Vet nurse and JVP: a week with Helen Russell

Helen Russell with dog Massak


On weekends I start later; I leave for work at 7 am. I know what patients are booked in for the day, so all that remains is the anticipation of any emergencies that may come through the door. No day is the same, which is why I love my job.

My afternoon is fully booked: a behaviour consultation with a Staffordshire bull terrier, two cockapoos for their puppy health checks, a cat for a weight clinic and a shih-tzu for his final puppy vaccination.


In my spare time, I'm a volunteer wolf handler at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust in Reading. Today, I'm handling my usual wolf, Massak (an Arctic wolf). This involves taking him for a walk with his siblings and members of the public who pay for the opportunity to walk with wolves. Massak enjoys his walks and gains enrichment from walking on public footpaths and meeting the occasional dog and its owner.

On my drive back to work, I stop to try to help a Bengal cat that had been hit by a car, but sadly she died in my arms. Even when I'm not working I still am!

Afternoon consultations involve post-op checks, second vaccinations, and a chat with a client who came in to show me photos of a new puppy that he's planning to get. I had helped this client at a previous practice and he chose to register with my new practice because I'm here – it was a lovely surprise.


I live 68 miles from work, so I car share with my co-JVP Steve Brawley as we both live in Hampshire.

I admit a rabbit for surgery, calculate his medications and place an intravenous cannula in his marginal ear vein. Next is a Chihuahua for me to admit, sedate and radiograph a hind leg because she is lame.

Two further patients are admitted for surgery. As the only nurse on duty, I place the intravenous cannulas and premedicate them ready for the veterinary surgeon to anaesthetise. I really enjoy being so hands-on and welcome the help of my nurse assistant.

As I monitor anaesthetics, my assistant sets up the theatre and surgically prepares the patients. Once recovered, they are fed and walked (if required) and I complete the postoperative paperwork that will help owners to care for their pet when they get home. Once the veterinary surgeon has prescribed medication, I dispense it with clear instructions to the owner at their discharge appointment.


Apart from the usual consultations/operations, my co-JVP and I meet with our business development manager, head of operations and our finance manager to discuss plans for the business. I had some knowledge of key performance indicators and average transaction values prior to becoming a JVP, but now my financial knowledge and understanding has really improved.

In the evening, I assist with a lump investigation on a snake, order stock and clean the practice.


My day off! I have time to do my chores at home but, most importantly, I take a well-deserved day off with my own pets – three Japanese shiba inus, two cats and a hamster.

I walk my dogs on the beach, which is only 10 minutes from home; it's a fabulous way to revitalise!


This is a purely admin day for me. I finish pet insurance claim forms, work on the rota and plan the operations diary ahead, ensuring the necessary equipment has been ordered. I liaise with the Vets4Pets support office over recruitment and marketing, complete the weekly payroll for our employees, and hold a welcome back to work meeting for a colleague who has been off sick. I complete the weekly banking and forward relevant documents to the support office.

The support office offers vital support to Vets4Pets practices. The finance, marketing and HR teams provide excellent advice and help us manage all aspects of the surgery business so that we can concentrate on providing the best care to the pets that are brought to us.

I also hold our practice meeting where we discuss potential changes and new protocols and we welcome feedback from the team. I am the instigator of enrolling the practice on the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme, so the final pieces of evidence are sent to the PSS assessor.


I'm in surgery all day and consulting in the evening. A dog is admitted for investigation of lumps and lameness on her hind leg. I place an intravenous cannula and give her sedative medication.

Once asleep, I position her for radiographs and take diagnostic views of the leg for the veterinary surgeon. I also perform fine needle aspirates of the lumps so the veterinary surgeon can examine them to decide if they require analysis by an external laboratory.

The next operation of the day is an anal gland removal on a poodle cross. She has been having recurrent anal gland abscesses and surgery was the only option left. Every anaesthetised patient is connected to our capnograph and closely monitored throughout the procedure. I monitor her blood pressure every five minutes using the Doppler and monitor her anaesthetic.

Both patients recover well, they are fed and walked. I discharge them back to their owners in the evening, along with postoperative instructions and medications.

Although it's the start of the bank holiday weekend, I still have four days work ahead of me, but my upcoming rota will ensure that I have a chance to recharge my batteries.

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