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

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