Last month the AVA’s counterparts at the Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia (VNCA) celebrated Veterinary Nurses Day on 13 October to recognise the work of veterinary nurses and raise awareness across both the profession and wider community of this vital role.
The remainder of their contributions not only reinforces the value that veterinary nurses make to the veterinary healthcare team, their patients and clients, but it is an opportunity to highlight other aspects of this highly skilled role and understand what truly motivates veterinary nurses in a rewarding profession.
Working alongside their colleagues across a range of veterinary environments, veterinary nurses are often the first contact a client has with a practice. But what lies beyond the first impression as a client walks through the doors?
“Veterinary nurses have a very wide and varied role. The notion that they are ‘just a nurse’ or a layperson is completely incorrect. Veterinary nursing is a true profession and the role of the veterinary nurse is just as essential to veterinary practices as the veterinarian,” describes VNCA President Jo-Ann Hatcher who has been veterinary nursing for over 17 years and is committed to raising the profile of the profession in Australia.
“Qualified veterinary nurses are highly trained and extremely knowledgeable and skilled in their field. In many veterinary practices, their knowledge and skills are utilised to their full potential, from performing nurse consultations and team consulting to carrying out treatment procedures indicated by the veterinarian.
“It is, and should be, a very hands-on role and veterinary nurses are skilled multi-taskers. They can be assisting with a euthanasia and comforting a grieving owner one minute, and the next minute be greeting a family with a new puppy,” says Jo-Ann.
This ability to expertly manage a number of tasks and the varying nature of one case from the next are aspects that also resonate with one of the AVA’s staff members, who in 2013 joined the latest generation of veterinary nurses in the country. Describing the role as vital to the veterinary profession, Amanda Hartmann said, “They not only support the veterinarians both physically and mentally, but they also keep the clinic running and keep the clients and patients happy.”
However, similar to veterinarians' experience, caring for the patient's wellbeing, as well as the owner's can take an emotional toll.
“Veterinary nurses will always listen and show compassion, but people don’t realise how emotionally fatiguing their job can be,” said Amanda.
The skillsets required to help with these tasks and the specialties that exist within the role are as diverse as the nature of cases that nurses see and Jo-Ann says that some veterinary nurses enjoy the scientific side to the veterinary industry while others enjoy education and client interaction.
The motivations that complement the demands of this role are unique to each person; however, the rewarding feeling attributed to helping with often life-changing patient outcomes is a sentiment that is shared by countless veterinary nurses.
“Being able to assist the veterinarian with lifesaving surgery and seeing the patient make a full recovery is always a highlight,” said Amanda, who added that being told “you are making a difference and are appreciated” is integral to maintaining equilibrium between the challenges of the day-to-day.
For a veterinary nurse, Helen Power, who has over 30 years’ experience in the profession and is also a current VNCA Board Member, “…the desire to help their patients through illness and lifelong care, the desire to support their clients and the desire to be recognised and valued,” are also key motivators.
We are reminded that acknowledging someone’s contributions, even in the slightest, can have an incredibly positive effect, particularly for veterinary nurses, where a difficult case could precede the next.
So next time you walk through the doors of a practice, either as a client or colleague, remember to say a special thank you to your veterinary nurse. A few words of your appreciation could just make the world of a difference.
This article appeared in the November 2017 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal