Life as a farm vet with autism

In some ways the life of a farm vet is inherently compatible with an autism diagnosis especially when you measure it to all existing stereotypes – farmers are reclusive and introverted, a vet’s life is quite solitary and lots of time is spent in the car or out with the cows with a good animal to human ratio and we get to be inherently pragmatic in our views!  Perfect, I hear you cry!  If only it were that simple, autism was so simple to define, we all conformed to that stereotypical presentation, etc!

The reality, like everything in life, is somewhere in the middle – there’s lots of positives with being autistic and its definitely possible to carve an awesome career as a farm vet within that, but clearly there will always be challenges!  After all, challenges in life are not a novel concept!

The advantages of neurodiversity

Being neurodivergent has almost certainly been an asset in my career, well, that and my long arms!  I take it as a personal affront if I run out of arm trying to correct a head or leg back!  However, there were definitely times in my early career, and to an extent now, where I wish I could just be normal, blend in with the group, see things exactly as they see them, not worry so much about all things I did or may have got wrong – I could go on, I’m sure you take my point.

So, the advantages – this list is not exhaustive but hopefully these give some insight into working with the neurodivergent (ND) individual that they do bring stuff to the team / reassurance to the ND individual that you are valuable.

  • I definitely see things from a different perspective, and to me I often feel I can have clarity of thought and quite a clear plan when others don’t appear to. Sometimes I’m sure that comes across as Emily has thrown a complete curveball and I’m sure many think I am totally mad, but at least I bring something different to the table.
  • I’m meticulous about what I do – I’ll work hard and do whatever it takes to get something done. When I want to see a job through, I often have seemingly endless energy and concentration.
  • The perfectionism means I’m quite detail orientated but I do think I see the bigger picture as well which means I can do logistics and can plan things.
  • I have a good memory – I usually remember what and when something has been said and that means I get things done. Not always, but I’m pretty good.
  • I’m honest – sometimes too honest, but at least you know I’ll give you a straight answer!!
  • In terms of being a farm vet, this often means I thrive on the routine visits and feel that you can definitely have too much excitement in a day with emergency calls! I actually really enjoy TB testing (except finding reactors- no one loves that), dairy routines, bloods, health planning and really don’t mind then coming back to the office to do the paperwork it generates. I know that doesn’t always make me the most normal of farm vets, but it makes me a happy one!

But my negatives – we all have them and I hope I’m relatively self-aware about them.

  • I’m a worrier – all I want to do is get things right and fit in. Therefore, I worry all the time.  I’m sure plenty just roll their eyes and say I’m needy and insecure.  I probably am but it comes from a place of trying desperately hard to be perfect and, more importantly, not let you down!
  • That need to get things right comes across as pedantic. I try to leave things be, so as not to cause offence, – sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.
  • I will shut down when I feel overwhelmed and that can lead to me procrastinating with jobs I struggle with and the more I’m pressured to articulate what I’m thinking, the less I will be able to think and I’m sure that’s unbelievably frustrating for people around me.
  • I do get very anxious in unknown situations and when I am not sure where the goalposts are. I can mask most of the time, but the façade sometimes fails!

Clearly this list is far from exhaustive, but I hope it highlights some of the highs and lows and actually how the same behaviours can very much be a plus and minus!  For example, just remember when my extreme perfectionism is annoying you (which invariably at times it will), it is the bit that is driving me to work incredibly hard and get all those little jobs done that you’d probably forgotten about or would rather not do and I just can’t not address.

Emily Craven MRCVS



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