A veterinary professional who originally joined Scotland’s largest independent veterinary group on work experience and is now the company’s associate managing director, is highlighting the career routes open to veterinary nurses as part of Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month (VNAM).
VNAM takes place every May and this year’s theme is empowerment.
The aim of the month is to promote the vital role of veterinary nurses to the veterinary profession and pet owners.
Ashley Wilkie originally completed a week’s work experience at Thrums Vets, which has four practices across Angus and East Perthshire, in 1995 when she was in the fourth form at Webster’s High School in Kirriemuir.
Immediately afterwards she was offered a Saturday job at the group’s Kirriemuir practice, where she cleaned the wards, assisted with preparations and restocking, as well as helping with some basic patient care.
Two years later, after completing her Scottish Highers, Ashley successfully applied for a veterinary nurse placement at Thrums, where she combined practical experience in practice with a qualification at Telford College (now Edinburgh College).
Ashley qualified as a registered veterinary nurse in 2000 and when the Kirriemuir practice moved into new purpose-built premises in 2002, she moved into the building’s apartment, becoming the live in nurse where she also cared for inpatients alongside her day job.
In 2006, she was promoted to head nurse and played an integral role in growing the nursing team as Thrums opened new practices in Blairgowrie, Forfar and Scone.
More recently, to coincide with the growth of the group, Thrums introduced several new job roles, as well as senior registered veterinary nurse roles, which saw Ashley successfully apply for an associate managing director role.
Ashley said: “Growing up we had horses, dogs and rabbits, and I knew from a young age that I wanted to work with animals, which originally led me to my local veterinary practice, Thrums, for work experience at the age of 15.
“Back then I never dreamed I would have progressed so far at the practice, but it’s been a hugely rewarding career and I’ve loved the variation of work in a mixed practice, that covers pets, farm and equine.
“I’ve particularly enjoyed surgical nursing and radiography, as well as getting lots of opportunities to participate in supervised minor surgeries.
“Most of my CPD was then centred around anaesthesia, wound care and surgical nursing.
“Today we have 13 veterinary nurses across the group, and everyone is hardworking, respectful and friendly.
“It’s very rewarding to see members of the team become lead nurses in our practices and I’ve always enjoyed helping them find their areas of excellence, as well as being a mentor.
“To go from kennel girl to associate managing director is something I feel very proud of! Although leadership can be difficult, I envisage what I want my leader to look like, which means being sincere, trustworthy and caring, to both patients and the team.
“I never ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t get involved in myself, which keeps everyone engaged and is hopefully encouraging too.
“I love helping colleagues achieve their goals and moving forward I plan to be heavily involved in the evolution of our independent practice. It’s very exciting to have a say in the direction of the business.
“Although it’s taken lots of hard work and dedication, I hope my career path shows what other veterinary nurses can achieve if they are ambitious and work for a forward thinking and supportive employer.
“Understandably, in a veterinary practice, the vets can become a focal point but it’s important to recognise the hard graft and dedication of the nursing teams too.
“It’s therefore fantastic to shine a light on the opportunities that are available to nurses and especially during VNAM.”