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Carly Atkinson

"When a previously ill animal is discharged to a happy owner, the feeling that you had a significant input in helping nurse that animal back to health is second to none."

Carly is currently studying for a postgraduate diploma (PgD) in Veterinary Physiotherapy at Harper Adams. She says: “I have always had an interest in inpatient care and ‘hands-on’ nursing, in addition to the rehabilitation of patients and the maintenance of both canine and equine athletes. I hope that this course will deepen my understanding of these areas and lead to me becoming a qualified Veterinary Physiotherapist. I believe that this will both complement and enhance my current role as a Veterinary Nurse, leading to good career progression and future prospects within the animal industry.”

Carly Atkinson made such a good impression during her placement that she was offered a full-time position upon graduating in 2012 and within six months was acting as Head Nurse during her senior’s maternity leave.

Veterinary Nursing students work on more than one placement, sometimes at the same practice, sometimes spread between different places. Carly spent hers at Tern Veterinary Group in Shropshire. Students learn a lot on placement – from technical skills to learning where their special interests lie.

“As a Student Veterinary Nurse, I was involved in both inpatient and outpatient care, from monitoring anaesthetics, to “scrubbing in” with operations, to nursing any hospitalised animals,” says the 24-year-old. “I have a particular passion for inpatient care, and this was my favourite aspect to my job. Client care and communication was also a large part of my role, and helped to develop my confidence in dealing with the general public.  Furthermore, I was the practice’s farm nurse, and so assisted the large animal vets with various procedures and operations, alongside taking numbers for cattle TB tests.  This was another part of my role that I loved, as I had not had much experience with livestock species prior to starting at Harper Adams.

“The placement year improved my confidence with working with people, in addition to helping me to become competent in the key skills required to be a Registered Veterinary Nurse.”

Now Carly is enjoying the variety and challenges of life as a working VN. “I have a major role in organising the operating schedule for the day and preparing the outpatients their procedures. I also care for any inpatients, including administering medications at appropriate times, providing appropriate nursing care tailored to each case (including the all-important TLC!), and communicating with their owners regarding their progress. I also assist the large animal vets when required with various procedures. Nurse clinics are also an integral part of the day, and I am in charge of the obesity clinics at the practice. 

“I find surgery interesting, and enjoy being given the opportunity to undertake procedures such as suturing when the occasion arises. I also like being involved in the training of the student vet nurses at the practice, as it’s very rewarding to see their growing confidence and knowledge.  However, my favourite role is caring for the inpatients; it can be hard when things don’t go so well, but when a previously ill animal is discharged to a happy owner, the feeling that you had a significant input in helping nurse that animal back to health is second to none.

Carly advises anyone interested in becoming a student nurse to get some work experience, especially as that is a condition of acceptance for a VN degree. “I have always had animal-related jobs, including that of a groom at a local riding school, and a receptionist/animal assistant at a veterinary practice.  Both of these jobs helped to improve my competence both with handling animals, and with dealing with the general public in a confident yet empathic manner.

“There are various routes to become a Registered Veterinary Nurse, but I believe that the degree I undertook gave a deep understanding of the theory behind the nursing I undertake, whilst combining this knowledge with relevant practical skills essential in practice.

“I would say to any prospective nursing students to get as much practical experience with handling as many different species as possible as they can prior to the course, as it really helps to have some confidence with this for the various placements nursing students undertake.  I would also advise them to get work experience at various different veterinary practices, as the procedures and protocols at different practices can vary greatly, and it is good to have an understanding of this prior to experiencing life in practice.” 

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