Shelly Jefferies RVN NcertPT is currently Head Nurse in a busy mixed animal practice, having been in the veterinary profession for over 20 years. During that time she has worked in a variety of settings, but, since shortly after qualifying, Shelly has been involved in student nurse training. Her other nursing passions are wound management and canine rehabilitation. Outside of work she is kept busy with her rescue kitten and crazy Boston Terrier.

A satisfying role

I’m sure we’ve all heard somebody at some point in our career say “well someone had to train you” and yes it is true, however training our next generation of veterinary nurses is more than just repaying your training dues. It is about shaping, enlightening and educating the next batch of our fellow professionals. Personally, after over 20 years in the profession and a large percentage of those being as an assessor/clinical coach/clinical supervisor, I still find nothing more satisfying than seeing the delight on my students’ faces when completing tasks for the first time such as placing an intravenous cannula, right through to the excitement of qualifying and thinking I helped them achieve that.

Reflection and preparation

Being a clinical coach/supervisor is not a role to be taken on lightly. It’s a demanding role and requires you to be organised and empathetic, as well as being firm but fair. Once you have decided to complete the clinical coach training, (which is normally performed via your local veterinary nurse training course provider) you need to prepare for taking on a student. Reflecting on your own veterinary nurse training is a good place to start with your planning and preparation. Although all students learn differently, you will recall key aspects of what worked well for you and what parts of your learning caused you problems. Was there a key time when you felt your confidence was at a high, and what caused a dip? All these experiences in your own training will help you to guide your new student.

Planning, and involving the team and the student

As we are all too well aware, things can change at the drop of a hat in a busy veterinary practice, tasks can overrun, and the best laid plans have to be side-lined. Whilst these things are inevitable and often unavoidable too, it is important to ensure they do not interrupt or interfere with your time with the student. Ensure all staff members are also aware of what you are doing and why – not everyone will understand why the student nurse may be “just” stood watching a procedure! A prior explanation can prevent animosity or bad feeling at a later date.

Having a plan prepared will help to structure your time spent with your student – these plans can include a teaching plan, tutorial or practical training plan. Try to involve your student in some of the planning, for example, ask them if there are any particular areas they would like to cover or refresh on in the coming sessions. Try to give them a rough subject area, so that they can prepare as well. Saying ‘in the coming sessions we are going to be looking at anaesthesia, are there any particular areas you would like to cover?’ is more beneficial to both yourself and the student, and you can both prepare for the planned session.

Think outside the box

Students all learn differently, so be prepared for thinking outside of the box sometimes. Remember we are all humans, some things don’t go to plan, and some training doesn’t suit some students. Be flexible and approachable and the rest should follow. Training our next generation also keeps procedures, information and protocols fresh in your own mind, as well as being a rewarding experience.

Shelly Jefferies RVN