Ria Walker is a veterinary nurse at Cave Veterinary Specialists and kindly took time out to tell us about life as a vet nurse.
I have always known that I wanted to work with animals. I spent most of my childhood riding ponies and walking dogs! After I finished my A Levels, I went on to complete the Level 3 Diploma in Animal management at Kingston Maurward College in Dorchester and during this time I completed one day a week’s work experience at a small animal veterinary practice in Gillingham. I realised then that I wanted to be a Veterinary Nurse. Seeing what the nurses did on a day to day basis really interested me. It combined my two favourite things, caring for animals and medicine.
I researched ways to train to become an RVN, it can either be done at university or by completing the Level 3 diploma in Veterinary Nursing, which consists of one day a week at college for two-and-a-half years and the rest of the time spent working in practice. I decided the diploma was the best option for me at the time as I liked the thought of getting a really hands on experience and a monthly wage!
After I returned from a few months’ travelling I started looking for a work placement. Students need to have secured a position working within an RCVS training practice, either full or part time, before they can apply for the course. Other entry requirements include having 5 GCSE’s grade C or above, these must include English Language and two science subjects.
It can be quite difficult finding a training placement. They are well sought after and can have a long waiting list. I applied to many veterinary practices around where I was living in Dorset, some of them more than once! I also volunteered at a local practice, Blackmore Vale Vets, to gain more experience whilst I was looking and working at a local shop. After a few months I was told there was an opening for a nursing assistant at Blackmore Vale and I went for it! They offered me the job with a view to starting college as a student nurse when the current student has finished her studies.
In September 2015 I started my training. I was glad that I had worked for a year at Blackmore Vale Vets as a nursing assistant before I started as a student nurse as it gave me a basic insight into veterinary nursing before studying.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Lynwood School of Veterinary Nursing, it was amazing to learn about how varied veterinary nursing can be. From in-depth anatomy and physiology of many animals to carrying out general anaesthetics, radiography, medical nursing and laboratory tests.
It was great spending time with other student nurses who felt just as strongly about this career as I did. College was also a challenge, I had to complete both written and multiple-choice exams, long assignments and the nursing progress log. The nursing progress log involves carrying out many practical skills in the workplace until you feel confident and competent in that skill. These skills include taking bloods samples, placing intravenous catheters, x-raying patients, bandaging, running urine tests, identifying surgical instruments and many more!
At the end of my time at college I had to carry out my objective structured clinical exams (OSCE’s), practical exams designed to test clinical skill performance. I had to complete twelve practical skills whilst being invigilated by the RCVS. These exams were extremely nerve wracking but luckily, after months of practice during my evenings and weekends, I passed!
Although college was tough at times, my passion for this career only grew stronger and I was thrilled when I registered as RVN in April 2018, I was presented with a certificate from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and a Veterinary nurse badge with I am extremely proud of.
I am very proud to call myself an RVN, I have since left the practice where I trained to join the amazing team at Cave Veterinary Specialists and I can’t wait to see where this career takes me.