Samantha Bradshaw RVN

Who is your current employer and what do they do?
Cromwell Veterinary Group – Small animal veterinary practice.
VetSkill – Awarding body – Self-employed OSCE examiner for Central Qualifications, City and Guilds and College of Animal Welfare.

What is your job title and what does the job entail?
Student and Training Coordinator and RVN at CVG. I look after all the student veterinary nurses and support the clinical coaches. I select the diploma students we employ and choose which degree students we have on placement.  I organise training and CPD for vets and nurses. I also work weekend shifts as an RVN.

How did you achieve your current position?
Following maternity leave, I was unable to work the required nursing shifts due to available childcare. I actually went in for a few hours to help the practice prepare for our RCVS practice standards inspection in October 2015. It was decided then there was a need for someone to organise internal training and so my hours were made permanent. I then took on the student coordinator role last September following resignation of our head nurse who had previously done this. I was awarded the RCVS Veterinary Nursing Examiner qualification in 2008 and have continued to examine on an ad hoc basis.

What do you enjoy about your job
Varied work! I enjoy the mix of nursing, organising, training and examining. Most importantly it fits around my family as a work/life balance is really important to me. I feel I’m fully focused at work as I’m part time. I work school hours so I am there for my daughter and my days are flexible so I don’t miss sports day, dance shows etc. I am also able to do some work from home.

What are the challenging aspects about your job?
Fitting my work into the hours available. I have to be really organised and focused to get everything done at work when I’m there. Making sure I reply to colleagues in a timely manner.

What are your plans for the future?
To continue the same. I’m really lucky to have a role that fits around my daughter and family life. I’m not yet ready to give up nursing completely so I will continue to work the odd weekend shift.

What other qualifications do you hold?
D32/D33 Assessor
Clinical Coach
RCVS Examiner

What key piece of advice would you give to anyone wishing to follow a similar career path?
I think the role I have is suited to a large practice where there are numerous students, vets, nurses and clinical coaches. I was able to prove the need for the role so I would recommend if you see something similar working in your practice then to do the same. I started by keeping schedules of equipment training and organising CPD events when gaps in knowledge were visible.

Claire Speight RVN

Claire Speight RVN

What is your current position and what does your job entail?
I am a Head Nurse at Kettering Vets4Pets. My job entails liaising with the JVPs of the practice to ensure the highest possible standards of care for every patient. I ensure the practice is fully equipped with medications and supplies, ensure the equipment is working properly and serviced according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Day-to-day I manage the prep area to make sure the work flow is kept moving and all the everyday tasks are completed. I manage the nurse rotas, holidays and CPD and act as a go-to for all the nurses in my team.

As well as working in practice, I regularly lecture to veterinary nurses, students and members of the public on my area of interest; rabbit medicine and surgery to raise the standards of care for rabbit patients and the knowledge base, to help further the correct care for rabbits, both in practice and by their owners.

How did you achieve your current position?
I was employed as a Senior Nurse 4 years ago, and became Head Nurse a couple of years later. My lecturing and feature writing has increased year-on-year over the last 10 years.

What do you enjoy about your job?
Working with the best team and all the lovely animals and clients we meet every day. Each day is different – you just never know what will walk through the door. When you have been involved in a case and watching the patient reunited with their owner, knowing you have helped to achieve that. I love meeting people who are passionate about improving rabbit care and the information shared will go on to help improve rabbits’ lives.

What are the challenges of your role?
Time…there is just never enough time. I could fill 26 hours a day at times!

The public perspective of vets and nurses…we don’t do our job for the money but we do deserve to earn a fair wage. There is so much misunderstanding about what vet nurses actually do.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to stay as a Head Nurse in my current practice and to continue to lecture. Over the last few years this has increased dramatically as the need for information on rabbits has increased.

What are your other qualifications?
I am an A1 Assessor and Clinical Coach so I also train students in practice and oversee the other Clinical Coaches at the practice.

Ten years ago I also undertook and gained the City and Guilds Nursing Exotics Certificate.

What key piece of advice would you give to anyone wishing to follow a similar career path?
Be prepared for long hours, less than average pay and to work extremely hard…but vet nursing is a passion not a job and having your RVN qualification opens doors to other careers.

Samantha Thompson RVN

Samantha Thompson RVN

What is your current position?
I am the Clinical Services Manager at North Downs Specialist Referrals, a multi-disciplinary hospital in Surrey. My day-to-day role includes:

• Running the Morbidity and Mortality meetings
• Conducting Audits
• Reviewing and writing SOPs
• Developing the Induction Program
• Supporting new joiners
• Supporting student nurses
• Maintaining our TP status
• Organising internal and external CPD

Tell us how you got to your current position?
I was Wards Supervisor when our practice went through the Practice Standards Scheme, and developed a lot of the protocols and worked closely with Senior Management to ensure everything was completed. On the inspection day I was also required to spend quite a lot of time with the inspectors which was noted and picked up on by Senior Management. At the same time as this we had expanded our nursing team and I developed their induction programs and worked on integrating them into the hospital.

My job title no longer reflected my role, so we did some digging into the human world and Clinical Services Manager summed up what I do now.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy seeing new joiners gain their confidence and become part of the team. I’m also hugely excited about our nurse training program and look forward to seeing our students thrive.

I also love conducting clinical audits, plus reviewing how a change we’ve made has improved patient care.

What are the challenging aspects about your job?
I run the Morbidity and Mortality meetings as well as reviewing patient errors. This can be challenging as we always want to be perfect. We sometimes then have to implement change which can be challenging too.

I’m also hands off and I do really miss aspects of clinical work.

What are your plans for the future?
To continue to develop our nursing team at North Downs, especially our student nurses. To keep pushing our standards and ensuring we are striving for gold standard.

Long term I still see me doing my role at North Downs, but I’d love to get back into writing and delivering lectures. As well as working on my personal project, Evolution VN.

What other qualifications do you hold?
I have a Graduate Diploma in Professional and Clinical Nursing from the RVC. I have a Certificate of Veterinary Nursing in Emergency and Critical Care, plus I have a Diploma in Education and Training as well as a TAQA Award.

What key piece of advice would you give to anyone wishing to follow a similar career path?
Be open to new ideas, have a growth a mindset. Never settle for ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ and look for ways to push the profession forward.

Carl Rudkin RVN

Carl Rudkin RVN

What is your current position?
I am an Oncology Nurse at Davies Veterinary Specialists, a veterinary referral hospital. My job entails looking after patients in a multi disciplinary referral centre, focusing on patients requiring chemotherapy and palliative care. I’m responsible for placing oncology catheters, and administering chemotherapy agents, as well as advising the Ward’s nurses on the inpatient care required. I liaise with clients on their pets’ ongoing care and treatment.

Tell us how you got to your current position?
I started training in a mixed practice, before moving up to a bigger general practice with orthopaedic referral. I then moved to AHT in Suffolk and worked for seven years in a referral hospital, acting as maternity cover for the Oncology Nurse. Four and a half years ago I moved to Davies and applied for the Oncology Nurse position when it became available.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy being involved in a highly specialised area of the veterinary industry and giving patients prolonged quality of life. I enjoy developing relationships with the clients of long-term patients and providing them with support as well as a familiar face.

What are the challenging aspects about your job?
One challenging aspect is helping clients through a really difficult process and ensuring they understand that we are always trying to do the best thing for their pet, even when it isn’t what they wanted to hear.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue to assist with the development of the Oncology team and promote Oncology and palliative care across a greater range of practices.

What other qualifications do you hold?
I have a GradDipVN from the RVC.

What key piece of advice would you give to anyone wishing to follow a similar career path?
Attend Oncology and palliative care specific CPD and look to move to practices with a current Oncology programme.

Lance Corporal Lucy Hennessy RVN

What can you tell us about your role?
Being an RVN in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC) offers a unique opportunity to work with military working animals, in particular dogs and horses.

