Veterinary Work Experience

After graduating in English, I have returned to another passion of mine in veterinary medicine. So over the summer and autumn I found a couple of different experiences to find out whether the subject truly is something I want to explore more. To apply to study Veterinary Medicine, experience in an animal setting, and a clinical setting are vital for the application process.

Tiggy Winkles Wildlife Hospital

In July I spent 2 weeks volunteering at the worlds busiest wildlife hospital, Tiggy Winkles in Haddenham near Oxford. The role involved general animal husbandry tasks, cleaning out and feeding the wildlife in the hospital and learning how to handle the animals – including Red Kites, garden birds, hedgehogs and badgers.

My first week was spent inside, looking after the more critical patients, and the second week I was outside, where the larger animals recover, and are on their way to being released. On the first day volunteers are tasked with cleaning out the hedgehog room, and feeding them. This room houses the hedgehogs who have recently come in, the more critical and the baby hedgehogs who are in need of more care. Other days were spent with birds, larger mammals like hedgehogs and foxes and the ICU where patients wait to be assessed.

The charity began initially as a hedgehog hospital due to their endangered status in the UK, and the spiny mammal remains their logo.

Unfortunately, due to a change of law, the grey squirrels are permanent residents and are never allowed to be released back into the wild. Muntjac deer, too, are not allowed to be released by law. I knew about the law changes before volunteering, but seeing all these healthy animals who would never be free was quite upsetting. We would try and make captivity more fun for them but they were desperate to escape.

Outside, the cleaning was more messy, cleaning out poo from the walls and gravel with hosepipes (great to cool down in the warm weather!). It was hard work, especially during an unprecedented heatwave where temperatures were at the highest recorded in the UK, but it was hugely rewarding and it also gave me an insight into how wildlife is looked after during such hot conditions. Plus an Ice Cream van visited one day, which was a huge bonus!

Also during my time there, there was high risk levels of bird flu so water birds, like swans and ducks, were only allowed to be seen by more senior members of staff in specialised equipment and foot baths were provided all around the site to reduce any risk of infecting the wildlife. The staff were all very welcoming, and passionate about wildlife, I learnt a lot from them.

One of the highlights for me was helping to release Swifts back into the wild (they cannot fly from the ground) and being able to speak to the nurses about some of the animals’ illnesses and treatments. It may have been hot and mucky, bit I truly had the best time and, if I lived in the area or rent wasn’t a thing, then I would love to have continued volunteering there.

A buzzard is one of the many birds of prey that are brought to the hospital. Red Kites are more common to the area, and it was fascinating to learn that they play dead when humans are near.

Veterinary Practice

In October I spent a week observing the staff at a local small animal veterinary practice. This was my first time observing surgeries in real life, and I am hugely grateful for the practice for allowing me to come and watch and ask questions. I saw surgeries from neutering, to teeth and tumour removal, as well as observing the vet nurses, listening to heartbeats and watching how they hold consultations.

Both of these experiences were great fun, but quite difficult to get. I was lucky to have a relative who works at Tiggy Winkles to hear about open positions, and stay with them for the duration of my experience there. And to get experience at a vets practice I emailed around all the vets within hours radius to find somewhere that allowed students for experience.


Published by Accalia Smith

I am a student in the UK studying English Literature at RHUL and an aspiring writer.

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