A day in the life of a Veterinary Nurse

A day in the life of a veterinary nurse

At Pilgrims we have three registered vet nurses and three student vet nurses.

The early nurses will arrive by 8.30 and check any inpatients, taking any out for a brief walk and checking that they are comfortable. They will then start to prepare the operating theatre where our patients will be undergoing surgical procedures that day, ensuring that everything is prepared and safe.

At 9.00 our patients who are having operations begin arriving, and we begin the admission process. This typically involves speaking with the owners, running through what will be happening during the day including any risks or concerns and then finally signing the consent form. We spend time asking about any medical problems they may have been experiencing and trying our best to re-assure our client that their pet is in safe hands.

We then take the patient through to our prep area, weigh them and often take a blood sample for pre-operative blood tests or place an intravenous cannula. We then run the blood sample using our in-house machines and show the results to the vet that will perform the operation. We then settle the patient making them comfortable in either one of our dedicated canine or feline wards.

Our late nurses start at 10am and will hold nurse clinics until 11am. These include post-operative checks, nail clips, second vaccinations, anal gland expression, weight checks, senior pet clinics, bandage changes and stitch removal. In addition, we will help the vet in the consults by holding animals for examinations, run blood tests, test any urine samples, do FWEC’s and unpack the daily order.

After morning consults have finished, we get started on our operations. The theatre nurse will help the vet anaesthetise the patient and then monitor the patient throughout the procedure by observing heart rate, respiratory rate, mucus membrane colour and temperature of the patient and will adjust the anaesthetic levels accordingly.

Once the surgery is completed the nurse will recover the patient from anaesthesia, again monitoring all vital signs and alerting the vet to any potential problems. The monitoring continues until they are fully awake when they will be offered something to eat.

The theatre is then thoroughly cleaned, the surgical instruments are cleaned and packaged ready to go through an autoclave (for sterilisation) and the prep area cleaned down.

We try to get half an hour for lunch at staggered times but often it’s less or you have to eat on the run! A shift is usually 8 hours, but we do a lot of overtime and not to mention one of us is always on call 24 hours a day and over the weekend!

In the afternoon we have nurse clinics where our patients will be discharged. When an owner arrives to collect their pet, one of our nurses will go through all the post-operative care in detail.

Once all day patients have gone home the kennels/cat enclosures will all be cleaned and made ready for patients arriving the next day.

As a mixed practice we often get to accompany our equine vet on visits too especially where the horse is nervous, and an extra pair of hands is needed. That is something we always look forward to.

This is just a small glimpse of a day in our lives, anyone wanting to ‘cuddle animals’ is in for a surprise, although that does happen a lot! Being a veterinary nurse is physically, mentally, and emotionally tiring. It takes a minimum of two years to complete the RCVS Level 3 Diploma with assignments, in house training, practical and theory exams. It’s hard work but the reward is in making a difference to an animal’s life and that of their owner. Every day is different as you don’t know what will come through the door. In our case it can range from injured birds to sick lambs or calves! Sometimes the vet will need to perform an emergency c-section on a dog and then it is all hands-on deck to get those puppies breathing. Never a dull moment!