I completed a BSc (Hons) in Equine Sports Science in 2005, and as part of this course, I took a year out to work as an equine nursing assistant at Scarsdale Vets. I enjoyed this year out so much that I went back to work at Scarsdale as soon as I graduated from university. I have always loved horses, and cannot think of any better job than caring for them, and treating them, when they are unwell.
I took the vocational route of training. This involved me working at Scarsdale four days per week, and attending college one day per week. The course lasted two years, and was assessed with exams, a practical portfolio and practical exams (OSCEs). It was a lot of work, and was really challenging both academically and practically. Working full time and training at the same time was hard, but it was totally worth it in the end.
The structure of my day depends on what area I am working on that week (the nurses all rotate around areas spending 1 week on each). The areas we rotate around are:
Pharmacy (8am-4.30pm): This involves helping with Artificial insemination (AI) mares first thing in the morning. After that we unpack the drugs order, put it away insuring correct stock rotation and update all of the stock records. The rest of the day is usually spent helping out in the hospital or with the inpatients. You will often go out and assist with ambulatory procedures when on this area e.g. radiographs, ultrasound scans and endoscopes. In the afternoon we construct a new drugs order, and an order for the hospital. Due to the reduced contact with inpatients on this area, this nurse is usually nominated to look after the isolation cases when they are admitted.
Hospital (8.30am-5.00pm): This involves helping out with procedures in the hospital e.g. lameness work ups, gastroscopes, radiographs, ultrasound scans, shockwave treatment, general anaesthesia and assisting in theatre. There are usually two nurses on this area and they work together with the hospital vet for that day to get everything done, and make sure it all runs smoothly.
Inpatient care (8.30am-5.00pm): On this shift you check and TPR all of the inpatients and give them their medication. You will consult the case vet for each patient, and obtain a plan for that patient for the rest of the day. We compile and fill out nursing care plans for the critical patients we get at the practice, and fill these in when we are on this area. We also groom the horses and pick their feet out. This is good for their general health and well-being, as well as supplying them with some much needed TLC – happy horses heal faster! When working on this area, you will also prepare the horses for general anaesthesia, including intravenous (IV) catheter placement, clipping, mouth washing and giving pre-anaesthetic medications.
Although it says here that we should finish at 5pm, we all know that horses do not just get sick during working hours, so if a patient needs care after this time, one of us will often stay behind to help. We also work on a weekend on call rota.
I find my job challenging, fascinating, exciting and rewarding. I really love seeing our longstanding patients, either for a re-examination, or when they come in for a vaccination. It is so nice to see them looking well in themselves and enjoying life. You build up a rapport with the client too which is really nice. I also really love it when inpatients start to improve and look better.
My proudest achievement as an equine veterinary nurse was volunteering for the BEVA Trust to go out to the Gambia in West Africa to work at The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust (GHDT). I have taken two trips so far, one in 2015, and one in December 2017. These trips were challenging and fascinating all at the same time. I was delighted to find that I could actually help out there, but I learned an enormous amount in return. I have an limitless amount of respect for the staff at GHDT for the amazing job they do out there. I am very proud to have met and worked with them.
My ambitions for the future are to continue to develop my skills and knowledge, and pass these on through teaching. I will also continue to raise awareness of equine nursing within the veterinary industry, and with the public also. I would like to see better recognition for veterinary nursing as a profession overall.