Vets can face countless conflicting demands in the course of carrying out their daily duties, but what happens when religious beliefs start to impact on your ability to do the job too?
In an increasingly secular country, it’s easy to forget that millions of British people have belief systems that place certain guidelines on their lives. For example, Muslims must fast during daylight hours for the month of Ramadan while many Christians still strictly observe the Sunday Sabbath. In the Jewish faith, Shabbat prevents adherents working from Friday evening to Saturday evening; a potentially serious issue for anyone working in a veterinary practice where weekends can be busy.
Jeremy Carr is a vet and an observant Jew. The Veterinary Business Journal spoke to the married father of three to find out how he balances his profession with his religious commitments.
“Like most veterinary students I began to look for a job before I graduated,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to be accepted on to a residency scheme for new graduates run by Medivet. After graduating I shadowed an experienced vet for six months and this allowed me to build my practical skills and expertise, as well as being a very gentle introduction into a working life.
Jeremy has stayed with the same company since graduating – first as a floating vet, then in a practice and now as a partner at a two-vet practice in Hampstead Garden Suburb.
He added: “There are several reasons for me staying in my first job, and one is I’ve been able to advance my career while maintaining my religious commitments.
“When I was studying I was aware that meeting the needs of my religion and the demands of a job as a veterinarian was always going to be a challenge. As a practising Jew I have numerous guidelines, which I live by. One of these is to observe the Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, as well as other festivals during the year. On these days I do not drive or use electricity, which naturally affects my ability to do my job. I don’t ever work on Friday afternoons or Saturdays.”
This means Jeremy is able to fulfil his commitments to his faith, go to the synagogue and spend the Jewish Sabbath with family and friends.
“Despite Saturday work being common for vets, there has never been the slightest issue about my not working on Saturdays either as a student at the RVC or in my current job.
“We’re a big team of vets – that means we have the capacity to support each other clinically and professionally and the result is we can accommodate needs such as mine. I am grateful, because it’s meant I haven’t had to compromise.”
Since graduating, Jeremy has obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in Small Animal Medicine from the European School of Veterinary Postgraduate Studies and been able to take time off work to attend courses and seminars in clinical pathology, internal medicine and endocrinology.
He added: “It was hard work, but worth it. Even though I was beginning to feel confident in my abilities at that time, it’s difficult to get an objective sense of exactly how well you are doing. I wanted some kind of external gauge. These postgraduate studies confirmed my belief we are working to the highest standards. I am privileged to work in an area of London with clients who are keen to reach definitive diagnoses. This means we can work cases up and that’s a great source of job satisfaction.
“I have a young family and, like most vets, I work long hours. It can be difficult to balance the various parts of my life (I have a very recent addition to my family), but I feel particularly lucky because I love my work and I have a fulfilling life outside work. In the future I would like to study for an internal medicine certificate from the RCVS, but I might have to wait until my young children are a bit older to find the time to do that.”