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Philippa Richmond

"The best thing about placement was getting to do the job I had dreamed of doing and learnt so much about."

I am a… Registered veterinary nurse

Philippa Richmond, 22, from Cheshire, graduated in 2013 with a first class BSc (Hons) degree in Veterinary Nursing and Practice Management. In her second year she passed the Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) qualification for the prescription and supply of certain classes of veterinary medications, and received a prize for having the second highest mark out of all the students who undertook the examination across the country. She is now working at Willows Veterinary Hospital in Cheshire.

Why did you choose to study at Harper Adams?       

I come from a small market village near Chester in Cheshire and have never been used to the hustle and bustle of city life. The rural location at Harper Adams appealed to me and the close proximity to the surrounding villages and towns of Newport and Telford made Harper the ideal location. The facilities, staff, social life and structure of the veterinary nursing course combined with the opportunities to undertake extra qualifications made Harper Adams my number one university choice.

Did you visit the university on an open day?   

Yes, I came to an open day during my final year of 6th form. I found the day to be very well organised and informative. I particularly enjoyed the tour of the campus, especially the tour of the VN unit and meeting the staff. The staff and student ambassadors were all very helpful and gave a welcoming, friendly impression. Before visiting my heart was already set on Harper Adams - the open day helped confirm that it was the right university for me.

What were the highlights of your course?        

The best thing about my course has been meeting the other students who have become lifelong friends. I have also enjoyed the practical element of the course including dissections and the handling of a range of species of animals from rabbits to snakes, these sessions really helped to back up the theory taught in lectures. I also enjoyed the range of modules taught and the different methods in which they were taught, such as lectures, tutorials and online learning.

What skills/knowledge have you gained that will be useful after you graduate? The veterinary nursing course has equipped me with all the skills I will need as a registered veterinary nurse. The final year of the course provides me with further skills in practice management and advanced nursing that will allow me greater job opportunities in the future. Harper Adams has also given me lifelong skills in communication, team work and the ability to work at an academic level.

What sort of projects have you been involved in?     

Whilst at Harper I have assisted with the validation of the BSc (Hons) Veterinary Physiotherapy course - I was asked to give the panel a student’s perspective on life at the university and the structure of the veterinary nursing course. During my placement year I set up a geriatric cat clinic and the data I collected was used in my dissertation, which was an investigation into the benefits of feline geriatric clinics run in a small animal practice and whether clinical signs are true indicators for disease.

What is the teaching like at Harper Adams?

The lecturers/support staff are fantastic. They always have time for every student and regularly stay late to assist students and email in evenings and at weekends. They are all very passionate and enthusiastic about their subject areas; which makes learning more interesting and fun. As Harper Adams is a small university, the staff know all their students by name and know how to get the best out each of their students.

What do you think of the facilities?

They are second to none! The on-campus farm and companion animal house are particularly useful for veterinary nursing students as they can learn to handle and care for a range of species of animals. The library is well equipped with computers, books and journals in a range of subject areas to suit all students. The student services building(Faccenda) is a fantastic modern area for students from different courses and in different years to socialise.

And the social life …?

The social life at Harper Adams is great. The social calendar put together by the student union for each term is always packed full of different events to suit everyone including movie nights, fancy dress themed Wednesday nights and balls.

What are your favourite memories of university?

The nights out in the bar, the Harper balls and course dinners and meeting all the other students on my course who have become lifelong friends.

How would you sum up Harper Adams in one sentence it would be ….

Studying at Harper Adams has given me great friends, who will stay with me throughout my life.

Did you get involved in any extracurricular activities?

I worked throughout my final year as a student ambassador in which I gave campus tours to prospective students and their parents and discussed the veterinary nursing/physiotherapy courses. I also acted as a mentor for GCSE triple science students at a local secondary school, which I found to be very enjoyable.

During my second year I had the opportunity to do the Suitably Qualified Person qualification. On obtaining the qualification the person can prescribe and supply certain classes of veterinary medications. After achieving the SQP qualification I received a prize for having the second highest mark out of all the students who undertook the examination across the country. I also achieved a certificate in veterinary practice management, as part of my final year at Harper Adams.

Where did you spend placement?

I spent my placement year at Acorn Veterinary Centre, a small animal veterinary practice on the Wirral. I was employed as a student veterinary nurse and my roles included assisting with surgery, monitoring anaesthetics, caring for a range of patients, running nurse clinics and hosting puppy parties.

What were the highlights?

The best thing about placement was getting to do the job I had dreamed of doing and learnt so much about; putting my knowledge into practice really confirmed that veterinary nursing is the career I wish to pursue. I really enjoyed hosting puppy parties and running geriatric cat clinics as this allowed me to communicate directly with clients and build up a relationship with them. I also enjoyed assisting with a range of surgical procedures and caring for the patients. 

My placement year will help me in the future as it has provided me with all the skills required of a registered veterinary nurse. It has also built up my confidence in communicating with a range of different people which will be useful both in my career and personal life.

Tell us about your new job! 

I am working at Willows Veterinary Hospital in Cheshire, as a registered veterinary nurse (following my graduation in September). I am involved in a large range of tasks including nursing in-depth cases, assisting with surgical cases and performing procedures under schedule 3. At Harper Adams I took a module in clinical coaching which will allow me to teach student veterinary nurses in practice. I am hoping to be able to perform this role in the future as part of my job. I heard about the job via an online recruitment agency, which sent my CV and arranged an interview. The hospital is part of a group of practices, I had spent my placement year at another of the practices within the group so already had a good reputation as a hard working individual. I went for an informal interview and then spent a few hours at the hospital meeting the staff and seeing how the business worked. I really enjoyed my time there and the next day I was offered the job!

In the future I hope to come back to Harper Adams and study for a Master’s degree in Veterinary Nursing part-time whilst still working in veterinary practice.

Do you think being a graduate will make a difference to your position and salary?

I think being a graduate will improve my chances of obtaining the job I want. The way in which the veterinary nursing profession is changing is that more nurses will have gone through higher education and obtained a degree. The opportunities for degree nurses will be greater and they will be able to have job roles with more responsibility which may result in an increased salary. A degree also gives you the opportunity to move into different related areas e.g. pharmaceutical reps, lab work and teaching. 

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