Matthew O’Donnell


A day in the life of a Veterinary Surgeon

We talk to Matthew O’Donnell, specialist veterinary surgeon, to find out what the daily routine of an equine vetinvolves.

What are your working hours?

7am until late, particularly if I am on call.

What does your average day entail?

First I call into the office, look at the day’s diary and pack the equipment I need. First calls would involve racehorses on the gallops, giving them medicines or watching them during their work. I would then go back to the office, plan the rest of the morning with my colleagues, and that would involve several further phone calls, organizing diaries, ordering medicines and collecting and restocking my car with the right things for the day. I would then go out on some visits until lunchtime. In the afternoon’s I’m often involved with operations on horses that may take 2 or 3 hours.

What are your key tasks?

Diagnosing and treating ailments and injuries, being on call, working with clients, building the business, responding to change.

Why did you get into veterinary science?

I was always interested in animals, particularly horses, and science.

 What skills do you need?

Patience, diligence, commitment, analytical and problem solving skills.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

It’s a tremendously rewarding career. Making a difference to an animal, which allows it to be performing at its best, is one of the most rewarding things. When the rest of the horse is fine, there’s nothing wrong with the rest of the animal, it’s just one little bit that can sometimes be badly broken and unfortunately we can’t replace it – and that can lead to a sense of loss.

What advice do you have for someone considering a career in veterinary science?

I think it is very important to check what the academic entry requirements universities demand and then work hard towards those. Alongside that must come a strong element of work experience.