Member spotlight: Brittany Newton

The first year in practice is often the hardest one to navigate for young veterinarians.

This month, we feature Queensland-based and 2016 James Cook veterinary science graduate, Brittany Newton.

Last year, she experienced her first year as a veterinarian and decided that a busy mixed practice would be the best environment to test her veterinary skills, knowledge and stamina. She shares her experiences with us.

Why did you want to become a vet?

I have been asked this question so many times and I still don't really have a great answer. Apparently, it was a decision I made when I was about 5 years old and as I grew up my desire to be a vet never changed. Immediately after I graduated, I accepted a new graduate position at Longreach Veterinary Service in Central West Queensland.

What are your professional areas of interest?

For me as a new graduate, it’s all about getting as much experience in as many areas as I can. This was one of the main reasons for pursuing a mixed practice position. So far, I'm really enjoying anything to do with equine medicine, lameness and reproduction. I have also been heavily involved in a lot of bull breeding soundness examinations and small animal work.

Describe your first year in practice. What have been some of the highlights?

My first year in practice has been better than I ever could have imagined. I feel very lucky to work with a great group of people. I have received lots of support from both nurses and vets and have been given so many opportunities to learn.

I attended a VetPrac workshop on equine lameness at Charles Sturt University which gave me a good foundation for lameness work-ups that I could come back and apply as a general practitioner.

I have also really enjoyed the property visits and the clients I work with have been great. The people in the areas we travel to are usually very grateful and appreciative to us for providing a service they can’t easily access due to long distances.

What do you enjoy most about being a vet?

I really enjoy making a difference to both animal and human lives. Being a vet is about working for the animals, whether that be treating a sick family pet or looking into herd health issues. But in order to help animals we also need to help educate the owners who are responsible for them about preventive care and ways to improve the health and welfare of their animals.

What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face?

I think a lack of understanding from the public about the role of the vet is sometimes the most challenging thing. It's surprising the number of times I get asked about why we are considered doctors, or how often people are stunned to hear about the long hours we work or the distances we travel to provide care.

Along with a lack of understanding, I think there is also a level of mistrust. Sometimes I feel the human health system has created false expectations regarding how the animal health system should work. Animal health offers the same technology but no Medicare to cover it. It's a struggle to get people to understand sometimes that we do what we do because we care, not because we are trying to make money.

How do you balance work and home life?

Some days my hours are longer than others, but I have found it balances out. I also bought a horse this year and I find myself down at the stables most afternoons and on weekends, which is good downtime for me. It's much easier to maintain a hobby now that I'm working rather than studying.

Tell me more about a recent trip you took to the NT. Why did you see this as a great opportunity? What did you do and learn?

My boss is based on the Barkly Tablelands for the middle part of each year and gave me the opportunity to go and help him for a few days bull testing, as well as travelling around the area assisting with other jobs he had booked. It was great to experience – the sheer land mass that needs to be covered up there was something I could never have prepared for. And instead of 50 herd bulls there might be 500! I also got an insight into some of the main challenges that are faced by producers and veterinarians. There is a much bigger focus on practicality and making things work with what is accessible at the time, completely different from a clinic situation.

Finally, I was able to realise how much of a difference we can make in our profession in remote areas. Whether it be working to increase the efficiency of production and disease prevention in cattle, seeing a horse or vaccinating a litter of pups on the way past, vets in remote areas are incredibly valuable for our producers.

Rena Richmond
Communication and Media Manager

This article appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal


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