Simon Maddock: Mentor and Clinical Director


Simon Maddock has been the Clinical Director at The Cat and Rabbit Care Clinic in Northampton for 23 years! It was only within the last 4 years that he decided to expand and take on new graduates. In this Q&A session, we learn about his experience within the Animal Care industry as well as the importance of apprenticeships.

What is your name, and job title?

I am Simon Maddock, the Clinical Director here at The Cat and Rabbit Care Clinic.

Do you mentor any of the apprentices?

Yes, I do, and I have been mentoring graduates for about three years now.

How do you find mentoring?

Great, because for a long time, I worked on my own and a little with my wife, so we have been with The Cat and Rabbit Care Clinic for 23 years now. It was about three or four years ago that we decided to expand and take on new graduates.

What makes a good mentor?

I think a lot of it for us is the shadowing aspect, whether it's me or my mentor consulting. We operate together so that there is always someone else present to keep an eye on and help the mentor. We have a good work ethic, great communication, and a strong relationship with our clients. You must listen to your student's concerns and go through them to find a resolution.

All the mentoring we do provides an informal approach, and our focus is more on coaching whereas in the past especially at university it’s all graded and assessed. However, the way they are now doing the post-graduate Veterinary education has a lot more academic support and no scoring. Yet, they each have a bar for vetting they must do, and this moves along as they work with different species and build experiences. The goal for them within a year is to be at the point where they can work independently.

The apprenticeship route is a lot more organic as it is just engaging them in what we do all the time, but knowing there is someone there who can step in if need be.

The process we use for shadowing is they watch what we do, get a feel of consultations, see surgeries, and then eventually go on to work independently.

Do you think the apprenticeship route is the best way for those coming from school?

For nursing, it works very well and this fits into two categories. The first is theoretical degree-based nursing or you are at college working as a Veterinary Nurse. With that, you can go from A-Levels to university and complete a nursing degree. On the other hand, you can complete a classic apprenticeship where you have a day's release to college and for the rest of the time.

Though the Veterinary Surgeon side is very fixed, you need a Veterinary degree which must be through A-Levels, and then at the university, there is no apprenticeship side.

Do you think there needs to be an improvement in school settings to encourage more to the industry?

Possibly, I think from the vet’s point of view it is difficult because the degree is very popular. They need an increase in places offered as this is the reason why we are short of vets. There are not enough universities places and not able to retain enough young vets once qualified.

We are very lucky that our degree leads to a direct job!

What methods do you use when dealing with difficult situations?

We must be available and try to build up a repour from the beginning as this helps the students to know we are here to help. We are open and have no judgment at all as there will be times when mistakes happen. We hope our students will be confident and comfortable enough to come to us. Most of our role is to always support them and sometimes it can help to look at different ways and perspectives for effective solutions.

What has made you stay in this industry?

I enjoy the job thoroughly even though it can be stressful to start with! When I started my journey in the animal industry, we had no formal support besides the more experienced vets and practice partners. This has improved a lot now, I was lucky I got through my first job where it was very busy, and we did out-of-hours work with a whole range of animals. My wife is also a vet, so I think that the understanding and support we give each other has helped quite a lot.

Once you start to build up experience and get past the stressful side it does get easier! I enjoy the work, I love the variation, and each day is different. We get to be dentists, surgeons, medics, and do a whole range and there are not many jobs that will allow you to do that.