMark in 2014, I am now the TB testing trainer based in rural Oxfordshire and take all the new vets starting in the team through the OCQ(V)-TT qualification. From only two testers six months ago, we have grown to a team of eight and continue to see increased demand from practices across the country wanting cost-effective, independent TB testing services.
Since moving from the city to the countryside, I have swapped Karen Millen dresses for a good pair of Wellington boots and night clubs and posh restaurants for a Bedlington terrier and my local pub. Different job, different life, different company, but I have to say I haven’t looked back.