“Nurses often ask me how to persuade vets to let them do more procedures” - Veterinary Practice
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“Nurses often ask me how to persuade vets to let them do more procedures”

The veterinary profession is slowly changing, but the skills of many nurses are still under-utilised, says Claire Woolford. She hopes changes to the Veterinary Surgeons Act will help address this

Claire, head nurse and veterinary technician specialist (VTS) in anaesthesia and analgesia at multidisciplinary practice Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Hampshire, also lectures other nurses around the country. But despite all the skilled people she teaches, the 40-year-old says the same question crops up over and over.

“I get asked a lot ‘how can I persuade my vet to let me do procedures?’” says Claire, who helps manage a team of around 60 nurses. “Some places don’t allow nurses to do anything, so they don’t get to use their skills and this can wear them down. I’ve found working in referrals better though; in general, there are more opportunities for nurses to use their practical skills.”

Claire believes gender may play a small part since most nurses are female, but then again there are many female vets now too.

Talk to your vet – or find another practice

Claire has high hopes for the changes to Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act currently being discussed.

“I hope the changes recognise that some qualified nurses could do more procedures, such as local anaesthetic blocks, epidurals, cat castrations and vaccination in general practice,” she says.

“If you’ve got an advanced qualification, then you’ve got these skills and should be able to use them.”

In the meantime, she advises nurses in general practice to talk to their vet about why they are worried about allowing them to do more, as well as their line manager or head nurse who might be able to help the situation.

“But if doing that doesn’t more the situation forward and it is affecting your mental health, then maybe it’s time to look around for a more forward-thinking practice,” she says.

Claire highlights the importance of being able to use skills and knowledge learnt during professional development in improving job satisfaction. For example, Claire is on the programme committee of the BSAVA Virtual Conference later this month, and “[hopes to encourage] nurses to go back to their practice and use what they’ve learnt”.

Nurses deserve better conditions

Many employers now offer better support to staff than in the past, including greater flexibility with hours and access to mental health services.

But many nurses also still face poor pay, work-life balance difficulties and sometimes a lack of respect at work, believes Claire, who herself had a bad experienced in her first job that impacted her mental health.

As head nurse, she aims to be as approachable as possible, and staff are encouraged to raise issues with her, but she thinks education centres could do more to prepare nurses for challenges they might face.

“I think universities and colleges could include guidance on how to handle difficult situations at work and how to talk to colleagues to resolve it,” says Claire.

Claire Woolford

Claire Woolford, RVN, VTS (Anaesthesia), is Head Nurse and VTS in Anaesthesia at Anderson Moores Veterinary, a multidisciplinary practice where she manages a team of 60 nurses.

She started nursing in 1998 and achieved her VTS status in Anesthesia and Analgesia in 2013.

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