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Student’s investigation says veterinary nurses are not always comfortable with caring for wildlife patients

Posted 16 October 2017

“I want to make sure that wildlife welfare is upheld. I’ve decided to create a leaflet providing information for commonly seen wildlife species in veterinary practices, which I was told would be useful during my interviews.”

A Harper Adams University student’s honours research project (HRP) has found that a number of vet nurses feel unconfident in caring for wildlife animals due to a lack of education and experience.

Levels of confidence and knowledge were lower overall in urban practices than in rural practices due to a lower level of experience.

The study was conducted by recent graduate Llinos Botwood, from Plymouth, Devon, during her final year on the BSc (Hons) Veterinary Nursing and Practice Management degree programme. 

The 22 year-old said: “Over 130,000 wildlife casualties are brought into general veterinary practices each year.

“I decided to use my honours research project as an opportunity to investigate how confident veterinary nurses are in treating these patients, and if that level of confidence varies between rural and urban practices.

“I did ten interviews with veterinary nurses to gather my data. In each interview there were one or two veterinary nurses. Half of the interviews involved veterinary nurses from rural practices and the other half were from urban practices.

“I then analysed the data from the interviews through a computer software programme. The results showed that there is a variance in levels of perceived knowledge and confidence.

“The suggested lack of perceived knowledge and confidence found in the study may lead to inadequate care of wildlife in veterinary practices, which could have disadvantageous effects on wildlife welfare and rehabilitation.

“The two main causes for feeling unconfident are a lack of education and a lack of experience.

“I found that the veterinary nurses in the rural practices had a higher level of perceived knowledge and confidence than their counterparts working in an urban practice, due to a higher level of experience of working with wildlife animals.

“I believe that learning is key, and that there should be more opportunities for veterinary nurses to learn about caring for wildlife while training, and additional opportunities if they feel they need it while working.

“It wouldn’t be too much extra work, as they already have a good all-round knowledge of animals, they just need to learn how their skills can be applied in a slightly different way and the nutritional requirements of common wildlife patients.

“I want to make sure that wildlife welfare is upheld. I’ve decided to create a leaflet providing information for commonly seen wildlife species in veterinary practices, which I was told would be useful during my interviews.”

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