Ten Reasons why my Colleagues are the Absolute best
Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month
Column by Alice Clark RVN
Over the last decade or so, the role of veterinary nurses has developed into a bona fide profession. The Royal Charter makes us official associate members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, we are held accountable for our actions, we have a disciplinary committee and we must undertake a specific number of hours of Continuing Professional Development.
Whilst these developments have been celebrated within the profession, the public remains fairly uninformed about the term ‘registered veterinary nurse’. As a result, the British Association of Veterinary Nursing has introduced May as Annual Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month. Whilst I’m very proud to call myself a registered veterinary nurse, I’m even more proud to know the nurses I have worked with, these are just a few of the reasons why.
They will offer words of love and reassurance even when the patient is trying to kill them. They know that our patients are often ill, in pain or just terrified and (most) don’t mean to use their teeth and claws. Even if those teeth or claws do end up meeting skin, there’s always swift forgiveness and no grudges held. Plus they’ll always insist that they are fine to carry on working, even when they’re dripping blood across the kennel room or their hand swells to twice it’s usual size.
They’ll kindly wipe blood/faeces/urine off you when you’re hands are too full to do it yourself. When the intravenous cannula is in the vein but not secured, or there’s no way you can take a hand of the patient, a sympathetic nurse will probably stop whatever they’re doing just so they can rescue you. Plus, even if there are no extra pairs of hands around, veterinary nurses have super strong stomachs; so can (most of the time) forget about the gross thing that’s splattered on their face until a suitable time comes when they can remove it themselves.
They know how to make you laugh when you need it. With so many ups and downs within veterinary practice, there are times where you don’t feel your best. With a number of colleagues who I’m sure could have successful careers as comedians and all of them willing to look or sound as ridiculous as possible, it won’t be long before you crack a smile.
They’ll treat animals as they would like their own to be treated in those final moments. Even though they experience euthanasia regularly, they never lack care or compassion. Sometimes owners find it too difficult to stay with their pet during those last few moments, or patients don’t have a family of their own to say goodbye. So especially when there’s no one else there for that final cuddle, nurses will offer their laps, kisses and tears to make sure any animal feels loved and happy as they fall asleep.
They can work a whole shift without a break, if they’re too busy to take one. Whilst they’ll demolish a gifted box of biscuits or chocolates within minutes (with the rest of the team’s help of course), they can easily ignore their rumbling stomachs when there are more important things to be done, whether that’s because they’re in theatre, dealing with an emergency or just because a patient needs some extra love and reassurance.
They all know how to give the best tummy rubs, nose kisses and ear scratches. Even when they’re super busy and have a long list of tasks to complete, they won’t do so at the expense of showing the patients some TLC. A lot of patients, especially those who are hospitalised long-term, can start showing symptoms of depression. Veterinary nurses are able to get to know these patient’s likes and dislikes and will happily indulge them, whether that’s by hand feeding every meal, tempting their appetites with a selection of foods or carefully grooming them.
They have bladders of steel. When you’re monitoring an anaesthetic, recovering a woozy patient or taking all of the dogs outside you kind of forget about your own very full bladder. The patients always come first!
They have a diverse set of skills. They are anaesthetists, radiographers, theatre assistants and scrub nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, cleaners, phlebotomists, friends, dental hygienists, physical therapists, midwives, surrogates, teachers, groomers, nutritionists, receptionists, can perform minor surgery, help the pain go away, be a reassuring voice on the end of the phone or a shoulder to cry on. Many people do not understand just how many things veterinary nurses are capable of because much of their work is ‘behind the scenes’.
They are determined. Starting right from the beginning. Working full time, studying, writing assignments and saving lives – pretty tough, right? Whilst I’ve been through the training, the luxury of no longer juggling work and study wore off pretty quickly. Our trainee nurses remind me of how determined they are every day (usually by studying during their lunch break whilst I kick off my Crocs and watch daytime television)!
It goes without saying that they are incredibly hard working. They often have to work extra hours to deal with emergencies, or even just help clean after a stupidly busy day. They’ll still text you on a day off just to check how a patient they were looking after the day before is getting on. Veterinary nursing isn’t ‘just’ a job.