Life after veterinary school is not always smooth sailing, the transition period from veterinary student to a fully-fledged doctor can be scary, and at times a little intimidating.
Someone who knows much about that is Dr. Lianne Mellin, a New Zealand veterinarian and 2020 graduate from The University of Queensland.
We caught up with her, in a recent interview, to find a little more about life after graduation, and how she continues to document life in vet med post vet school using her large social media following.
Hi Lianne, could you please introduce yourself to anyone who may be unfamiliar with you?
Hi, I’m Dr. Lianne – a mostly small animal general practitioner veterinarian from New Zealand. I am a Class of 2020 graduate from The University of Queensland, so that makes me a “fully-fledged new grad”! You can find me across all social media (especially Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube) under the handle @yourvetlianne. I aim to share life “out the back” of the vet clinic so pet owners, future students, and veterinary professionals alike can see what the day-to-day is like – both in terms of procedures and emotions.
You recently graduated from vet school and are working in practice. What has been the biggest ‘culture shock’ since working full-time?
To be perfectly honest, I think I was well prepared for what working as a vet is like, given we had to spend a lot of time in clinics during the degree (even though we were the first year of Covid grads). What I did find difficult (and sometimes still do) is giving owners estimates about cost… it can be so awkward, especially as new grads don’t tend to have much say about how much things cost. I can offer different levels of treatment with different levels of prices but I can’t actually change how much a certain procedure costs.
What do you think the hardest part of graduate life is?
When you first start working, you’ve got all these nerves about whether you’re actually good enough or whether you can actually remember what you were taught at vet school. But then, on top of that, you have to learn how to actually be the vet without having a senior clinician looking over your shoulder in case you miss something. You have to ask the right history questions, perform a physical exam and relate it to the history and the presenting complaint. You have to build rapport with clients so they trust you and want to listen to what you have to say to help their pet. And then, you have to learn new computer programmes, type your notes fast enough, AND learn how to invoice. It’s a lot. I remember being exhausted after my first week just due to the enormous amount of learning you have to do on the job!
What’s the best part of graduate life?
I have moments throughout the day (literally any time; sometimes in surgery, sometimes mid-sentence in a consult, sometimes while getting kisses from a puppy) where I think to myself, “what the heck? I’m ACTUALLY doing this!” There were so many times during vet school that I would watch a clinician or a student in the years above me perform something and I’d think “Nah, I’m not capable of that” but now I am!!
Have you experienced any feelings of Imposter Syndrome since working in practice?
Oh for sure! Sometimes I leave work thinking, “Yup, I know what I’m doing.” Other days I sit at lunch thinking “who do I think I am?… I don’t know what I’m doing!” I’ve got a whole “Guide” about the times I’ve felt like an imposter on my Instagram which I actually go back to every now and then when I’m feeling like an imposter.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in the negative feelings so when I do feel them, I try to take a moment to take 10 deep breaths and think about all the things (big or small) I’ve confidently accomplished that day. For example, I can safely induce anesthesia in a patient and confidently intubate them as the vet – not as the student with someone watching me in case I need rescuing. I can do this because I am capable and I am worthy of my place as a veterinarian. It’s easy to forget that the day-to-day of being a vet actually isn’t common knowledge to the average person off the street!
What are some of the things that you do to stay positive after a stressful day at work?
I share my struggles with my vet school friends, my work friends, my best friends, my Instagram friends, and my family. I find sharing how I feel helps me so much.
I also like to do things for myself like roller skating, dancing, going to the beach, crocheting, and watching the sunset! I often tell people that being a vet is a huge part of my life, but it isn’t my whole life so doing these things outside of work helps me to chill out after a stressful day.
My work also does this cool thing where, on Sunday, we share our Big Wins and Big Learns of the week just gone on in our group chat and set individual intentions for the following week. I find this kind of support so good and it’s great to force yourself to focus on the positives even if the week was really hard.
What led you to start your YouTube and Instagram, and did you expect it to take off?
No, I did not expect it to take off at all! I got so much stick for it from my uni friends too, haha!
I honestly started my Instagram because I was following too many vets on my personal Insta that I was missing all of my friends’ posts, so I tried to separate them. I then found it a great way to study because I’d summarise some of my lectures as posts in my own words.
My “why” has definitely changed since then. I’m not a dumb person but I’m not an incredibly smart one either. I’ve had to work really hard to get through vet school so I wanted to show that side of it, and hopefully inspire those who don’t think they’re good enough. Like I said earlier, I aim to share the “life out the back” of a vet clinic.
How do you think social media has influenced the newer generation of vets?
I think it has given us a huge awareness about looking after our mental health. We’re learning to set boundaries and actually make those changes in our clinics.
It’s also allowed us to realise that most of us experience very similar emotions so we are not alone!
What has been the highlight of your career thus far, and what’s on the cards in the future for you?
This is a hard question! I feel like I’ve done so many cool things.
One of my favourite procedures was a fairly simple one, but it was super satisfying! I removed a 9cm grass blade from the nasopharynx of a cat!
I also love that I’ve been able to connect with people across the globe in Zoom conferences and I’ve also been able to speak at some schools and universities too.
But, if I’m completely honest with myself, I think I’ve been put on this earth to be a vet to help the people. Recently, I had to put 11 animals to sleep in 8 days (all sick or old). It was hard, don’t get me wrong. But, there was something about being there for the owners in their time of extreme vulnerability that gave me goosebumps.
Plans for the future? I have many! I’ve mapped them out thanks to a VetX Thrive lecture from Dr. Dave. I strive to be the best vet I can be for both the animals and the people and at the same time, I want to share this with the public. Hopefully, I’ll end up in Europe for a period of time as a locum vet too… time will tell![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Dr. Lianne Mellin
Dr. Lianne is a recent graduate veterinarian working at a companion animal clinic as a general practitioner in New Zealand. Her interests lie in soft tissue surgery, dentistry and helping owners care for their pets with a keen focus on preventative health care.
Over her years at veterinary school, Dr. Lianne worked hard to build a social media presence on both Instagram and YouTube in order to help prospective vet students, support those in the industry already and educate the public!