Dr Holly Anne Hills MRCVS
Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to be a vet, or what a day-to-day routine looks like for a vet?
A typical daily routine will be different depending on the type of practice and the type of animals they treat. Some vets choose to work outside clinical practice, in areas such as behavior, research, teaching, or clinical pathology. We will focus on the typical daily routine of a vet in clinical practice in this blog.
Due to the nature of veterinary medicine, it is not usually conducive to a 9-5 Monday to Friday routine! Hours can vary and you need to be prepared to stay late if a patient is very unwell, or if an emergency arrives. Most days though, vets tend to finish around the time they are supposed to!
Working hours can vary and are slightly different in every clinic. On average, most vets work an 8-10 hour day. A typical working day usually starts between 8-9 am and finishes between 5-7 pm.
Many vet jobs these days offer their staff a 4-day week, with on-call or weekend duties on top of this. Most vets get one early finish each week as well, and if you have worked a weekend, you will typically get an extra day off in the week. In some clinics, such as those that do not provide any out-of-hours cover, vets will work 5 days a week to reflect the lack of additional antisocial hours.
What does a vet do during the day?
During the day, vets will either be in surgery or consulting, usually spending around half the day doing each. But some days vets might spend the entire day in theatre or consult all day. A vet’s workload during the day will be made up of a mixture of routine, pre-booked work (such as vaccinations and neutering), and urgent work that is booked on the day (these patients are usually more unwell and may come in as an emergency).
There are often morning ‘rounds’ when the team first arrives for the day, where current cases are discussed. This allows the team time to get up to speed with any inpatients and their treatment plans, as well as what day patients are expected in the clinic that day. It is also a chance for vets to contribute their thoughts on challenging cases, and to share ideas that will benefit the patient.
In large animal practice (equine and farm), vets are usually out and about visiting their patients all day, carrying out a mixture of routine and urgent work. They might pop back to the office to collect medicines, drop off blood samples, collect/drop off paperwork, or simply eat lunch and have a cup of tea! Large animal vets spend a lot of time driving between visits, usually by themselves, but this does mean you can enjoy some music or a podcast at various points throughout the day!
Veterinary medicine can be unpredictable, which means that regular breaks cannot always be guaranteed, and neither can finishing work on time. On average (if the day goes to plan!) most vets get a tea break midmorning for 20-30 minutes and a one-hour lunch break. For vets working long days (more than 8 hours) there is usually an afternoon break as well.
Do vets have to do paperwork?
In all jobs, there is an element of paperwork that has to be completed by staff, and that goes for veterinary work too.
Vets usually have some time allocated during the day to complete paperwork and make phone calls. This usually includes telephone calls to pet owners to deliver test results or to get an update on a patient’s progress. Phone calls may also need to be made to referral clinics, rehabilitation services, or behaviorists to discuss cases that have been referred, or to make an initial referral.
It is imperative that vets keep accurate clinical records about every patient they treat. These notes include the patient’s history, findings on clinical examination, a diagnosis, and a treatment plan. These notes are not only a legal requirement, but also help other team members who may need to know what was discussed or done in an appointment.
Other paperwork vets might need to complete might include official/government paperwork such as completing passports, animal health certificates, exports, or TB test submissions. This paperwork is more time-consuming, and vets will have suitable time allocated to this in their day.
Nights, Weekends, and On-Call Duties
Some veterinary practices provide their own out-of-hours service to their clients. This usually means that each vet in the team will take turns in being ‘on call’ either overnight, for a few hours in the evening, or over the weekend. How often a vet is on call depends on the number of people in their team and the rota, but for most vets, it tends to range from once a week, to once a month.
But if your practice does not provide its own out-of-hours services, or employs dedicated night vets, then your day is over, and you can head home to relax usually by 7 pm!
The on-call vet will be responsible for overseeing the care of any inpatients and treating any emergencies that call in. Some vets will stay up all night at the clinic when on call (you will likely have a day off before or after this!), whilst other vets are able to go home and sleep, only needing to go into the clinic if an animal needs treatment.
The best thing to do is have a look and see what opportunities are available!
The daily routine of a vet can be very variable but is always packed with variety and no two days are the same! Every clinic is different, but typically vets work an 8-10 hour day 4-5 days a week, sometimes with some nights and weekends too. The day is usually split between surgery and consulting, or is spent on the road visiting clients if you work with large animals.