April is recognised as National Pet Month and, with so many animal lovers studying with us, today marks the start of celebrating the most important ones in our lives. Equally, it’s a chance for students working with pets to explore the importance of caring for our favourite animals and the challenges this can pose. We caught up with Lauren France and Alice Naylor, final year BSc (Hons) Veterinary Nursing students to gain their perspective on helping to care for our pets as a nurse.
“I always knew I wanted to work with animals,” Lauren commented, having brought along pet dog Bobby. “But it wasn’t until I finished my GCSE’s that I discovered the world of veterinary nursing. It seems more people know about the vet career path than that of the nurse so it was something I was keen to explore.
“You do have to look for the opportunities as, unless you already know someone in the industry, it’s unlikely that you’ll just stumble into this degree path. I think that’s why everyone is so passionate about what they do here.”
Alice similarly discovered more about her future career path through careful research. She explained: “I found out about veterinary nursing during my A Levels, a bit later than Lauren. A friend was running a business with animals and by helping out on trips to the vets I saw this different, interesting role. From that, I did more research and work experience over the summer and found my niche of what I wanted to do.”
Alice attended an open day while Lauren joined us for the Harper Adams Experience to decide whether the veterinary nursing route into higher education was precisely what they wanted to do.
Of her open day experience, Alice said: “Coming to an open day here felt like coming home, even if that is cliche. The first time I came to campus was when I was submitting my applications to UCAS. I returned with my parents with my heart set on coming here - I knew it was the place for me.
“At other institutions, the focus of open days felt very much on the facilities that you might only get access to if other students aren’t using them. Here, the focus was entirely on the vet nursing students - we have our own space, with a support team that are just amazing. They want us to succeed as much as we want to achieve.”
Lauren expanded, saying: “More generally, the Harper campus and the community feel just make this a fantastic place to be. Even now, though we aren’t able to be physically there, the Harper spirit is only a phone call away - we’re so well connected, it’s something you don’t get anywhere else.”
Both agreed that experiencing the role first hand through placement work is the best way to decide whether it is the right path for you. It is with this growing practical knowledge that the pair offered some tips and tricks to help your pet stay healthy.
Lauren commented: “For general pet advice, coming up to the summer months in particular, we’d look at preventative measures to keep pets happy and healthy.
“These might include sharing products and treatments, educating on the importance of fleas, ticks and nails.”
Alice added: “Diet is also an important factor. Many owners are trying to change up what their pets are consuming but it’s advisable to discuss this with a vet nurse before making drastic changes.”
Part of the learning experience as a Harper Adams veterinary nurse is through our placement years. Taking the knowledge they have gained in their first two years, students head out into the working world to put it all into practise.
“All placement years are a huge learning curve,” Alice explained. “You realise that for every pet you treat, there’s an owner attached; having the skills to treat the pet is only one part of what we do. That real understanding and compassion is something that keeps developing, even after you’ve qualified.”
Lauren continued: “Alice is right, every day is a different day, and every case can be something completely new.
“One case that stands out to me was a chemotherapy patient; in the first session, I remember the owners being nervous about what would happen. But as the weeks went on, I admitted him nearly every time, and seeing how brave not only the pet became with the treatments, but how the owners went from being so terrified to knowing we were doing everything we could to resolve the situation. By the end of my placement, he had ended up in remission so I was there for the whole journey.”
From application, through to placement and now into final year studies, both students have a drive and ambition to help not only animals, but their owners to promote best practice for animal care. Should you be interested in finding out more about veterinary nursing, you can check out our course page here, or chat to one of our students to hear about their experience here.