Who is your current employer and what do they do?
I currently work for The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) which is a branch of Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland.
What is your job title and what does the job entail?
I am the Programme Manager for Veterinary Nursing at CAFRE. This means I am in charge of the veterinary care and nursing programmes that the college offer. We currently run a Level 2 Certificate in Veterinary Care Support and a Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing, which is the license to practise qualification. We are only 1 of 2 providers of veterinary nursing education in Northern Ireland.
How did you achieve your current position?
I started in clinical practice straight after qualifying and absolutely loved it; it was all I had ever wanted to do and couldn’t believe I was actually doing it! As much as I enjoyed it, I was actively looking for more challenges in my career. After the 2011 riots in London, I started considering moving back home to Birmingham. A job teaching veterinary nursing was advertised close to home, so I applied and got it! That ignited my passion for teaching and what I have been doing since. I taught in a couple of FE colleges before moving into HE, and now I find myself managing the VN programme in Northern Ireland.
What do you enjoy about your job?
As much as I had only ever wanted to be a veterinary nurse, I found my training difficult and unenjoyable at times. I very much teach how I wish I had been taught. I had some incredible VN lecturers who really shaped my career and my thinking and I really hope I can leave a similar impact on even just one student. Contributing to the profession in this way is so exciting.
What are the challenging aspects about your job?
Paperwork and admin! We are all very used to things getting done quickly in veterinary practice, so being in an education environment (and as part of the civil service in my current role!) was a culture shock. It can be quite frustrating at times to have not solved things instantly. I also still find it hard to leave with unfinished tasks on my desk at the end of the day; the practice mentality is hard to leave behind!
What are your plans for the future?
I have LOTS!! There is real scope to transform the landscape of veterinary nursing across the UK and certainly in Northern Ireland. We are currently undertaking a review of our provision to ensure we are providing students and the profession with a course and graduates who are of outstanding quality. The biggest thing I would like to be a small part of, is helping RVN’s achieve the professional (and public) recognition they deserve. The skills SVN’s have to learn and RVN’s utilise is criminally undervalued.
What other qualifications do you hold?
As well as my RVN, I hold a BSc Hons in Veterinary Nursing with Practice Management. I then went on to complete a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, allowing me to be a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Most recently I finished another post grad certificate in Veterinary Nursing with Oncology. Eventually (time allowing!) I will achieve my MSc in Veterinary Nursing!
What key piece of advice would you give to anyone wishing to follow a similar career path?
Just give it a go! There will always be roles in clinical practice, so if you see a new and exciting opportunity and can do so, then go for it! In terms of teaching, imposter syndrome is something I absolutely suffer from and so do many of my colleagues, but just remember, you ALWAYS know more than the student. You are qualified, they are not!