My daily routine includes nursing inpatients, assisting the Veterinary Officer with surgical and medical procedures, running and organising clinics, dispensing medications and supportive treatments, completing routine paperwork and ensuring patient records are maintained and up to date. In addition, I have the opportunity to assist trainee Veterinary Technicians as a Clinical Coach.

Alongside this daily routine, I perform certain military tasks expected of a soldier. These include regular fitness sessions and participating in military drills, exercises and the opportunity to test my RVN skills in the field.

This is a job where every day I have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.

How did you achieve your current position?
I gained my VN qualification at Harper Adams University College where I completed both the Foundation Degree in Veterinary Nursing and the Bachelor of Science Degree in Veterinary Nursing. I then worked in a small animal practice for several years before I felt that I needed to do something new. I wanted my abilities to be a part of something important but I wanted to learn new skills at the same time. I didn’t want routine but challenge; and, most importantly of all, I wanted to do something that not many other veterinary nurses did!

After much searching and debating about overseas travel, I happened upon the Army website. I had no idea the Army employed veterinary nurses, or that it was even a military role. I applied and was accepted.

After completing basic training and initial trade training I began work in my role as a veterinary technician. I started out as a Private but after working hard, and having had the opportunity to undertake courses to gain further qualifications, I was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal. The Army is a great place to learn. There is a wide range of courses available and many of them are free or fully/part funded. I have undertaken the following courses:

  • Patrol Dog Handler course, which I completed as part of my Phase 2 training and which gave me the skills for handling military working dogs.
  • Radiation Protection Supervisor course, which gives me the responsibility of ensuring radiation health and safety protocols are followed. I ensure quality assurance checks are performed and recorded and that Dosimeter badges are regularly sent for testing.
  • Defence Train the Trainer course, which I completed when I was given the role of Training Corporal. This qualification equates to a recognised civilian qualification and is required by individuals in an instructor position. I am currently giving veterinary lectures to dog handlers and assisting trainee veterinary technicians with their Nursing Progress Log (NPL) as a clinical coach.
  • Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) course, which I am hoping to undertake in the near future.

What do you enjoy about your job?
For me, it’s the variation. Not only am I a veterinary technician, but I am also a soldier. As a veterinary nurse, I have the opportunity to continue my profession, learn new skills and practice them in a challenging environment. As a soldier I practice discipline, learn military-based skills, such as weapon handling, and have the opportunity to travel to different locations where I continue learning and developing both my veterinary and military skills.

What are the challenges of your role?
The most challenging aspect is adapting to the military way of life. This can be difficult at times but I have always had the support of my family and friends, fellow veterinary technicians and civil servants.

Most people find traveling the most distressing aspect of military life, moving to a new location and leaving family and loved ones behind. I personally see this as an opportunity to meet new people, live somewhere new and work in another challenging environment.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to stay in the army as a veterinary technician for the foreseeable future. I hope to move up the ranks as my career progresses and grow in my role as a veterinary technician. I hope to share my knowledge with others to provide the best care and treatment to military working animals. In addition I aim to continue to learn new skills both in veterinary nursing and as a soldier of the RAVC by undertaking more courses; in particular, I hope to undertake courses that reflect my interest in advanced veterinary nursing and veterinary rehabilitation and physiotherapy.

Susan Howarth RVN

What is your job title and what does the job entail?
I am the Programme Manager for the veterinary nursing course that we offer, which includes the license to practice BSc (Hons) degrees in veterinary nursing, the RCVS DipAVN and postgraduate veterinary nursing courses ranging from certificates to MSc.

My job involves recruitment of students and the development and quality assurance of courses and content, as well as teaching and assessment of students across the range of courses.

Stuart Ford-Fennah RVN

Who is your current employer and what do they do?
I am employed by Cave Veterinary Specialists a multidisciplinary veterinary referral centre in Somerset. As a centre we only see referral level patients in multiple disciplines which include medicine, oncology, soft tissue surgery, orthopaedics, neurology, cardiology and dermatology. These primary areas are then supported by specialists in anaesthesia and diagnostics. Our dedicated nursing team provide a high level of nursing care to these patients 24/7/365.

What is your job title and what does the job entail?
My current position as Clinical Manager is a very diverse role, which includes both clinical and management components. It essentially developed from my previous role in the organisation as Head Nurse; as the organisation developed, it was necessary to step more into managerial role instead of being on the clinic floor. The clinical aspect of my position these days involves obtaining images on our CT and MRI scanners as well as facilitating clinical training for our nurses and animal care assistants.

My managerial role covers many aspects including HR, developing and reviewing standard operating procedures with the nursing team and clinicians, health and safety management, procurement and repairs of equipment, and decision making on clinical products, to name a few. These activities, among others, ensure there are controls and measures in place to ensure clinics continue to run smoothly and we can provide the best care to our patients. I will also assist the directors in other strategic areas of the business, which may include marketing and financial planning. The position is very diverse and allows me to use a lot of my clinical and nursing knowledge alongside my management skills to facilitate the clinical environment, so as a hospital we can provide excellent care to our patients and pet owners.

How did you achieve your current position?
My current position has taken a long time and many hours of work, study and perseverance! I started my career working with animals whilst still at school where I worked at an animal rescue centre, this was during my GCSEs and A-Levels. I also worked on farms assisting with seasonal lambing and calving during my school years. I then went on to complete my degree at the University of Bristol in Veterinary Nursing and Practice Administration.

Whilst at university I acquired a vast and diverse amount of experience in many practice types from small mixed practices, small animal hospitals to large multidiscipline referral centres. Once I completed my degree I was offered a position in my main foster practice – a small animal hospital – where I was able to work on and develop my clinical skills and develop a keen interest in anaesthesia and medicine (intensive care and oncology). I also taught anaesthesia and medicine at the local veterinary nurse training college.

I was then offered the opportunity to start professional writing and wrote my first book review and took on my first mainstream book chapter with an experienced author. I became senior nurse at this hospital and was subsequently offered a position with Cave Veterinary Specialists – a new independent start-up referral centre as Head Veterinary Nurse. The position had a very broad description and the organisation grew rapidly. As the organisation matured my role as Head Nurse leant more toward management.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I love the variation in my position. I can be diagnosing faults with equipment one minute then managing a building expansion project or obtaining images from the MRI or CT scanners the next. Although I have a lot of off-clinic time, I am still very much in touch with the clinical aspect of the hospital and, as a veterinary nurse, I think it’s important to maintain this as ultimately all the management things I do are to facilitate and improve the care we give to our patients.

I also spend a lot of time discussing issues with my colleagues and we have very integrated approach to discussion and decision making and a great team collaborative approach to problem solving. I really enjoy working as part of a team and working with people who share the same views on high levels of patient and owner care.

What are the challenging aspects about your job?
Time is a hard thing to have enough of and in a busy hospital there are many demands on time, as well as having a family life and studying. Fitting it all into a normal day is the biggest challenge I face at work.

What are your plans for the future?
I am currently focusing on completing my Masters in Business Administration with a view to developing my management skills. I am also keen to write more for journals and to help support other nurses with this in my practice.

What other qualifications do you hold?
NVQ Lvl3 Veterinary Nursing, BSc(Hons) in Veterinary nursing and practice administration for the university of Bristol, C-SQP, NEBOSH CertOccH&S (NEBOSHH certificate in occupational health and safety), AIOSH (Associate member of the Institute of occupational safety and health), Dip Mgmt (professional diploma in management should be awarded by the end of October

Nimisha Patel RVN

Who is your current employer and what do they do?
My current employer is Highcroft Vet Group. We have 13 branches across the South West and run a general practice as well as referrals in Whitchurch.

