Standing out in the crowd – how my journey to Advanced Practitioner Status opened up new opportunities and instilled a passion for career development

Dr. Magdalena (Maggie) Doherty qualified from the Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences in Poland in 2003.  Moving to the UK (and having learned English), she worked in small animal practice for ten years before deciding that she wanted to work towards RCVS Advanced Practitioner status.  “I felt it was time to set out a structured plan to achieve this qualification as clear recognition of the skills and attributes that a veterinary surgeon has developed during their career,” she explains.

As she was, by this stage, running two clinics, working as a Zumba instructor, and had three young children, she enrolled with global veterinary CPD specialist Improve International to undertake its General Practitioner Certificate (GPCert) and Postgraduate Certificate (PgC) in Small Animal Medicine.  “I felt that the modular training structure it offered would be a good fit with my workload and the content linked very well to my daily experience in practice,” she says.  “The mix of training methods was another attraction as it seemed to support all styles of learning.”

Having finished the programme and the additional assessments required to complete the PgC, Maggie was supported by her dedicated Programme Tutor in preparing for her exams, which were set by Improve International’s assessment partners, the International School of Veterinary Postgraduate Studies (ISVPS), with Harper Adams University, which provides the higher education body quality assurance. She passed!

“I was over the moon when I heard I had successfully completed the course and gained all of the qualifications necessary to apply for Advanced Practitioner status.”

To achieve Advanced Practitioner status, as well as the additional qualifications, individuals are also required to demonstrate a commitment to CPD, that is over and above the minimum threshold.  Support and recommendations from veterinary colleagues and peers also add weight to an application.  Maggie passed on her first attempt and was admitted to the Advanced Practitioner register in March 2021.

“Achieving Advanced Practitioner status is definitely a marathon, not a sprint,” she says.  “It took me five years in all and, at times, it was grueling and a very hard slog.  But I kept going and I know that the journey has significantly enhanced my skills and knowledge.

“And, once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. Before I knew it, I’d enrolled for my second Postgraduate Certificate programme with Improve International – this time the topic was Emergency and Critical Care!”

She adds: “There are 30,000 veterinary surgeons in the UK and fewer than 1,000 of them are Advanced Practitioners. I feel that this status is a confirmation of my commitment to being the best I can be to both colleagues and clients.

“Becoming an Advanced Practitioner has also opened up new opportunities – in fact, I will be joining a new multi-centre veterinary practice shortly – and it has introduced me to some great new friends and colleagues.  It’s a tough journey and it may not be for everyone but I thoroughly recommend it.”


Dr Magdalena Doherty

DVM MRCVS PgC GP CERT (SAM) Advanced Practitioner

Small Animal Medicine Delegate