Phillippa is giving equine nurses a voice on career development

Phillippa is giving equine nurses a voice on career development

VetPartners is empowering veterinary nurses across our family of practices to ensure they have a voice.

AS we celebrate our colleagues during Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month, Phillippa Pritchard, who works at Liphook Equine Hospital in Hampshire and is a member of the team behind Project NURSE, shares how she is championing the role of equine nurses so they can enjoy fulfilling careers…..

PHILLIPPA Pritchard has made it her mission to help equine veterinary nurses enjoy rewarding and fulfilling careers and have the opportunity to use more of the skills they were trained in.

An equine nurse herself for 12 years, Phillippa is no stranger to helping colleagues thrive through her role as a clinical coach, but since 2022 she’s taken on a leading role in empowering nurses to help improve satisfaction and job retention across VetPartners’ equine and mixed practices.

Phillippa is a member of the team behind VetPartners’ Project NURSE, which stands for Nurturing and Utilising R(E)VN Skills and Experience and was created in response to feedback from nurses who would like to use more of their clinical care skills.

She helped take the project forward by successfully applying for an MSD grant, which was invested in a survey to find out if horse owners are receptive to nurses providing more clinical care for horses – under veterinary supervision.

Phillippa said: “Veterinary nurses are integral members of the team and there are many procedures that we are qualified to do, but some nurses feel limited in their roles. I felt it was important to do something to change this, because if you put in the hard work to train, it would be nice to use all of your skills in your job. If nurses are more fulfilled at work they will enjoy what they do, and if they’re motivated they’ll be more likely to want to stay in the role.

“Project NURSE was set up to look at how we can help nurses with career development but, while there are nurses who want to do more, we needed to know how clients would feel about this.

“We asked horseowners to complete a survey and had a great response, with the majority who took part saying they would be comfortable with an equine nurse attending their horse for some procedures or holding nurse clinics on yards.

“This is really positive for our nurses, and now, to take things to the next stage, we want to hear more from our colleagues in equine and mixed practices, to find out how they want us to help them expand their roles and achieve their career goals.”

A second phase of Project NURSE is soon to get underway, when veterinary nurses who care for equines will be encouraged to take part in a survey to find out what skills they currently use in their role and how they’d like their careers to progress.

Phillippa is so passionate about empowering nurses, she offers to be a ‘buddy’ for less experienced nursing colleagues at Liphook, and will attend yard visits with them to help them take the first steps towards a more client-facing role.

She said: “Sometimes, nurses just need a confidence boost, and having someone with them on their first yard visit is all they need. I don’t have to get involved in the nursing they’re providing, but I can just be there to support them and people really appreciate that.

“At Liphook, we’re also helping nurses get client-facing experience by having one member of the team assigned to accompany a road vet each day. They help with procedures such as vetting X-rays and gastroscopies, and we’ve had positive feedback that nurses are enjoying having a change of scene and meeting new people, as well as show what they’re capable of.

“Through helping our own team have the opportunity to do more, we’re hopefully showing other practices and hospitals what’s possible, too.”

A rewarding and evolving role

Phillippa has worked at Liphook Equine Hospital for 19 years and started her career as a nursing assistant, which involved general horse-handling and caring for in-patients. She qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2012 after completing a three-year apprenticeship through Hartpury College.

Since qualifying, her role as evolved to include coaching and alongside her nursing role she is lead clinical coach at Liphook. She also teaches at VetPartners nursing school, which has close connections with the equine hospital.

To harness her knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for helping colleagues flourish, Phillippa was invited to join the Equine Nursing Special Interest Group, and it was through this group that Project NURSE was devised. As well as being part of the team that implements the project, Phillippa presented some of the findings at last year’s BEVA Congress.

She submitted her BEVA paper, ‘Progressing the roles of equine veterinary nurses in practice’ into VetPartners Clinical Research Awards and was awarded the Best Abstract by a veterinary nurse/vet tech/SQP category.

Phillippa said: “I’m lucky that I’ve been able to develop my career over the years, and it has led to different experiences I’ve really enjoyed such as research and presenting at conferences. I’m very content and enjoy working at Liphook but being able to develop my role has helped keep me motivated and interested. Hopefully we can help other nurses achieve this same level of job satisfaction so we can keep them within the profession, because their skills and care are highly valued.

“While I still love hands-on nursing, especially in ICU or post-operative care, teaching is the most rewarding part of my job. I really enjoy helping people to understand the nursing process and why our role is so important – as well as helping them master the maths needed when calculating medications and fluid therapy. I’ve coached a lot of students over the years and it’s nice to see them progress and go out into their new careers with confidence.”

Phillippa counts horses as an interest outside of work and owns four veterans – three 20-year-old Welsh Section A ponies and a 30-year-old Welsh Section D. She also has a herd of 50 pedigree Red Lincoln cattle – which she describes as a hobby that’s grown – and supplies home-produced beef to a local pub.

Training for all

Another aspect of career development that Phillippa would like to see improved for her nursing colleagues is to be able to access further training that’s specific to equine nurses.

She explains: “There is very little professional CPD or extra qualifications you can do as an equine nurse and the training currently available is focused on small animal. This is disheartening if you are ambitious and love learning and it can contribute to some nurses feeling limited in their career. We understand that in terms of numbers, equine nurses are in the minority, but it would be great to have more recognition and more career progression available.

“It’s great that VetPartners is responding to this and is offering equine nursing specific CPD, and the nursing stream at the equine CPD event in January, which focused on ambulatory nursing, was very popular. As well as the learning opportunities available, it was great to get our nursing colleagues together to discuss our roles and to share ideas.

“Through joining together and collaborating we can help each other thrive, and I’m really enjoying having the opportunity to help nurses achieve the careers they really want. It’s something that doesn’t just benefit our nurses, as helping them enjoy more rewarding roles will help our practices and hospitals attract and retain team members, it can ease some of the pressures on the veterinary team and ultimately it will help deliver the very best care and experience possible for our clients and their horses.”

Phillippa is happy for equine nurses within VetPartners to contact her directly with any questions about career development or feedback on their roles in practice –

Article by Jo Browne, PR & Communications manager (South), email: