Andreas Manousoudakis DVM is a First Lieutenant in the Hellenic Air Force, where part of his role is to care for military working dogs. He also works part-time in veterinary clinics in Greece. He travelled regularly from his home to study for our PgC in Small Animal Surgery between 2015 and 2017. Here’s his story.
I wanted to embark on further study in order to offer a higher standard of care to my patients but, in Greece, I could only complete a postgraduate qualification by studying full-time at one of only two veterinary schools in the country. This would have required me both to leave my job and to move house! Having done some research and spoken to past delegates, I decided instead to study for a two-year Postgraduate Certificate (PgC) in Small Animal Surgery with Improve International.
I spent the first three months trying to find a balance between my monthly visits to the UK to attend the programme sessions, studying, working and having a personal life. It wasn’t easy but I received great support from my tutors and mentors. For instance, as English is not my first language, they sourced textbooks to help me to get up to speed with English veterinary terminology.
Once I’d settled into a routine, I relished the new knowledge I was absorbing, as well as the practical surgery skills I was learning. The tutors were excellent and worked hard to provide a balance between the theory in lectures and developing our practical skills in the excellent practical sessions. By the end of every module, I was confident and felt that my knowledge had increased. Improve’s online virtual learning environment, Moodle, was very useful because of the range of tools it offers to support the learning process. I used it to discuss topics with my fellow delegates and tutors; to receive feedback on case reports and to stay up to date with reading resources and advice from tutors.
There’s no doubt that the programme is challenging, especially when you are working full-time, but I planned my time carefully and my colleagues and family were supportive. By the end of the second year, I could feel much greater fluency in my surgery and my confidence and knowledge had both increased significantly. In practice, I was undertaking surgical cases which would previously have been assigned to another colleague or referred and I was able to provide support to my team and share my knowledge with colleagues.
Many of the new techniques I have learned have enabled me to increase the standard of care I offer. As an example, we see many wounds with dehiscence a common complication. Until recently, we left many of these to heal by second intention but, now that I am familiar with techniques for wound closure, especially flaps and skin grafting techniques, I can deal with cases that, prior to the programme, had seemed untreatable. Techniques I have learned for gastropexy and spleen surgery techniques have been also helpful as they have reduced my surgery time and made me more confident in treating dogs with Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV).
Overall, the programme exceeded my expectations. It has certainly improved the care I provide to my patients but it has also helped my practices to become more profitable because we are now undertaking many more surgical cases. We are also managing our medical supplies more cost-effectively, reducing the time our patients need to be hospitalised and increasing client satisfaction.
I thoroughly recommend this programme and would advise any colleague thinking of starting the programme to go for it. It is a great opportunity to continue your journey in veterinary medicine. Personally, I am very keen to continue my studies so will shortly be undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma programme in Emergency and Critical Care with Improve.