Helping vet nurses achieve their potential
In April I joined Linnaeus as the group’s chief nursing officer. As such, I am an advocate for vet nurses. As a member of the group’s executive board, working alongside the chief medical officer, I ensure that vet nursing is at the forefront of strategy in terms of excellence in patient care.
My role includes establishing a clear career development framework for our students and qualified vet nurses (VNs) within our primary care and referral settings. With the resources of Mars Petcare behind us, I’m excited about the difference I will be able to make. But where did my career begin and how did I get to where I am today?
Initially, I trained as a medical orthopaedic nurse within the NHS, but decided to move into veterinary nursing. I trained in a veterinary hospital in Staffordshire and then joined the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket.
As a senior VN, I was involved in supporting students through their training. I found I enjoyed teaching so I joined the College of Animal Welfare and was part of the team that developed the first undergraduate programme for VNs, in conjunction with the Royal Veterinary College.
From there I moved to the University of Bristol, delivering undergraduate VN teaching within a vet school setting.
"My role is to make sure that vet nursing is at the forefront of the group’s strategy in terms of excellence in patient care"
During my 17 years at Bristol, I developed the first graduate training programme for VNs with my colleague Rebecca Jones. We introduced a masters degree by research for vet nurses and our first two successful students graduated through the programme this year.
In 2015, my colleague Hilary Orpet and I won the inaugural Bruce Vivash Jones prize, which is awarded for outstanding contribution to the advancement of small animal veterinary nursing.
We had developed a model of care for veterinary patients, to help practices develop an holistic approach to patient care, by teaching nurses to consider each companion animal as an individual with specific needs, while also supporting the owner with compliance in terms of home care.
The Orpet and Jeffery Ability Model can be downloaded from the British Veterinary Nursing Association website.
When the RCVS set up the Veterinary Nurses’ (VN) Council in 2002, I stood for election. Three years later I became council chair and have been re-elected to VN council since then. I will step down in 2020.
VN Council has helped to define our profession. It introduced the register of veterinary nurses, the code of professional conduct and compulsory CPD.
I am proud to have been part of this professionalisation and the opportunities it has given me, such as chairing the education committee, being part of the legislative reform working party, chairing the committee that developed our code of professional conduct and serving as a member of the preliminary investigation committee.
Chief nursing officer
In my new role, I have the scope to ensure that, within our organisation, student and registered VNs will be able to reach their full potential in terms of being able to use their skill set to develop their careers along a clear career pathway.
I work with an amazing team of VNs within the Linnaeus family. My role is a new one, so there’s no template to follow. Initially, I’m learning what our VNs and student VNs need to enable them to provide excellent nursing care and develop their careers.
Role models are important. We can all recall the people who have inspired us. Our personal achievements may be linked to them and I aim to inspire others in the same way.
When I left Bristol, my colleagues wrote in my leaving card: ‘Thank you for inspiring us to be the best nurses that we can be’. It’s nice to be able to motivate others to do the best for their patients and then want to pass that on to others.
Achieving work-life balance
It doesn’t matter what the ‘life’ bit is in your personal ‘work-life’ balance, but it’s a good idea to make some rules and follow them, even if it is watching an episode of something on TV that you enjoy without checking your work email at the same time! Smart phones – although useful – can exacerbate the problem of achieving a good work-life balance.
"I am proud to have been part of this professionalisation and the opportunities it has given me"
Personally, I enjoy sharing my down time with my family, and I also row Cornish pilot gigs, which is competitive and good exercise. Ensuring that I manage my time in order to train and compete is really important to me. When I’m not at work, I’m likely to be training on the water at Bristol or racing off the coast of Devon or Cornwall.
Would you recommend vet nursing as a career?
Absolutely, it’s interesting and rewarding. Through the joint RCVS/BVA VN Futures initiative, and the introduction of new postregistration qualifications, we have a huge impact on the standard of patient and client care.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Never have regrets! Learn from your mistakes and help guide others when they need a bit of extra support. Always say thank you – it’s good to feel appreciated.
- 1985: Qualified as a medical orthopaedic nurse
- 1989: Qualified as a veterinary nurse (VN)
- 1992: Senior VN at the Animal Health Trust, Newmarket
- 1993: Certificate in small animal nutrition
- 1995: RCVS advanced diploma
- 1995: Teaching vet nursing at the College of Animal Welfare
- 2002: Joined the University of Bristol to teach undergraduate VNs
- 2003: Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and completed my masters in e-learning
- 2015: Introduced masters degree research programme for VNs
- 2016: Co-developed the first graduate training programme for VNs
- 2019: Finalising my PhD, which looks at factors that influence retention within the vet nursing profession
- 2019: Chief nursing officer with Linnaeus