Pursuing my passion: how I became an RVN

Kim Rathbone

Kim Rathbone

How long have you been a VN and what training did you have to do to achieve your qualifications?

I qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2012 after completing the RCVS Level 2 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing at Moreton Morrell College.

To do this, I worked full-time at a busy referral centre while completing my training, which saw me attend college one day a week. The course involved attending lectures, and completing assignments, internal and external written exams, a nursing progress log and OSCEs. On completion, I attended the RCVS for my graduation ceremony.

What attracted you to a career as a VN?

I did not know what I wanted to do when I left school, so did various jobs, including working in a bakery, McDonald’s and Tesco.

After that stint, I became a qualified lifeguard and did this for a while, but it did not really give me much in the way of career progression or fulfilment.

Something I did know, though, was I always liked animals and had pets growing up that I loved looking after.

While I was still working in the food service industry, one of my guinea pigs was receiving treatment at the local vets, and it was the veterinary nurse who kept me updated and did his check-ups.

From that moment on, I wanted a career with animals. I completed an animal management diploma, during which I learned about how to become an RVN, and I did everything I could to get a placement at a practice that could put me through my training.

This took a lot of time and patience; I did every job I could in various veterinary practices while I waited, and my patience eventually paid off when I got a placement at 28 years old. But I felt more than ready for the challenge as I had learned so much in practice already.

By the time I became an RVN I was 30 years old. Now, I would not dream of doing anything else – I absolutely love my job. This career gives me plenty of opportunities to progress, and I am looking into furthering my education as I love learning, and advancing my skills and knowledge.

What are the best things about being a VN?

It is such a varied role and no two days are ever the same. I actually enjoy all aspects of my job, as we get to be so hands-on and assist the veterinary surgeons with their caseloads.

My main passion is educating the public via nurse consultations. I also like to perform diagnostic x-rays. It is always lovely to watch animals growing up, and seeing the bond developing between owner and pet.

It is always so special to be able to make animals better and seeing owners’ reactions when they are reunited. I will never get bored with that.

The least glamorous side of the job is cleaning, but it is vital – infection control is so important, and protocols are in place to ensure equipment, worktops and kits are kept clean and in tip-top condition.

What kind of attributes do you need to be a good veterinary nurse?

I would say the must important thing is to have good communication skills, and be able to work as a part of a team, be relied upon to use initiative and be adaptable.

You also have to be eager to learn and adapt to new situations. I eat, sleep and breathe veterinary nursing. I am constantly reading journals and being inspired by the profession.

I’m not saying this is a required attribute – what I am saying is it is important to listen to new ideas, communicate with your colleagues and work together to get the best outcome.

What advice would you give someone thinking about a career as a VN?

Get as much experience as you possibly can – not just in veterinary practice, but in animal shelters, farms and pet shops. Get a part-time job and learn how to communicate with customers.

Being a VN is not just about the animals – you need to be confident dealing with clients, too. I would advise getting in contact with your local college to see what you need to do to enrol.

It may be you prefer to go down the degree route instead, which is still a great way into the profession.

What is the best thing about working for Avonvale?

I started working at Avonvale Veterinary Centres more than two years ago and my passion has always been for nurse consultations.

Fortuitously, the clinical directors could see this in me and asked me to assist with setting up nurse consults across the seven practices. I jumped at the opportunity.

We offer weight management clinics, puppy and kitten checks, nail clipping and postoperative checks, and run advice sessions for those considering buying a pet. It’s great being part of a team that is rapidly growing.

However, that doesn’t stop us from working as a team and as one. We all know each other and work together like a family. I work at the Heathcote surgery, but am also expected to help at other surgeries, and I love that I can walk into any of the clinics and feel welcome.

I am a passionate veterinary nurse, so for me it’s important to work in a practice that understands that, and Avonvale does. Whenever I learn something new, I get really excited and want to share my knowledge with others, and Avonvale encourages me to do this.

Any other key messages?

I highly recommend the veterinary nursing career. It can be challenging – both emotionally and physically – but very rewarding. I am truly inspired every day about the work we do – being part of this profession really is the best.

  • First published in VN Times July 2019 (VNT19.07).

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