Vet nurse George is on the road to success

Vet nurse George is on the road to success

VetPartners is supporting veterinary nurses working with horses to grow their role and use more of their clinical care skills.

Here, as we celebrate Veterinary Nurse Awareness Month, equine veterinary nurse George Hunt discusses how her ambulatory role is benefiting her practice and its clients as well as ensuring she enjoys a fulfilling and rewarding career.

GEORGE Hunt is thriving in her role as a veterinary nurse after being given a free rein to shape and develop her dream career.

As well as helping look after in-patients at EC Straiton & Partners, a first-opinion mixed practice in Staffordshire, George accompanies vets on call outs to assist with procedures such as X-rays, and as a valued and trusted member of the team she also carries out yard visits on her own, under the direction of a vet.

Out on the road as an ambulatory nurse, she gets to flex her clinical care skills and perform the Schedule 3 procedures she’s been trained to do, including taking blood samples, wound care, dressing and bandage changes and administering pre-agreed doses of sedation. Her role also extends to treating soft tissue injures with the therapeutic laser, running weight clinics at client’s yards and, after qualifying as an SQP, performing worm egg counts, offering advice on parasite control and prescribing dewormers if needed.

George is now helping inspire her colleagues in other practices to grow their careers and gave a presentation on her role as an ambulatory nurse at this year’s VetPartners equine CPD event, which had a presentation stream dedicated to nursing.

VetPartners is helping create a greater understanding of the role of equine RVNs. It is looking at ways it can empower its nurses to enjoy fulfilling careers through initiatives such as Project Nurse and Nurse Thrive and overcome barriers they may face, such as a lack of understanding of how nurses are permitted to work under Schedule 3 and a potential reluctance to delegate these tasks to nurses.

Through positive action by VetPartners and the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), which has produced clearer guidelines on the role of equine nurses, the face of the profession is changing and could lead to more roles in practice like George’s.

A key part of the team

George is proud that her equine nursing role is valued by her colleagues at Straiton Vets because it supports the veterinary team and reduces their workload during busy times, and most importantly it helps deliver a high level of service to clients and their horses.

She said: “I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to make my role my own. It allows me to use the skills I have trained in, and being able to go and visit clients and their horses is one of the things I love most about my job. It’s incredibly rewarding when the care I provide makes a difference. I’ve helped manage some serious wounds and seen the horses recover and return to full work, and that gives you a great feeling.

“Our vets are on board and value my support. Our graduates, especially, appreciate it when I go on the road with them when they’re new to the practice and the area, and they’ll often ask me to share my equestrian knowledge and experience with them. I really feel like I’m a part of the veterinary team.

“Our clients are also positive about having a vet nurse come out to the yard and being able to build relationships with them and get to know their horses is really nice. One of the benefits to clients is continuity of care, such as with the wound management cases where, after the initial vet visit, I can attend to do regular bandage changes. The client and horse see the same person each time and they’ll have peace of mind that I’m updating the vet regularly with the horse’s progress and will alert them if I have any concerns.”

An exciting opportunity

George qualified as an RVN in 1998 as there were no similar equine qualifications at the time. She worked in a mixed practice before doing an equine nursing top-up qualification in 2014.

She has a wealth of experience in practice, including 10 years in a mixed practice and three years with a large equine referral hospital in Newmarket.

Three years ago, she received a call from Straiton Vets when the practice was recruiting to fill a veterinary care assistant (VCA) vacancy. Friends working at the practice suggested that, instead, they should consider appointing someone who had additional skills to offer and recommended George as the ideal candidate.

George recalls: “The job involved picking up what the VCA had been responsible for, which included accompanying vets on the road, but I could also shape the role to use all my nursing skills. It was pretty much a case of being told the job is yours, it’s up to you to make it what you want it to be.

“To be given such an opportunity was exciting and daunting at the same time, however everyone at Straitons was so welcoming and supportive. The practice recognised what I had to offer and I was able to prove that I could be a real asset to the team. It was quite unusual for a first-opinion practice to have an ambulatory nurse and it was very rewarding when one of the partners said that employing me was one of the best decisions they’ve made.”

As a large animal/equine nurse, George’s role extends to more than caring for horses and she also assists with farm work, including TB testing and cattle vaccinations. She helps out in the Straiton Vets office by answering phone calls and organising the diary and her kind and compassionate nature is also called upon when she accompanies the small animal vets on euthanasia home visits. George fits all of this into a part-time role, working four days a week around school hours.

She added: “I’m so lucky to such a varied role and it is my dream career. Nurses are qualified, highly skilled people and it would be great if we could see more of us fulfilling an ambulatory role because I think it can make a massive difference to our clients and patients, and making a difference is why we have joined this profession.

“It was an honour to be invited to make a presentation about my role at the VetPartners equine CPD event and I received lots of great feedback, which is really rewarding. I hope my talk will have inspired other veterinary nurses in equine or mixed practices to consider how they can grow their roles, if it’s something they want to do.

“It’s also really positive that BEVA is running Schedule 3 training for equine nurses so they can practice their skills and grow in confidence, and that VetPartners’ Project Nurse initiative is doing such great work to champion the role of nurses. I’m really pleased that my colleagues at other practices are being given a voice and can reap the rewards like I have by having the opportunity to say how they want their careers to develop.”

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