An incredible 40 years as a veterinary nurse have seen Deborah Holland treat an amazing variety of animals including a 6ft rattlesnake and even a scorpion.
The 58-year-old from Yeovil, Somerset, has also seen a remarkable transformation in the veterinary world since she began as a bright-eyed, animal-loving teenager earning just £10 a week.
Now, Deborah is using her wealth of experience and expertise to help treat animals at the highly-regarded Cave Veterinary Specialists, near Wellington, in Somerset – and still loving every minute!
Deborah smiled: “Forty years sounds like a long time but it honestly doesn’t feel like it. I’ve had a fabulous, varied career and I’m still enjoying every minute.
“My patients have been very diverse over the years including equine and farm animals, llamas, alpacas and a scorpion!
“One special memory is anaesthetising a rattle snake which was double the length of the operating table and had to be looped around its perimeter so the tail ended up next to the head.
“I also recall turning up to work on one occasion to be told I needed to anaesthetise a fawn ready for leg straightening surgery and another time when I had to assist the police collecting a swan from the road.
“You were never sure what you might be doing or what sort of animal you would be treating the next day.”
Deborah’s career started in Barnet, Hertfordshire, in 1979, and has also seen her practice in Dorset and, more recently, in Somerset.
She said: “The biggest change I’ve noticed over the years is the pay, which is now more on a par with NHS nurses, and also how veterinary practices truly value the nursing team.
“There were no nurse-led clinics when I first qualified and vets used to be responsible for clipping nails, applying bandages and taking bloods themselves.
“Now nurse-led clinics are common place to give help and advice, change bandages, place IV’s and take bloods allowing the vets to focus fully on treating the animals.”
So what is Deborah’s advice for vet nurse students training for the profession today?
She replied: “Listen to the advice you are given, even if you think you already know. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, there is no such thing as a silly question. Never let your standards drop and always stick to what you believe is acceptable.”
Josie Collins, head nurse at Cave Veterinary Specialists, said: “At Cave, we pride ourselves on the expert care we deliver to our patients from all over the UK.
“This care is provided by our team of highly trained specialists working in a number of disciplines and supported by a compassionate and skilled nursing team.
“We all feel very lucky to have Deborah and her wealth experience as a key part of that excellent team.
“We’re also delighted to be able to celebrate her 40th anniversary as a vet nurse. It’s a terrific achievement by a wonderful person.”
Away from work, Deborah likes to be in her garden, working her vegetable plot or walking her English Pointer Ziva in the New Forest, at the beach or over Dartmoor.
She really enjoys horse riding, having owned her own horse for 21 years, and also likes to get away in her caravan.