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Training the next generation of veterinary nurses: Meet Polly Keene

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28 September 2020

As our staff teach the next generation of industry professionals, they are also training up new educators; those who want to follow in the footsteps of their lecturers and help other young people to achieve exciting and inspiring careers. Polly Keene, who studied BSc (Hons) Veterinary Nursing and Practice Management from 2014 to 2018, has followed this pathway, becoming a lecturer teaching Diploma students. Here she speaks about her educational journey and what it’s like helping others on their way into industry.

When deciding what she wanted to study, Polly knew working with animals would be the right path to follow. She said: “I live in a rural area and I went to an agricultural college before I started at Harper. I've been surrounded by animals all my life, so following this kind of path seemed inevitable.

“I did apply to Vet School, but I didn't feel like it was where I belonged. My approach to caring for animals was more suited to the practical and hands on approach to animal care, over the academic. Veterinary nursing was where I belonged!”

Knowing veterinary nursing was her path, Polly went about choosing her university. She commented: “I visited lots of institutions when looking to go to university. However, when I came to Harper it felt a lot more like home! The atmosphere - both the physical smell of the atmosphere and the "feel" of the uni - was where I wanted to be. There wasn't a push to be academic; instead, you were encouraged to believe you could do what you set out to do, with help along the way.”

Polly spoke of her veterinary nursing degree fondly, recounting what she liked best: “I enjoyed seeing how much we could learn and how much we didn't know. The lecturing team was incredible with a vast amount of knowledge, experience and passion for the career we were going into. It was inspiring and the reason why my cohort pushed through the hard times and celebrated the successes.”

As part of her degree, Polly undertook a placement year, going out into industry and putting her seminar knowledge to the test. She shared: “For my placement year, I worked at White Lodge Veterinary Clinic in Minehead, Somerset. I learnt how to stand on my own two feet; that my skills log wasn't going to do itself, and I made friends for life - who I am still close with now.”

Reflecting on her time at Harper, Polly summarised her degree, saying: “I’d describe the course as being tough and not always what you anticipate but worth it for the end result and your much anticipated green uniform!”

Now working as a lecturer at Bridgwater and Taunton College, Polly is thriving in her new career. But how did she know she wanted to become a teacher? She said: “I don't really know, I don't remember when it became a decision. I remember a colleague when I was completing my placement year saying, ‘You'd be a really good teacher’, so might have been then. Both of my uncles are teachers, so perhaps it stemmed from there too.

“Simply, my university lecturers inspired me. We were taught by lecturers with a variety of experience which meant we were taught by a variety of teaching styles. I found that interesting.

“Likewise, I enjoyed teaching other students in practice and our final year revision groups with cake! I aimed to do the best I could in my degree and, since graduating, I have worked as a locum which has meant I have had the chance to learn new skills from a variety of people and the chance to teach some of them my ways of doing things. This built my confidence so when the opportunity came up and I took it.”

Although at the start of her teaching career, Polly remains ambitious. She commented: “I'd like to go on to teach at university level, whilst still working in practice to maintain my skills. I hope to have my teaching qualifications and my certificate in emergency and critical care done too!”

For others interested in pursuing the veterinary nursing profession, Polly shared her advice: “Go for it but don't underestimate the difficulty of the course and the role itself. Do your research; visit and work for a practice beforehand, find out where it can take you, understand the lifestyle and pay - because it isn't just a job, it's a way of life. Be prepared and dive in!”

If you’re inspired by Polly and want to become part of the Harper team of veterinary professionals, see our undergraduate course options here. For more information, or to chat to staff and students about university studying and life, join us for our Virtual Open Day on October 10. Sign up now to secure your place.

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