What is your name and what graduating class are you from?
I’m Shona McIntyre, I graduated from Glasgow University in 2006.
What do you do at the moment?
At the moment, I’m Head of Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the University of Surrey. I’m a Senior Teaching Fellow, teaching primarily small animal medicine and diagnostic imaging concentrating on the clinical years of third, fourth and final year.
The other part of my role as Head of Department involves running the clinical department. I’m responsible for recruitment, budgeting, overseeing management of the teaching resources and delivering teaching, and I coordinate the course for year three - which is the first clinical year we have within the vet school.
I’m also one of six PDP Deans, and what we do is provide advice and support to the graduates as they go through the PDP process, or Postgraduate Development Phase.
What did your pathway look like, and how did you get your current job?
I was a small animal vet in general practice, for about 13 years before I went to work in academia. I had done two imaging certificates, so I had experience in diagnostic imaging, but I was a general small animal vet by trade. I saw an opening for the new University of Surrey online, for a small animal medicine teaching fellow. After being successful in obtaining the role, I quickly recognised that there was a gap for someone with an interest in diagnostic imaging. I utilised that to help develop the curriculum - by creating models for things like radiographic positioning and ultrasound. We have a spiral curriculum, so I’ve made an effort to try and integrate that all the way through the course.
While I was in general practice, I always got quite involved in the nurse training as well and became a nurse clinical coach in my last practice. I tended to do quite a lot of the new graduate mentoring and got involved in helping develop a graduate scheme - because at that point I was a clinical manager within the practice I worked in and part of a corporate who were looking to develop a graduate scheme.
Working with new graduates and nurses really started my interest in education, and I really wanted to expand on that and do a bit more. I saw an opportunity in the vet record for the University of Surrey and thought ‘oh that’s quite exciting!’ so I applied and then everything happened from there.
As for the PDP dean, while I was mentoring students in practice, I was seeing them come through needing to complete their PDP’s, not always quite sure what it was about and wanting to get more support. So, I looked into the PDP a bit more and then it just so happened that they were advertising for more deans at the time. I applied, got accepted, and just started doing it from there!
What is the best part of the job?
Teaching is my absolute favourite thing, it’s been a bit of a shame during the pandemic when everything went online, but I really like getting to know the students and having a rapport. Really trying to instil in them that it’s not as bad as they think! Reassuring them that they’ve got the knowledge they just need to learn how to apply it, and break things down for them to make it easier. When you see them practicing and passing their exams you get a real buzz from that. It’s really nice to see their progression from the clinical years through to them developing in the profession.
This job may not be for you if…
I think the thing is there’s a lot of flexibility and you can really carve your own days. This kind of job is one where you really have to be in charge of your own time. Prioritising tasks, managing time and your diary, mentoring students, and working things out for yourself a bit more which I think some people may struggle with a bit, especially if they are used to a very structured day in practice.
At the same time, I think it’s not a job to move into because you think it’ll be less stressful because you don’t have clients and patients - it’s a different kind of stress in academia, there’s a lot of pastoral care in the job. You’re not just teaching students but you’re a tutor and a mentor, you have to really be a patient and empathetic person.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other alumni?
Firstly, don’t think you don’t have the right qualifications - our degree is useful in so many different ways. Definitely look for opportunities - there’s always things coming up, especially with the newer vet schools and academic institutions. Look out for any nursing or agricultural college opportunities as well - some of my colleagues had started with opportunities in vet nursing colleges and other colleges that teach animal related courses. These things are always on the horizon, if you’re interested in getting into education, places like the RVC run a Postgraduate certificate in education and that can really help get your foot in the door.
A lot of the university jobs go on www.jobs.ac.uk . Universities will advertise in the vet record but they’ll also have their own job vacancy sites so if you’re interested it’s worth keeping your eye on those pages and see what comes up.
I think it’s nice to hear about other pathways. When I went to vet school, everyone thought you were just going to be a vet and that was that. There’s a lot of pressure now for graduates to do internships and do residencies and be specialists but that’s not the only way to progress. There are so many things you can do with your degree, there are so many opportunities.
I think it’s also important to recognise that if you’re not in clinical practice, you’re still a vet. It doesn’t make you any less of one just because you’ve moved into a different role. You’re just doing something different.