Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton ponders of what it means to be an 'omni-competent' vet from the first day of practice

There is a butcher in Richmond who reads the Country Week section of The Yorkshire Post.

Julian Norton has plenty of faith in the new generation of vets

There are probably many butchers in Richmond who read this newspaper, but I know for certain that there is at least one, because he keeps sending his dog-owning customers to see me.

I’ve had a steady stream of lame dogs arrive at the surgery because of his (possibly unfounded) recommendation. This is very kind and generous, because writing this column doesn’t confer upon me any extra veterinary capability to fix a spaniel with a sore leg. That takes the phrase “omni-competent” to a new level.

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Once upon a time, all vets were required to be exactly that: omni-competent. It was expected that a newly qualified vet would (and should) be competent in all aspects of veterinary practice, right from day one!

This is a tall order, but one which we seemed to consider eminently achievable as my cohort of vets emerged, white-coated, from vet school into the world of clinical practice.

Some days, in the true spirit of omni-competency, instead of being white-coated, we’d actually be brown-coated because, even in the 90s, some vets still wore a long, brown coat to do farm work, while white was reserved for small animal duties.

Apart from having useful pockets for putting thermometers, stethoscopes, bottles and syringes, a long brown cotton coat was not very practical outfit on a farm. My brown coat quickly gave way to a plastic waterproof.

In these post-brown coat days of veterinary medicine, omni-competency represents an even bigger challenge, especially for our new vets. As client expectation has risen, there is more pressure upon vets to get a rapid and firm diagnosis and offer specialist surgical solutions.

At one time, the constantly sneezing cat, for example, would eventually be admitted for an anaesthetic so that the back of its nasopharynx could be examined to check for the unwelcome presence of a nasopharyngeal polyp.

An eagle-eyed young vet would spot the pea-sized nobble, grab it with forceps and pull it out, effecting an immediate cure.

Nowadays, it is the magic of the CT scanner, which has eagle eyes of its own, that takes over respon-sibility for finding the troublesome polyp.

Omni-competency is not so easy now, which makes it vital that the more senior members of the profession assist, encourage and advise the new members, to help them along this rocky road.

Recently, I had a great opportunity to do just that. Afternoon surgery had just finished and an emergency call to calve a cow came in. It was an ideal opportunity for Molly, our recently graduated vet, to do her first calving.

“Do you want to come along, Molly? I’ll go first and you follow on,” I suggested and her eyes lit up with an enthusiasm which had been building during her five years at vet school. An enthusiasm I remembered well.

On the farm, I stood back and let Molly take the lead, talking her through the various stages, offering guidance where needed. The calving was a squeeze, but not too tricky and this had been a perfect first case for her to learn.

She did a great job and, from what I can see, the next generation of omni-competent vets is shaping up very nicely indeed!

Catch up with all the action at Cannon Hall Farm on Tuesday at 8pm as This Week on the Farm continues on Channel 5.