From veterinary nurse to expert recruitment consultant

Kay Ritchie

RVN Kay Ritchie

Veterinary nursing is a fantastic profession. If you love animals, few things could be better than a life dedicated to their care and welfare. Veterinary nursing is a vocation, a way of life and a dream job for many.

But, unfortunately, as with so many career choices driven by a deep-seated passion, the upsides are accompanied by downsides: long hours and limited pay levels tend to rule the career paths of veterinary nurses.

This sacrifice is well worth it for many, such is the desire to work hands on with animals. However, many veterinary nurses yearn for a role that gives their own lives a bit more, while still allowing their qualifications to be used, while continuing to help the health of animals...

Countless opportunities

If you are one of these nurses, you might be excited to know countless animal-related career opportunities exist for veterinary nurses outside of nursing itself.

We spoke to Kay Ritchie from Noble Futures Recruitment – an RVN with years of direct experience in practice. However, she is no longer in a veterinary nursing role.

In this article, she shares her reasons for wanting to be a veterinary nurse and why she changed to a new career path, plus also has some fantastic advice if you feel you too would like to explore new opportunities.

Deciding on a career in veterinary nursing

“I dreamed of becoming a veterinary nurse from a very young age and followed career advice from peers about the various routes that could be taken into the role. I decided the degree route was not the right decision for me, so investigated a more practical way of achieving my career ambitions.

“While studying for my GCSEs, I got a job in a boarding kennels to gain some experience working with both animals and people (although I preferred the animal part by a mile at that time).

“Following the successful completion of my GCSEs, I moved to an agricultural college where I undertook my diploma in small animal care. It was during this course I was given the opportunity to start my career as a veterinary nurse in my work placement practice.”

Working as a veterinary nurse

“I stayed with my first practice in County Durham for almost 10 years, achieving my Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing. As a non-appointment practice with opening hours of 8:45am to 7pm (full days, no shifts back then), and weekend plus out-of-hours work, it was a fantastic way to learn the trade and really allowed me to develop – both as person and as a VN.

“Following the retirement of my mentor and owner of this practice, I moved to another first opinion practice in the city of Durham, which specialised in working dogs and exotics. Here, I spent another six years continuing to learn and sharing my experience with new members of the team, before making the decision to move out of clinical practice.”

Veterinary nursing – the good and the bad...

“I loved the teamwork aspect of being a vet nurse and, in both practices, was fortunate to work with people who shared my love for providing high-quality animal care.

“Continuing to grow and look at new ways of working was always exciting – the technological developments that facilitated massive improvements in animal health care compared to when I started in practice were amazing to see and experience.

“However, the long hours and low pay of practice work were hard to cope with. Additionally, public perception around the skills and qualifications of veterinary nurses led me to feeling undervalued over the years.”

Decision to change career path

“I was finding that, although I still had the love for my role, the drive and enjoyment I’d had at the beginning of my career was no longer there.

“I think with a lot of experience comes the lack of challenge that I enjoyed, and I felt new opportunities in the industry could provide me with exciting new challenges, while also offering me greater potential for career advancement.

Exploring other opportunities

“When I was looking to see what other jobs were out there, there weren’t many resources accessible for vets and VNs to help them seek alternative, non practice-based roles. Consequently, I went down the generic job-hunting route.

“The people helping me at that time didn’t understand my background fully, so couldn’t advise me as to where my next challenge may come from without taking me away from the veterinary world completely – and I didn’t want that.

“I was fortunate that an account manager visiting my practice happened to mention they had a vacancy for the north-east of England, so the next step in my career journey was taken.

“Fortunately, with social media and specialist recruitment companies such as Noble Futures, the knowledge and experience is there for anyone who has questions, and is looking for professional advice on how to move out of a practice based role without leaving the industry we all know and love so much.”

From practice to commercial roles

“My role after moving out of practice was as an account manager for a veterinary pharmaceutical company, where I stayed for around seven years. This was a complete change that allowed me to continue learning and grow my skill set.

“Although this was a completely alien role to me in the beginning, I found my passion for veterinary medicine increased. I loved learning about new products and advances, and equally enjoyed using that information to train and teach veterinary professionals across the north-east of England.

“I’m now working as a recruitment consultant for Noble Futures, helping both companies and candidates find their ideal role or team member within animal-related industries.

“This still heavily uses all my background as both an RVN and an account manager, as it allows me to use my experience and knowledge of the veterinary industry to find the perfect person for the job, or to find the perfect job for the person.”

Advice for VNs considering a change of career focus

“Ask questions. There are so many avenues you can follow if you’re thinking of leaving practice, without leaving the animal health industry.

“Have a belief in the huge skill set you have as an RVN; pick out the aspects of the job you love (and the ones you don’t); and discuss with the right people to see which roles, career paths and opportunities have the right fit for you.”

Are you are a veterinary nurse looking to explore new opportunities? Check out the current vacancies available from Noble Futures on Vet Times Jobs.

Alternatively, you can chat in confidence to Kay, or any of Noble Futures’ other expert recruitment experts, who can advise you on the best path to take towards an exciting new career. Telephone +44 (0)161 820 3510 or email info@noble-futures.com

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