Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Think you want to be a Veterinary Nurse?

I qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in October 2005 after training for 2 and a half years. It was so rewarding to discover I'd passed all my exams and that I could finally call myself a Vet Nurse. What I learned in theory is not always what happens in practice, there are things I learned that I quickly forgot because you just don't use it in practice.

One thing I was never informed of was the low points in nursing - and by this I don't mean the sad parts or the bad parts. Some people think Vet Nurses get to cuddle pets all day - that is NOT true at all. I mean, there are times in first opinion practice where you see puppies and kittens coming for vaccines and you play with them and hold them to get it in their head that the surgery isn't a bad place. But the majority of the time, it's cleaning - be it animals, theatre, yourself or kennels - Vet Nursing involves a lot of cleaning.

Below I will list what I've personally done in my nursing career, if you are considering being a Vet Nurse and think you'd be okay with the same situations then I'd highly recommend visiting the appropriate places and looking into it more.

  • At just after midnight one night, I found myself sitting on the floor with a puppy that had eaten a mince pie.  We had just induced emesis and my job was to comfort the poor pup while vomiting (and aim it to the pads rather than on the floor) but also to sift through the vomit and make sure the offending toxin (in this case currants and raisins) had indeed been brought up.  This situation occurred just before my lunch break   YUM!
  • At 4am, we discovered a small brown stain in a kennel.  The patient in that kennel was in for vomiting and regurgitation so we had to monitor all episodes of such.  We did not see the stain happening therefore were unsure what it was.  So the only thing to do was get down on my hands and knees and sniff to determine what orifice it came from.
  • I've had to bathe bums at numerous points throughout the night if they have diarrhoea.  Not a nice job at any point in the day but when it happens at 2am or 4am, it just seems worse somehow.
  • Having a serious discussion with workmates as to what score a patients faeces are.  We score them from 1-7, this helps to see if they are indeed getting better.  Sometimes it doesn't always fit a score option so we use other words to discuss viscosity and texture.  After working with animals for a while, you will come to look at foodstuffs a lot differently - korma consistency is often used.
  • I've been licked in the mouth too many times to count.  It's usually a ninja attack that I wasn't expecting but it's always worse when they animal is in with vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • I have been covered in every bodily fluid you can think of.  This leads to many mid shift uniform changes.
  • Lastly, I've been there for a lot of last visits.  Euthanasia is a daily part of being a Vet Nurse, the majority are pets that have been well loved and the owners have made the decision to end the suffering.  Some are cruelty cases, some are due to the owner not having any money or insurance, even sadder are the ones that are due to the owner just not wanting or having time for their pet anymore.  Euthanasia happens and it can be upsetting so if you really don't think you can handle it, Vet Nursing probably isn't the right choice for you.
As a note on that last point, I've been there for many an animal in its last moments.  Sometimes it's just me and a Vet because the owner can't face seeing their pet be put to sleep.  I personally feel that the last loving act you can do for your pet is to be there in their last moments.  It can be stressful and sad, I understand that having been through it with my own pets, but think of it from your pets point of view.  Their last moments shouldn't have to be with strangers that they don't know.
My dog Tasia has been there for me her entire life.  She loves me unconditionally, she's been my friend and companion.  She's happy as long as she gets fed, walked and loved.  When it finally comes time to put her to sleep, I will be there with her and for her to comfort her as best I can until she falls asleep.  I feel it's the least I can do for her.

So it's not all playing with puppies and hugging kittens.  There's things in that list that I'd never thought I'd be doing at 4 in the morning.

But there's also the good parts:
  • Seeing an animal go home that was on death's door when it first came in.
  • Helping resuscitate puppies or kittens during a caesarean.
  • That moment when an anorexic animal finally starts to eat on its own for you.
  • The moment a non-ambulatory dog walks out with its owner.
So it's not all sad and disgusting but it's also not all happiness and love.  I took a break from nursing a few years ago and getting back into it is the best choice I've ever made.  I don't really know what else I'd do with my life, to be honest.

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