Recognising the crucial role of the district veterinary nurse
What is a district veterinary nurse?
In medical terms, a district nurse visits people at home, providing patient care and support for family members. As a district vet nurse, I do the same for animals and their owners. I get referrals from vets to visit clients who need help managing the care of their pets.
My community nursing rounds vary. One day I might have three patients that need medicines every 12 hours, which means starting early in order to get finished in reasonable time, or I may be visiting patients that need tube feeding five times a day. Other common treatments include wound checks and redressing, managing blood glucose curves, measuring blood pressure or doing postoperative checks, administering eye drops or providing palliative care – it’s a busy job.
I also teach pet owners aspects of basic healthcare and care-giving.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Without doubt, the best thing about my job is protecting the human-animal bond. Helping owners who are struggling to cope with the nursing care their pet needs, so that neither the patient nor the owner get distressed is the most rewarding job in the world.
What skills do you need?
The most important skill is the ability to listen. This is more than carefully listening to what the owner is saying, it also means observing their pet to understand its needs.
Have you had a career highlight?
Many – the greatest is knowing that community nursing can extend life by helping owners over the initial hurdles that are involved in putting prescribed treatments in place.
"The best thing about my job is protecting the human-animal bond"
A good example of this was when I assisted an elderly lady with her diabetic cat, which went into remission within 10 weeks of diagnosis. The vet felt this cat would otherwise have faced euthanasia; two years on, it’s doing well.
How did your role develop?
I’ve always believed that veterinary nursing care should extend beyond the walls of the practice. I discussed this with vets in my area (West Sussex) and found they felt the same way.
I started district veterinary nursing under veterinary direction and instruction in 2015. Any vet can refer any patient to me, no matter what the owner’s circumstances, providing the relevant contracts are in place.
As Saint Francis of Assisi said: ‘Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.’
What are the next steps?
I’d like the profession to get involved. It’s what pet owners want and we need to listen to them.
High-quality veterinary nursing support in the home setting is in the best interest of the patient and the family.
We must listen to our clients’ needs or we aren’t serving them and patients in the way they want.
What are the challenges?
Many vet nurses suffer from low morale because their specialised skill set isn’t recognised. A new career choice could help to counteract this, and it might help retain vet nurses in the profession.
"The crucial role of the district nurse was recognised by the NHS a long time ago and it’s time for our profession to follow suit"
I've had lots of positive reaction since I started my district veterinary nursing campaign. My passion is to see the role becoming a career choice – delivering high-quality nursing care at the heart of the pet and owner’s home, with a formally recognised course and additional accountable registration.
The crucial role of the district nurse was recognised by the NHS a long time ago and it’s time for our profession to follow suit.
1998: Started training as veterinary nurse at Brinsbury College
2001: Qualified as a veterinary technician in Spain
2001: Returned to UK to work as a vet nurse in general practice
2005: Full-time emergency and critical care in a referral practice
2015: Achieved my goal of becoming a district veterinary nurse