Jill Macdonald, DipAVN (Surgical) RVN FHEA
VN Futures Project Lead and STEM Ambassador
In my role as VN Futures Lead for the RCVS I also managed the School Ambassadors project, alongside the School Ambassadors Development Group and lead ambassador, Tina Leake. Having coordinated and seen this work coming together over the past 2+ years, I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved – including the network of veterinary nurses we now have coming forward to register as ambassadors.
As part of my role, I also registered as an ambassador with STEM Learning, as I wanted to contribute to the cause, and be able to experience the scheme from an ambassador’s perspective.
I was asked to do a short online session outlining what it means to be a veterinary nurse, and then provide the students with a project to complete over the day.
Making a STEM offer
How did I find this opportunity? Through STEM Learning. As a registered ambassador I was able to ‘make an offer’ and was then contacted by the school to provide the session. I’ve also been contacted by two other schools from this one offer.
It’s really easy to do, as STEM provides an account with your STEM registration, enabling you to access a variety of resources, and the STEM network of ambassadors and careers advisors. You simply log in and go to your dashboard, and within the left-hand menu you can select ‘offers’ and ‘make an offer’ and then outline what you would be willing to do as an activity. I left mine broad so that it would invite contact.
You can also browse other people’s requests on STEM Learning and contact people you would be willing to help – it really is a very useful tool.
As with most things, planning is key. I arranged a Teams chat with the school careers advisor so that I could be clear about the students’ needs for the session, what they hoped to gain, and the level they were expected to work at. I also asked if there were any students with specific educational needs, and whether any of the students may be sensitive to any particular topics. The session remit was to meet the needs for ‘work experience’ for Year 10 students who had an interest in working in the animal care sector. I asked the advisor if any students had selected ‘veterinary nursing’ and must admit that I wasn’t surprised that none of them had. It’s one of the very reasons we want to perform this ambassadorial work – not enough students are aware of veterinary nursing as a career option, and what it means to be a vet nurse.
Presentation on veterinary nursing
I didn’t want to just talk at the students, and incorporated questions and invited interaction in my session – but it didn’t quite go to plan! I had added in questions such as ‘tell me about you – what area of animal care are you interested in?’, and ‘what do you think a veterinary nurse is?’, and ‘what do you think the best and most challenging things about veterinary nursing might be?’; but be prepared for students to be a little backward in coming forward! Be understanding – many young people feel self-conscious or are not confident to speak out, and if this happens, just help them out and fill in the gaps where needed.