Diversification and opportunities within the profession: My roadmap as an RVN

After qualifying as a veterinary nurse, the natural progression is often viewed as working as part of a team in general practice. But what other opportunities are out there for Registered Veterinary Nurses?

Whilst I was studying, I worked in four different first opinion practices around my home county in Norfolk. Whilst I found the work both enjoyable and rewarding, I have always been a person who has wondered how I can push the boundaries and how far I can go in terms of discovering different opportunities in my field of work.

The wonderful thing for me about being an RVN is the diversity of the role. Veterinary science is always changing and advancing, with new drugs, new methods and new ideas, so for me, nursing is never a stagnant or dead-end job. We can work in practice, both in clinical and non-clinical roles, management roles, or as drugs reps and higher up within company management. This is my personal roadmap as an RVN.

After graduating in May 2022, I made the leap into working out of hours. I was unsure how this would affect me both physically and mentally and, being newly graduated, I wondered if I would have the knowledge to fulfil expectations. However, ever up for a challenge (and a better work life balance), I was willing to give it a go. It turns out, although extremely mentally and physically demanding at times, this was outweighed by how invigorating I found the work to be. I had previously asked fellow RVNs how they had found working nights and was really intrigued when I was told ‘all the best things happen at night.’ I found that statement to be profoundly accurate as, working thirteen-hour night shifts seven days a week in a small team of just myself and a veterinary surgeon, there really is no one else to rely on but each other. I have learned infinite amounts from working out of hours, and it has given me confidence, knowledge and skills that I would not have gained so quickly in general practice.

Alongside working out of hours, I found myself with time to spare, so I began to locum. Working in different practices again helps to enhance your skill set. I learn different tips, tricks and methods from different VS and VNs in different practices. It is also a wonderful way to network and meet like-minded people.

When I made the move into out of hours, I knew I would have more time on my hands. I love to keep busy, and I am very passionate about our vocation and what we can do, and I knew I wanted to give back where I possibly could. I got in contact with my local branch of the registered charity, StreetVet. StreetVet offers a completely free veterinary service, providing excellent care for the pets of people experiencing homelessness. The general motto being ‘whatever you can do in a consult room in practice, we can do out of a backpack in the street!’ StreetVet operate in most major cities across the UK, and I would urge any RVNs to get involved in your nearest branch if you can. Charity and shelter medicine is something I feel extremely passionate about and it is wonderfully rewarding. In the future, I plan to go abroad to help with clinics for both domestic and exotic animals.

At the start of this year, I decided to split my time between working out of hours at my local hospital and taking up a part time position as an out of hours emergency and critical care RVN at the Royal Veterinary College’s Queen Mother Hospital for Small Animals (QMHA) in London. I was keen to foray into referral medicine, as I had always wondered what exactly happens when we refer patients to specialist centres. Working in referral medicine again leads to learning a specific skill set for referral nursing. Referral nursing opens an entire range of knowledge and possibilities waiting to be untapped by us, and it is great to see how VNs can be utilised in a referral setting. A particularly amazing thing to be a part of is referral iodine medicine for hyperthyroid felines.

Having truly got the bug for branching out and discovering different avenues and opportunities for RVNs, I felt that I wanted to share my knowledge with others. I have always enjoyed teaching SVNs in practice and, with the QMHA being a teaching hospital by extension of the RVC, I contacted Dick White Academy to see how I could go about beginning my lecturing journey. This is a very recent transition for me, and I am looking forward to assisting with OSCE prep for SVNs and shadowing lectures next month to get me started.

In even more recent times, I have taken on an additional job as an Animal Welfare Representative, or how I like to think of it; ‘Pawsonal Assistant’ to animals being used in tv and film. Being a certified animal welfare representative uses the framework of the Five Welfare Needs of the Animal Welfare Act (2006) to ensure animals in media’s needs are being met. As an additional bonus, I get to spend time with some amazing animals we wouldn’t necessarily see in practice every day and meet some interesting people along the way too.

I hope this article has helped SVNs and RVNs alike to see how many ways we can go in this profession – it doesn’t start and stop with working on the floor in practice. I have struggled with imposter syndrome whilst branching out to do new things and I never expected to have achieved so much in my first year of registration.

My advice would be to go for whatever you want to do, take opportunities even if it feels uncomfortable, and do what makes you feel invigorated. I am hopeful that VNs will find this article both motivational and inspirational and, above all, empowering – we have so many skills, interests, talents, knowledge and value than ‘just a veterinary nurse.’

Career Case Studies
Ruby Lambert RVN