What is your current position?
I am the Welfare and Anaesthesia Nurse at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and have been for over five years. I work in the Anaesthesia Department of our small animal teaching hospital helping to teach final-year vet students the importance of a well-thought-out anaesthetic and analgesia plan, and how that impacts on the animal’s welfare.

We are a unique vet school, as we have an international animal welfare department, meaning I teach veterinary lecturers and veterinary students in developing nations such as India and Sri Lanka. Subjects such as small animal pain recognition, nursing, anaesthesia, behaviour and handling are all taught, as we have often found that these subjects can be overlooked in many vet schools where large animal work has been the priority for so many years.

Tell us how you got to your current position?
I achieved my Welfare and Anaesthesia Nurse position by responding to a job advert posted by the University of Edinburgh that seemed too good to be true. They were looking for a VN who had experience in anaesthesia, working in a referral centre, teaching and Asia. I had worked in China and Vietnam for over three years as a VN for a charity called Animals Asia, rescuing bears from the bile-farming industry and rehabilitating them into semi-natural enclosures after extensive treatment. I had spent a year in Paris teaching English, had worked in a referral centre and completed a lot of anaesthesia CPD. I had been hoping to get a job that would put my knowledge of Asia and teaching to good use and couldn’t believe my luck when I read the advert!

What do you enjoy most about your work?
What I enjoy most about my job is teaching a student, whether it be in Sri Lanka, India, China or Edinburgh, who is passionate about doing the very best they can to improve their patient’s experience. A student that just ‘gets it’.

Animals are very often frightened, lonely and confused when they are in with us and I think that can be forgotten sometimes. They get broken down to their biological needs, or their condition, or their surgery, and their emotional wellbeing gets overlooked. I love it when a student, even with very limited resources, provides everything their patient needs, including love, because they understand it from the animal’s perspective. These are the students who give me hope that the future of the veterinary profession is in good hands.

What do you find most challenging about your work?
What I find most challenging about my job is working with vets or nurses who are not open to education or change. I’ve seen patients moving during surgery under inappropriate anaesthesia and not receiving adequate pain relief before, during, or after surgery.

This problem is not exclusive to Asian countries and, even with the UK’s drug availability, I still know that a lack of adequate analgesia is rife in our practices.

Educating people is only part of the answer. We have to make sure they have the capability, opportunity and motivation to change.

What are your future plans?
My plans for the future are a little vague at the moment as I have just had a baby and I am on maternity leave. My two major projects, setting up a VN training course in a vet school in Sri Lanka and India, and creating an online VN skills course targeted at countries who don’t currently have VNs, are now in the very capable hands of my maternity cover, Jess Davies, for the next year.

What are your other qualifications?
I have a VN merit award in anaesthesia and analgesia and I did a TEFL course to be able to teach English in Paris.

Career Case Studies
Hayley Walters