From mucking out to running worm egg count samples: all in a day’s work

Written by: Cara Baillie
Published on: 22 Dec 2020

Cara Baillie

In February this year, Cara Baillie – student equine veterinary nurse at Loch Leven Equine Practice in Kinross – was elected on to the Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority (AMTRA) council as the new registered animal medicines advisor (RAMA/SQP) representative for the equine sector. This followed a postal and online ballot of some 7,000 RAMAs across the UK.

The role not only offers Cara the opportunity to support and represent her fellow professionals, but also helps her to raise awareness among horse owners and livery yards of the valuable resource available to them through the AMTRA RAMA network.

We spoke to Cara to find out how she got here, how RAMAs can make an important contribution and how she plans to use her role on the AMTRA council to help reinforce that message.

What was your background prior to qualifying as a RAMA (SQP)?

My passion for horses started at a very young age; owning and working with horses allowed me to gain valuable experience and knowledge.

Working in equine practice since leaving school has increased my keen interest in providing a better service for our equine clients, particularly by using marketing techniques and information sharing to deliver change for the better.

What is your current role? Can you give us a brief run through of your normal day-to-day activities?

In my role as a student equine veterinary nurse, my day-to-day activities can vary. My role revolves around helping our vets with procedures, both in the clinic and out on the road. A large part of my role is running our in-house worm egg count samples, deciding on treatment plans and communicating this with clients.

I also care for our inpatients, which involves mucking out, grooming and feeding. I will also be closely monitoring for any changes, including appetite, faecal output, heart rate and respiratory rate.

From the morning muck-out of our inpatients, to nursing in surgery under general anaesthesia, I enjoy it all.

This has obviously been a testing time for us all. How have you and your team responded to the challenges of COVID-19 and the lockdown periods?

During coronavirus, working as our only nurse during the lockdown period was both rewarding and challenging.

The team was split into multiple smaller teams, ensuring we were still able to provide an emergency service to our clients. We had to quickly adapt to the new way of working, keeping ourselves and our clients as safe as possible.

We used online technology to maintain contact and check-in – allowing the team to see each other, as well as keeping updated on the continuing changes to guidelines and practice policies.

What do you feel is the most important aspect of your role as a RAMA?

The most important aspect of my role is developing and managing our worming programme at Loch Leven Equine Practice alongside one of our vets, Karen Wilson. I advise clients on the best treatment options and tests, using any results we have alongside the horse’s clinical history. This allows us to keep a track of the individual horse’s results, and the advice given.

Our main aim is reducing anthelmintic resistance in our horses through a targeted worming programme, and a marketing strategy that supports this – #PreventEducateTreat.

What do you think are the most important skills and qualities you must demonstrate as a RAMA?

I think it is really important to listen to clients, understanding any concerns they may have, and ultimately building trust and loyalty.

I want my clients to come to me and trust my advice; we are all working together for the same goal – healthy and happy horses.

Easy-to-follow plans, with clear written advice, helps.

What are your thoughts on AMTRA’s drive to formally change the name SQP (suitably qualified person) to RAMA (registered animal medicines advisor) to better reflect the role?

I love it. I think it better reflects what we are able to do in our roles, how much work we all put in to studying, passing the exams, and continuing to learn along the way.

We all spend a lot of time completing CPD, personal studying, and researching new evidence-based medicine to allow us to continue doing our roles to the best of our ability.

Why did you put yourself forward to become a RAMA representative on the AMTRA council and what do you hope to achieve?

My main reason was to try to encourage more communication between equine RAMAs, sharing case studies and advice.

I am very lucky to work in an equine practice, sharing developments, knowledge and experience between us all. This ensures clients always get the best service possible.