What is your job title and what does the job entail?
I work as a registered veterinary nurse in a referral practice. I could be running a ward of patients, dogs, cats or exotics to ensure they get their medications and the care they need. I may also oversee the surgeries for the day, ensure everything is ready in a theatre, including equipment, and then prepare and monitor the anaesthetic for each procedure.

How did you achieve your current position?  
I completed 8-10 weeks of work experience over a year, in the UK and abroad, before I started my BSc in Veterinary Nursing and Bioveterinary Science at the University of Bristol. I then worked at Langford Veterinary Services, before moving to my current employer.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the medical nursing part of my job, preparing medications, simple and complex. I enjoy the tender love and care we give to patients, which is often what they need alongside their medical care.

What are the challenging aspects of your role?
The challenging aspects of the job for me was making the transition from being a student and becoming confident in my skills as a veterinary nurse, not just the practical skills but the ward management, people skills and other roles we have.

What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future include continuing representation of registered and student veterinary nurses with the British Veterinary Nursing Association and British Association of Veterinary Nursing Students, and my skills as a veterinary nurse in practice.

What other qualifications do you have?
I have been a member of BVNA Council since I qualified in 2015, entering my third term this year and hope to continue my specialism in the future, but I am most passionate about the profession as a whole and representation for veterinary nurses in the future.

Hayley Walters RVN

What is your current position?
I am the Welfare and Anaesthesia Nurse at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and have been for over five years. I work in the Anaesthesia Department of our small animal teaching hospital helping to teach final-year vet students the importance of a well-thought-out anaesthetic and analgesia plan, and how that impacts on the animal’s welfare.

We are a unique vet school, as we have an international animal welfare department, meaning I teach veterinary lecturers and veterinary students in developing nations such as India and Sri Lanka. Subjects such as small animal pain recognition, nursing, anaesthesia, behaviour and handling are all taught, as we have often found that these subjects can be overlooked in many vet schools where large animal work has been the priority for so many years.

Tell us how you got to your current position?
I achieved my Welfare and Anaesthesia Nurse position by responding to a job advert posted by the University of Edinburgh that seemed too good to be true. They were looking for a VN who had experience in anaesthesia, working in a referral centre, teaching and Asia. I had worked in China and Vietnam for over three years as a VN for a charity called Animals Asia, rescuing bears from the bile-farming industry and rehabilitating them into semi-natural enclosures after extensive treatment. I had spent a year in Paris teaching English, had worked in a referral centre and completed a lot of anaesthesia CPD. I had been hoping to get a job that would put my knowledge of Asia and teaching to good use and couldn’t believe my luck when I read the advert!

What do you enjoy most about your work?
What I enjoy most about my job is teaching a student, whether it be in Sri Lanka, India, China or Edinburgh, who is passionate about doing the very best they can to improve their patient’s experience. A student that just ‘gets it’.

Animals are very often frightened, lonely and confused when they are in with us and I think that can be forgotten sometimes. They get broken down to their biological needs, or their condition, or their surgery, and their emotional wellbeing gets overlooked. I love it when a student, even with very limited resources, provides everything their patient needs, including love, because they understand it from the animal’s perspective. These are the students who give me hope that the future of the veterinary profession is in good hands.

What do you find most challenging about your work?
What I find most challenging about my job is working with vets or nurses who are not open to education or change. I’ve seen patients moving during surgery under inappropriate anaesthesia and not receiving adequate pain relief before, during, or after surgery.

This problem is not exclusive to Asian countries and, even with the UK’s drug availability, I still know that a lack of adequate analgesia is rife in our practices.

Educating people is only part of the answer. We have to make sure they have the capability, opportunity and motivation to change.

What are your future plans?
My plans for the future are a little vague at the moment as I have just had a baby and I am on maternity leave. My two major projects, setting up a VN training course in a vet school in Sri Lanka and India, and creating an online VN skills course targeted at countries who don’t currently have VNs, are now in the very capable hands of my maternity cover, Jess Davies, for the next year.

What are your other qualifications?
I have a VN merit award in anaesthesia and analgesia and I did a TEFL course to be able to teach English in Paris.